Whoever wins the race for Position 2 on the Spokane Public Schools board of directors, expect them to take a cautious approach on budgetary issues.
All three candidates – Luc Jasmin III, Kelli MacFarlane and Jenny Slagle – support more fiscal restraint as the district deals with a multimillion-dollar budget deficit. All three support – or at least are open to supporting – the district asking voters for a levy to prevent recent budget cuts.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the general election on Nov. 5 for a chance to succeed Deana Brower, who chose not to seek re-election to a six-year term.
All three candidates are heavily involved in education-related activities.
A longtime educator, MacFarlane has worked as a substitute in Spokane since moving from New Mexico.
“I want to see education in Spokane succeed, and with the latest turmoil, I haven’t been seeing that,” MacFarlane said.
Slagle is director of Community Services for Better Health Together, a Spokane nonprofit, and serves on the district’s Diversity Advisory Council.
Jasmin owns the Parkview Early Learning Center in north Spokane and has worked as a mentor at Glover Middle School.
“As a person of color, I hope to bring a certain experience to the table,” Jasmin said.
Slagle is passionate about two issues: arming of community resource officers (she’s opposed) and reducing barriers to student success.
“I think additional funding could focus on decreasing truancy by allotting more staff and supports around the social determinant of health needs of students and families,” Slagle said.
Looking back to last summer, MacFarlane promised to be proactive on the issue of budgets.
“Had I been on the board I would have wanted to work on the known impending crisis,” she said. “I think the board knew this was coming and should have worked options sooner.”
As owner of an early learning center, Jasmin said he’s concerned that “many children, specifically kids of color and/or lower socio-economic status come to our school system unprepared.”
“We need to continue to put our focused efforts in early intervention and retention,” Jasmin said.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the district?
JASMIN: Figuring out how to continue raising the graduation rates, retaining high quality teachers who also reflect the community they serve while being fiscally responsible with taxpayers dollars.
MACFARLANE: The budget crisis. We need to create a budget that balances, yet is transparent and makes sense. However, the school district is not giving enough resources to help our classrooms, teachers and staff. There were impending cuts without the budget crisis.
SLAGLE: The budget and continued McCleary decision repercussions.
Do you believe the district should arm its campus resource officers?
JASMIN: First, look into alternative solutions such as investments in mental health and early intervention before arming campus resource officers, which may have unintended consequences.
MACFARLANE: Yes, only if they are trained, professional resource officers. Having untrained personnel will only add problems to an armed conflict.
SLAGLE: No. There have been no studies that indicate the arming of CROs makes students or learning environments safer. I’d rather see continued investment toward programs such as Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and Social Emotional Learning. The program also would be costly.
If you were currently on the board, would you vote to place a supplemental levy on this year’s fall ballot?
JASMIN: Yes. Give citizens the choice to approve or not approve this route towards investing in our education. If approved, it’s our duty as the school board to make sure that our taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly.
MACFARLANE: Yes, put it on the ballot. But it still has to go the voters. And after the last levy that the voters passed and awareness of the budget crisis to the public, I’m not sure it’ll pass.
SLAGLE: At this point, it’s too early to decide whether an additional levy ask is needed. As the Board continues to look at this year’s budget, I think it’s important to consider this fiscal year, but also project out the next few years.
Do you support the new sex education curriculum Spokane Public Schools adopted?
JASMIN: Yes. I think sex education should be a part of public school education. I want my kids to get a sex education in school, but I also value parent choice.
SLAGLE: Yes. I was there the evening it was approved and wish it would be implemented at lower grade levels sooner than it is. I agree with the sections on gender identity and sexual orientation.
MACFARLANE: I haven’t seen the full curriculum and don’t know how teachers will teach it, so I am not prepared to say I support it. I think sex ed should be taught in public schools if it is taught as information solely about biological functions the children are going through. The gender identity and sexual orientation sections should be included as information, but should not endorse an activity.
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