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Thursday, November 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Education

Georgen, Morrison differ on funding, security strategies in race for Spokane school board spot

UPDATED: Sat., Oct. 12, 2019

Erin Georgen, left, faces Kevin Morrison in the race for Spokane School Board position 4 in the November 2019 election. (Courtesy photos)
Erin Georgen, left, faces Kevin Morrison in the race for Spokane School Board position 4 in the November 2019 election. (Courtesy photos)

As the election filing deadline approached last spring, it would have been easy for Erin Georgen and Kevin Morrison to take a pass on running for a spot on the Spokane Public Schools board.

Georgen is a single mom who works as a part-time physical therapy assistant and runs a graphic design business.

Morrison is recently retired, with “a granddaughter to spoil, books to read, hobbies and plenty of causes to champion.”

No one could blame him for taking it easy. Morrison served 16 years with the district, managing bond projects and serving as director of community relations and communications.

Morrison, however, sees “no other opportunity to affect so many for generations to come that has the impact of a board director on your local school board.”

Georgen, a graduate of Mt. Spokane High School, said she first became interested in public affairs in 2016 when she tried to grasp the “legislative behemoth known as the Affordable Care Act for a work project.”

“I realized that I have the right skills for understanding complex policy,” Georgen said.

Georgen’s perspective was widened by the experience of her daughter, who struggled at Stevens Elementary School until being placed in the Behavioral Intervention program at Holmes.

“For most of my life, I had followed politics with frustration, and it occurred to me that I was always expecting someone else to come along … But suddenly I thought to myself: Who exactly am I waiting for? What happens if that someone never steps up? Could that someone be me?”

Morrison’s passion began much earlier. Growing up in a “blue-collar” family, he graduated from Shadle Park High School. Years later, in 2002, he served on a bond and levy committee run by Citizens for Spokane Schools.

In the process, Morrison found a purpose in serving as a member of an organization that literally had the mission of providing “excellence for everyone,” he said.

A year later, he embarked on a 16-year career with the district that ended on June 30.

Morrison said that with the departure of three board members, his background and expertise give him a chance to “give back to my community and the institution that has allowed thousands like me to grow, succeed and pay forward to the next generation.”

On the issue of how Spokane voters will pay for that institution’s current budget shortfall, the candidates differ only in timing.

If elected, Georgen said she would “advocate for restoring staffing levels by looking for ways to reduce redundant or ineffective spending and working with state legislators to increase funding to the district.”

She believes it’s “likely,” however, that the district will need an additional levy to be able to restore staffing and programs sooner rather than later “in order to fund the district’s programs and staffing beyond what is deemed ‘adequate’ by state legislators,” Georgen said.

Morrison said if a supplemental levy proves necessary, he would prefer to wait until November 2020 at the earliest, so that “we can demonstrate to the community the due diligence of pragmatic, thoughtful budgeting.” He also said he would make it a four-year levy, eliminating the February 2021 levy, which would be part of a normal cycle.

On the issue of school security, Morrison wants to see a “broader community input into what an SPS solely dedicated, thoroughly vetted, well-trained, fully commissioned, armed law-enforcement response looks like.”

“If you start parking police cars and you have officers doing assessments and helping with drills … I think that would give a real sense of security,” Morrison said.

The first step, Morrison said, would be input from students, families, first responders, administrators and building staff.

Georgen is opposed to arming campus resource officers, but believes that all district staff “should receive a high level of training regularly so that they can effectively and safely manage aggressive or disruptive behavior from students or parents on campus.”

At the same time, she sees “many areas” for improvement to infrastructure, such as exterior door sensors, improved line-of-sight, additional surveillance cameras and updating signage.

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