Dare to ask?

The ides of March have passed and now it’s time for us to prepare for an election.

Yes, we get to vote on April 7. Though quieter than the November contest, this election for the Glendale Unified School District board of education, Glendale Community College board of trustees and, for some of us in the foothills, the Glendale City Council has raised some eyebrows as incumbents fight to retain their seats and contenders argue why they should be the ones elected.

This week, Charles Cooper reports on the recent forum hosted by the League of Women Voters. The Crescenta Valley Community Association has also hosted a forum and next week you’ll read about the Crescenta Valley Town Council’s candidate forum. We are also compiling responses to a series of questions posed by the CV Sun to candidates for the school board and city council. Those are slated for publication in the March 27 edition of the paper.

Too much? Not at all.

At a time when the national outlook is bleak due to fiscal irresponsibility, we have a responsibility to elect people who will protect us from going down the financial drain. Let’s face it: As low as this economy has sunk, we cannot afford to make uninformed decisions regarding anyone who will be controlling the purse strings of our schools and, for a portion of the foothills, our city.

The forums hosted by civic groups give voters the chance to learn firsthand what candidates think on issues that are important to them in the candidates’ own voice.

One of the hot topics in both the school board and city elections center around finances.

I offer a question — and I mean it quite sincerely, so please don’t attack me — but I don’t understand why I’ve heard repeatedly that California teachers are poorly paid and our schools underfunded. I’ve done some research on the website of The National Education Association (NEA), “the nation’s largest professional employee organization, committed to advancing the cause of public education.” For 2007-’08, it reports that in the categories of average salaries of public school teachers; enrollment; expenditures for public K-12 schools; total expenditures for public K-12 school; total revenues for public K-12 schools from state governments; total revenues for public K-12 schools from local governments; and total federal, state, and local revenue receipts for public K-12, California ranked number one.

For per student spending, we were halfway down the list — number 26.

In the spirit of “There’s never a dumb question,” I ask: Why is it that we’re told that California ranks so badly in education spending?

Please don’t misunderstand me: My kids went to public schools; my husband and I graduated from public schools, I have family members who are teachers in public school. I feel very fortunate that we live in the foothills where a solid education is available through the public schools. I am a total supporter of Glendale public schools.

I know that there are some people who believe that teachers are sacrosanct, that we shouldn’t question anything in regard to our schools, but I’m not being disrespectful; I just need some clarification.

Which leads me back to the value of forums. They are a way for each voter to ask the questions that will shed light on the issues that are of concern to them.

I invite you to take some time over the next two-and-a-half weeks to read what you can about our candidates and even attend a forum or two.

Ask those questions — remember: There’s no such thing as a dumb question.

And for those of you who can enlighten me, I invite you to drop me a line.

ROBIN GOLDSWORTHY is the city editor for the Crescenta Valley Sun.

She can be reached at  (818) 790-8774 x14 or Robin.Goldsworthy@latimes.com.

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