Even voters with no stake in education ought to support John Laird’s campaign for the State Senate, because education is such a crucial component for California’s future, Laird stated at a press conference in late July. A couple of dozen supporters, mostly educators, came out in a dense fog to the Chris Jesperson Elementary School to hear Laird explain why he is the best candidate.
The state reached another dubious milestone this past year, noted Laird: California slipped from 46th to 47th in per-pupil spending. He noted that there are two alternatives to resolve the state budget deadlock concerning education. Either the state can cut $250 per pupil from what it spends now or it can add back the funds already slashed so that education funding is restored to more than what it was last year, he said. “A recent study showed California had the best academic standards in the country. So we have the academic rigor but just not the resources to implement it.”
Julian Crocker, SLO County Superintendent of Schools, said allocations, including kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as the California State University system, comprise 60 percent of the state’s general fund, so education is of vital importance. “Laird understands the devastation that’s happened over the last 24 months. Education funds have been cut by $40 million. He’s committed to stopping the funding slide and getting San Luis back to being competitive in the global market place.”
Jim Conway, California Faculty Association representative, said his organization is proud to support Laird, “because every student in the state deserves the highest quality education possible.” Conway went on that Laird will make higher education more accessible and affordable, stop lawmakers from slashing the education budget that has been cut by $1 billion over the last two years and stem staff reductions that saw a loss of 1,500 faculty in the same time period. The CSU’s have seen a 200 percent increase (including 10 percent more for next year) in fees since 2002, he added.
“By electing Laird, we’ll return majority rule (to Democrats in the legislature) to California. If you believe in the public education system you must support Laird.”
Sal Caminada, a disabled Vietnam veteran and now an instructor at Hancock College, said, affordable community college enabled him to advance to where he is today.
Veterans do not emerge from a war and transition into a profession without training and many veterans and high school graduates need the training they can get from a two-year program, he said.
“Laird has already shown he’s an ally of education. When he was in the Assembly he supported bills specifically for community college funding.”
Andrea Devitt, a Cuesta College counselor, added, Laird has consistently supported education, while other candidates “talk the talk but do not walk the walk.”
Laird, former Democratic Assemblyman, finished second in the June 22 special election for the 15th District State Senate seat. Laird won 41 percent while top vote getter, Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee received 49 percent. Since no candidate received more than 50 percent, a runoff election is being held on August 17.
The election was called when the former 15th District Senator Abel Maldonado seat was left vacant after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him as Lieutenant Governor in May. Two other candidates, Independent Jim Fitzgerald of Nipomo and Libertarian Mark Hinkle of Morgan Hill will also compete in the runoff.
Despite finishing 11,000 votes behind Blakeslee, Laird says the election is not about changing the opinions of those who voted in the last election but about the 350,000 who did not vote. “The question is can I energize 15,000 more voters to cast a ballot for me? If I can, I can win this election.”