Baseball may have been the only clear winner in two debates Tuesday night among candidates seeking election Nov. 8 to the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education and the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.
Only a dozen people came to the Lincoln Middle School Auditorium to hear six candidates for the Board of Education and four for the college board. The debates were sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Afterward, some candidates blamed the poor showing on Tuesday night's National League playoff game between the Dodgers and the New York Mets. Others said the low turnout was typical for a Santa Monica school board election.
"I would like to think that children's education is more important than a baseball game, but I'm told that the Dodgers have a lot of influence," said Carol Izad, one of three challengers hoping to unseat one of the three incumbents running for the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education.
Also vying for the three open seats on the board are challengers Thomas N. Kayn and Mark A. Borenstein and incumbents Peggy Lyons, Connie Jenkins and Mary Kay Kamath.
Competing for three seats on the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees are challenger Anita Walker and incumbents Blyden S. Boyle, Ilona Jo Katz and Pat Nichelson.
The major issues in the Santa Monica-Malibu debate involved a shortage of funds for the district, where enrollment has dropped this year by nearly 350 students. All six candidates support Proposition TT, a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would extend for five years the current $58 tax on each parcel of land in the district.
The challengers accused the incumbents of not doing enough to sell the district's surplus properties, allowing classes to become too large and permitting too high a dropout rate.
Jenkins defended the board's record, saying a "great deal has been done." She said the board has hired a new superintendent and business manager who have placed the district on a solid footing.
"The pressing problem is money," Lyons said. "New York state spends $5,200 a child, and we receive about $2,500. I intend to keep pressing at the state level, federal level and local level to bring more money to the district's coffers."
Kamath and Jenkins said the district wants to provide more help for students in risk of dropping out. "We have to deal with the bottom 20% of Santa Monica High School students who are not achieving," Kamath said.
In the Santa Monica College debate, Boyle called for the college to do more to help younger students aspire to higher education. "We need to reach out to children in the fifth, sixth and seventh grades," he said, and expose them to college life.
Walker called for expanded child care for students and faculty, and Nichelson urged more help for students at risk of dropping out. Katz said the college deserves praise for solving a long-term dispute with the community over parking.