By Garvin Walsh
It’s high season in the 2022 elections. Since Labor Day, the rhetoric has intensified, campaign spending is surging, and the battle for hearts and minds is in high gear.
Ballots will soon be in the mail, so the time to choose is close at hand.
Naturally, the state-wide races, the congressional races, and the state legislative races get the most attention. The geographies involved are large, the voters are many, and the expenditure of big ad dollars can be justified.
Down-ballot local races tend to get overlooked. They don’t involve a lot of spending and don’t benefit from big-budget image building. As a result, some voters ignore smaller races.
School board elections are the most critical down-ballot contests and they deserve not to be ignored. The schools matter – they are a big factor in shaping how our next generation enters adult society, and they involve big bucks.
School taxes are a sizable chunk of local property taxes, so voters and taxpayers do indeed have a stake in the outcome of school board elections.
Those races usually attract the attention of school parents, both as candidates and observers. Those with children in public school are more attuned to how the school system is run. But the rest of us, voters and taxpayers, should care also. Whether we realize it or not, we have a dog in the fight.
Looking at the yard signs around town, most school board candidates tout some version of the same message: they’re “for the students.” None speak to the most fundamental question: if elected, with whom will they stand, the teachers unions or the voters and taxpayers?
That question is the elephant in the room and it shouldn’t be ignored.
There is no good reason to give the unions control. It makes no sense to have union representatives sitting on both sides of the table when the issues they have an interest in arise.
Until two years ago, control of the San Dieguito Union High School District board was held by a majority aligned with the teacher’s union. They drove one of the wealthiest districts in the nation into financial difficulty.
The district has been operating in the red and suffering steadily declining financial reserves for several years, but the teachers are the highest paid in the region. They even inserted a clause into their contract to keep it that way – they automatically get a salary bump if teacher pay in another district rises above their own.
Sweet deal for them, but not so good for taxpayers.
Since they lost their majority in 2020, the union has been scratching and clawing to get back into the driver’s seat. They’ve forced a special election, attempted a recall, threatened lawsuits, and stirred up their political allies with divisive cultural issues. It’s been very unpleasant and not a good experience for the district.
From this writer’s perspective, union-backed candidates are not the right choice. They won’t protect voters and taxpayers at the negotiating table, they won’t protect parents and students when the teachers oppose them on policies and programs, and they are promoting divisive views on cultural issues.
Maybe you disagree. If you favor union control of your school board and like having the fox guard the henhouse, then choose the union-backed candidates.
In SDUHSD those are Rimga Viskanta, Jane Lea Smith, and Julie Bronstein. In the Carlsbad Unified School District, they are Michele Tsutsagawa Ward, Jennifer Fornal, and Kathy Rallings.
On the other hand, if you want independent trustees, not beholden to the teachers’ union; trustees who will put the education of our students first; and trustees who will mind taxpayer dollars with care, then vote for the challengers.
In SDUHSD, those are David Carattini, Sheila King and Phan Anderson. In CUSD, those are Sharon McKeeman, Gretchen Vurbeff and Scott Davison.
Pick a side, and feed the elephant – be sure to vote.
Garvin Walsh is a resident of Encinitas