Pay to Play Is So Not Okay

Cost of Running for Santa Barbara School Board Too High

Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

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In a town that prides itself on ideals of equity, access, and inclusion, the prospect of running for Santa Barbara Unified School District Board is anything but.

Just to file the necessary paperwork and pay for a 200-word-or-less statement costs $5,302! For any candidate that needs to make their case to the voters in less than 400 words? You’ll need $10,604 handy. In contrast, a run at city council is free, and an S.B. City College trustee fee is less than $1,000.

I get that there are extra translation fees, but really, the half of a page is going to run without the 200 words so additional charges are hard to justify from a printing aspect.

I drilled down on these details because I am considering a run for the SBUSD board. As a mother of two children in the district, I believe our district could do a far better job of addressing special needs students, teaching the neurodiverse, and dramatically raising the educational outcomes for all students, be they privileged or impoverished.

SBUSD spent $26.5 million on the armory and $40 million on a football field that was supposed to cost $12million. But this same leadership that spends freely on vanity projects cuts off anyone who can’t easily afford the $5,302 entry fee.

How are we ever going to get representation from those who are socioeconomically stressed? What about our high-risk students and families? So many in our diverse community get spoken down to, but when will they have a voice on the school board podium, too?

This “pay to play” dramatically reduces competition and accountability. It simply maintains the status quo — people connected to the school district or simply using their board seat as a platform to higher office. I find this troubling, rigged, and inherently unfair because it means that anyone else who wants to participate in the process must first be part of the elite and/or align themselves with one political party or the another just to pay the entry fee.

I am motivated to get involved because I truly believe that literacy is a human right. Literacy not only disrupts the school-to-prison pipeline, it builds self-confidence and self-esteem, and it enables every child the chance to reach for their true potential. Literacy is the essence of education.

Even if I do not make it on the ballot, I believe we should reduce this defensive paywall to allow a greater diversity of new people and new ideas to enter our school district leadership. If we want the best for our kids, our teachers, and our community, let’s stop shutting the door on those ready, willing, and able to help.

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