Goleta Union school board candidate Caroline Abate. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

This interview is part of an ongoing series of candidate profiles ahead of the General Election on November 3, 2020. Stay tuned to our Election 2020 page for all of our latest profiles and election coverage.

Join the Santa Barbara Independent for a discussion with the Goleta Union School District Board of Education candidates on Wednesday, September 30, at 5:15 p.m. live on Zoom. Register at independent.com/forum.

A self-described “common-sense conservative,” Caroline Abate is perhaps most known around Santa Barbara and Goleta for her pro-Donald Trump pin she wears most everywhere she goes, and her straightforward comments at city council and school board meetings.

Now, Abate is running for one of two seats on the Goleta Union school board. Abate came to her interview prepared with the 1929 edition of the Stone Arithmetic Teachers’ Manual. An elementary school math teacher herself, Abate said that the little, nearly 100-year-old book is exactly what kids in school need today. The sentiment captures Abate’s campaign in a nutshell: back to the basics.

The Independent sat down with Abate to discuss her campaign and some of her top issues. The following is a condensed version of the conversation.

What motivated you to make the run for school board? 

I’m running for the Goleta Union School District to bring conservative balance to the school board. I think that conservative balance is very, very important when addressing some of the very critical issues facing our schools that, again, are going to shape the future of our country because they’re shaping the hearts and minds of our children.

You have been an outspoken critic of sex education in schools. Because Goleta Union is an elementary district, the education is focused on anatomy rather than topics like preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Can you explain your opposition to it?

… The curriculum is very harmful to children. Children at that age have absolutely no relevance; nothing in their life is relevant to that material. And you often hear the argument, “Well, they need to know because it’s out there.” Well, that’s another problem. If there’s a need to know this, then that’s a whole other problem. Why is there a need for an elementary school child to know that they can try to be different genders or that they can do these things with their body parts?

… Having this discussion in an environment where all perspectives are listened to respectfully is absolutely critical because it’s not an easy topic. It is controversial. There’s LGBTQ ideology in those sexual curriculums. Abortion is discussed and a lot of other very controversial issues. My role as a school board member would be to oppose any expansion of Assembly Bill 329 [which requires that students receive comprehensive sexual health education once in middle and high school] into the elementary schools.

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What other curriculums, if any, are you against?

… We’ve all seen the images on TV of young people burning buildings, breaking the glass of the doors or windows, you know, tearing down statues, things like that. We’ve all seen that on TV. And we all know what happened in those cases with the police. But it’s important to remember that each of those people, even the police officers, was at one time a little child sitting behind their desk in elementary school. At one time they were all like a blank slate. We have to ask ourselves, what kind of ideas have been put into their minds and in their hearts to get them to think it’s okay to do those things? 

I’m traditional Roman Catholic. From that perspective, I see everyone is made in God’s image and likeness. That’s how I view everyone. So I know issues of diversity and ethnicity are coming into play more, I guess, nowadays, but I don’t see that. I see an image and likeness of God and you know, the face is the most noble part of the human body because that’s where you’re made in God’s image and likeness…. Each face is unique…. So that’s where we see our individuality, our uniqueness, and made in God’s image and likeness. So race, skin color, things like that are not what’s important. What’s important is that each child would be brought up with a perspective like the 10 Commandments. ’Cause when you think of it, two of the 10 Commandments are “thou shall not kill” and “thou shall not steal.” Yeah. So those are the two things that are happening right now because, you know, looting and burning and things like that are mortal sin. We want to teach to respect all life.

Goleta Union decided against reopening in-person instruction until the county meets the orange tier set by the state. Do you agree with this decision?

I am strongly in favor of reopening our schools. I believe we are going to face an education crisis in our country. We already have one to an extent with test scores and truancy rates. So we are going to face an even greater educational crisis. 

One of my qualifications is being a classroom teacher. And not having students in their classrooms to me is frightening because the mind, especially as a child, can only learn at a certain rate. And if you have a gap in your education where you were not getting the sufficient amount of academics, and let’s say it’s been going on since like six or seven months; you can’t make up that time. You can’t learn at a faster rate to make up for it and make up for it. Learning loss is real, and that gap will follow them.

… It is going to have unintended negative consequences that will permeate throughout society. And I’m not exaggerating. As a classroom teacher, you can’t replicate a classroom in a student’s bedroom or living room. You can’t replicate that. And the role of in-person instruction with a credentialed teacher cannot be replaced by a computer screen.

… Education is essential because otherwise, you’re acting based on fear and emotion and you’re not acting rationally. If you’re ignorant, something will fill that void. Something will fill that void, and you want it to be the correct thing, not fear or ignorance or irrational behaviors. 

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