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Parents Meet School Board Candidates at Voter Forums Across California
Parents across California have a lot to decide before they cast their ballots on November 6. With eleven state propositions, a presidential race, local school bond measures and local initiatives, it takes a lot of reading for voters to make informed choices when they go to the polls or cast their absentee ballots. Too often, small local races like school board elections are overlooked by voters who may simply decide not to vote for any candidate because there just isn't much information to help them choose.
This year, Families That Can decided to do something about this serious lack of information. We launched the California Informed Voters in Charter Schools (CIVICS) campaign to educate and mobilize voters, including hosting our first-ever nonpartisan voter forums in San Diego, Oakland and Sacramento, featuring candidates running for local school board races. These forums not only provided charter school parents and school leaders with the opportunity to learn more about the candidates' views on charter schools; they helped up-and-coming elected officials learn about the important work of Families That Can and they strengthened the relationship across charter schools in each region.
What did parents want to know?
Several common questions emerged at these forums. Most notably parents asked, "Why should I vote for you?" Not surprisingly, parents also asked the candidates' views on the value of charter schools and whether charters have had a positive or negative impact on education over the last 20 years. At the Sacramento forum for San Juan Unified School District Board of Education, another parent wanted to know what candidates would do to help parents with children on waiting lists for their schools of choice. Hosted by the California Montessori Project San Juan, more than forty parents and students came to hear from the five candidates actively running for San Juan Unified School District's board.
In some cases, parents were encouraged by what they heard from candidates. In other cases, parents learned that some candidates may not fully understand charter schools or support school choice. Regardless of the candidates' positions, parents left these forums with information they can use to make their decisions when they vote, information that they may not have been able to find anywhere else. Families That Can is taking a strong stand in support of civic engagement.
San Diego Unified School District Candidates Forum captivated a large audience of parents, students, teachers, charter leaders and community members as education and charter schools take center stage. On Thursday October 18, a crowd of 150 packed the auditorium of The O'Farrell Charter School to participate in the Charter School Collaborative sponsored Candidate Forum. CCSA and FTC were well represented and acknowledged as special guests. All candidates running for San Diego Unified School Districts A and E were in attendance. This included the incumbent for District A, Dr. John Lee Evans, and his challenger, Mark Powell. District E was represented by candidates William S. Ponder and Marne Foster.
After responding to a variety of challenging questions, many of which were charter focused, from moderators Mary Searcy Bixby and Jonathan Deen both San Diego Charter Leaders as well as members of the Charter School Collaborative, parents stepped in to challenge the candidates. Critical questions related to equitable funding and treatment of charters collocated on district property are just a few of the hard-hitting questions parents and community members challenged candidates with.
The recently released FTC voter guide for the San Diego region is an excellent tool following the forum for the community to use as they make some of the most critical choices for their students charter future. Who will represent the voice of San Diego charter parents and students on the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education?
To view a picture from the San Diego Candidate Forum, please visit the link to the Families That Can Facebook page.
Lighthouse Community Charter School held a candidate forum on October 23 which was moderated by Jenna Stauffer from Lighthouse. All candidates were present and approximately 150 people attended the event, including Lighthouse students, staff, Oakland charter parents, Oakland charter leaders, and community members. Vincent Academy and Oakland School for the Arts also hosted a great candidates' forum on October 30. Candidates discussed their commitment to school choice and how district and charter schools might work together. Spanish links for reference.