Education candidates focus on budget woes
State budget battles peppered much of the discussion during a Lake Tahoe Community College Board of Trustees and Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board candidates forum this week.
Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe sponsored the forum, which was held at Harveys Resort Casino convention center during the lunch hour on Wednesday.
Three seats are up for grabs on the college board and two seats are being contested on the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board. Elections for both boards will be held on Nov. 3.
During Wednesday’s forum, candidates’ responses to a hypothetical question about what their priorities would be if half the money taken away by the state during the past year was returned varied widely.
Although the state is facing its “worst financial situation” since the college opened in 1974, “all is not doom and gloom,” said longtime trustee Roberta Mason.
Despite existing budget cuts and those that are expected mid-year, Mason said the college should maintain focus on projects already in the works, like turning management of the bookstore over to Barnes and Noble, launching a digital media program and continuing to examine the possibility of geothermal technology providing energy to the college.
Mary Jane Sanchez, the lone challenger to the incumbents running for the college board, said partnering with groups to develop scholarships for students is extremely important to her, especially during tough times.
Sanchez later listed improving English language proficiency, providing an abundance of transferable skills and bolstering occupational programs as her top priorities if she is elected to the board.
Returning funding to the disability resource center as well as bolstering classes that help small businesses in town, like computer training, should be priorities if money was returned to the college, said Molly Blann, a trustee since 2005.
Current trustee and board president Kerry David said he’d like to see money spent on bringing back staff let go because of existing cuts, increasing programs and maintaining competitive salaries for staff to encourage retention.
On the Lake Tahoe Unified School District side of the forum, candidate and current board president Wendy David said that, if money was to be returned to the district from the state, a priority for her would be to bring back programs lost because of the funding cuts. David did not mention any specific programs she would like to see the money go to on Wednesday.
LTUSD board member Duane Wallace said he would focus any returned money on reducing class sizes, retaining quality teachers and aides, keeping arts and sports programs, and bolstering the district’s reserve funding. Wallace was appointed to finish the term of Angela Swanson, who resigned in May.
LTUSD challenger Judy Cefalu said she would like to see extra help in the classroom for teachers, the return of busing for all students who need it, and improvements in arts and physical education programs.
“Our children need all of these things,” Cefalu said.
Soroptimist International of South Lake Tahoe meets again at noon on Sept. 30 at Harvey’s convention center. A South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District candidates forum will be held during that meeting. The meeting is open to the public. Lunch is $15. Call (866) 801-8652 to RSVP.
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