Well over 100 attendees came together at the Aijian Ranch in Santa Barbara on Friday to mingle with local and statewide education candidates and discuss a perceived need for a new direction for education in the county and throughout California.
“We’re here for an education rally because we are rallying school board members and candidates,” event sponsor Christy Lozano, who is running for Goleta Union District School Board Trustee Area Three, told the News-Press. “We just want to connect statewide and countywide because we’re going to make a difference in education by building a really strong team and a really energized group of people.”
Among the topics discussed by event speakers and attendees was the need to get past COVID-era restrictions in schools, increasing the level of parental engagement in education and reigning in the power of teachers unions in order to focus more on students and learning outcomes.
Santa Barbara City College Trustee Area 1 candidate Debi Stoker was among the 14 Santa Barbara County education candidates that were in attendance, where she spoke to the New-Press about the need to fully reopen SBCC to in-person learning.
“I’m hoping that this today is a light to everybody who’s running to hopefully change school boards, district boards, and bring some attention to what’s still going on at Santa Barbara City College,” Mrs. Stoker said. “For SBCC to exclude unvaccinated students from the classroom, the campuses, the programs, and everything Santa Barbara has to offer, we need to really change that and put our students first.
“Our neighbors to the north at Allan Hancock Community College are open, and our friends to the south at Ventura City College are open. We need to take these baby steps and take the mandates away, embrace our students and welcome them back in with open arms,” she continued.
California’s State Public Health Officer, Dr. Tomás Aragón, is rescinding state-required vaccine mandates for K-12 employees effective Sept. 17; but SBCC continues to require vaccine verification for in-person attendance. A vaccine mandate for California community colleges was never enacted at a statewide level, and was instead left to individual campuses to determine.
Also in attendance was Lance Christensen, a supporter of school choice policies and parental rights in education, who is one of two non-partisan candidates vying to be elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction this November.
“Right now, our kids are doomed based upon their zip code. They go to a school that’s assigned to them randomly based upon where they live and not because of what parents choose,” Mr. Christensen said during his remarks. “California ranks 50th in literacy in the country. Years ago we used to say ‘thank God for Mississippi,’ but they are far superior than (California is) in educating kids on how to read — they’ve advanced the furthest out of all 50 states. They’re the only state in the last two years that have increased their literacy rates out of all the states.”
“I think it’s time for a real ‘come to Jesus moment’ about our education system,” he continued. “We have years of learning loss for our kids to address, not only learning loss but rising suicide rates, anxiety, depression — it’s a tremendous travesty, the burden that we put on these kids, that they … often bear alone behind a screen.”
One message that was repeated throughout the event was the need for like-minded candidates to step up and work together to get their shared message out in front of voters this November, a goal that Ms. Lozano believed Friday’s event worked toward accomplishing.
“I am so excited to see all of the people that have stepped forward locally and at the state level to turn things around as a team,” she said during her remarks. “We have to think outside the box. This is not the time for doing things the old way — it’s the time for doing things the smart way.”