The eight candidates for four open spots on the Colorado Springs School District 11 board of education might have good credentials and similar desires to make D-11 better, but they don't agree on everything.
Their views diverged Tuesday night during an election forum at Stargazers Theatre and Events Center, hosted by Citizens Project, as they faced questions from the audience as well as a media panel.
Six candidates — incumbent Jan Tanner along with Judy Walton, Jim Mason, Nora Brown, Elaine Naleski and Kathleen Foster — voiced support for state Proposition 103, the ballot measure seeking to temporarily reinstate income and sales tax rates from the late 1990s to help public education. It would raise school funds by an estimated $3 billion over five years.
But Lisanne McNew and incumbent Bob Null said they were against 103. Both expressed concern that the money, which would go into the state general fund with strong language about its intent, could be transferred by the Legislature and the governor away from education to other needs.
Regardless of what happens with 103, funding is likely to remain a primary concern. When asked how they would work with tight budgets, a majority of the candidates felt that the solution would be reaching out to teachers to find what programs are working and what cost-cutting measures could be taken.
Walton said that two years ago, when she was a Doherty High School counselor, the board involved teachers in the budgeting process. She found it to be a very inclusive, positive approach.
"We have to go to the experts," agreed Naleski, the district's former spokeswoman.
On the question of charters, vouchers and school choice, each candidate said they support parental choice. However, Naleski stated that while she supports choice, the current funding mechanism needs work, "because I have seen what it does to a district's budget."
Mason stated that people have to understand why parents originally clamored for charter schools: "If we get back to the standards," he said, "many of these questions will answer themselves."
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