Laura Capps Launches Re-Election Bid for County Education Seat
In a video clip released July 27, former First District Supervisorial candidate Laura Capps officially announced her re-election campaign for the Santa Barbara Board of Education. In her case, “re-election” is somewhat of a misnomer, as Capps is the first to point out. “We got two new Board members in 2018, but the three of us that ran in 2016, nobody ran against us, so we were appointed, much to my disappointment, because I had a campaign ready.”
Because elections cost money, if any of the education board races are uncontested, the county doesn’t see the point in paying for them, Capps explains, despite the fact that the board oversees education priorities for 21 schools, including three major high schools, as well as 13,500 children in an area inhabited by at least 120,000 voters. “It’s much preferable to run for office and get elected,” she explains. “I was disappointed not to have a chance to run.”
Capps hopes to correct that problem this time around, but so far no contenders have entered the race. There’s still a chance that the conservative-leaning Fair Education Group might mount an insurgent campaign, perhaps drawing on widespread frustration with the district’s previous superintendent, Cary Matsuoka, who abruptly retired in October 2019. The group entered education politics to fight against what it sees as an anti-white, anti-Christian agenda in the county’s schools, and it opposes such things as the district using funds for implicit bias training for teachers, students, and staff, which accounts for just $260,000 of the county’s roughly $140 million budget.
In her tenure as board member during the past four years, Capps has championed renewable energy. “We didn’t have any solar buildings when I took office four years ago,” she recalls, “but now we have some and are projecting to be at 96 percent renewable energy. We will save millions of dollars. Oxnard has already done that, but we are way behind for a community that founded Earth Day.”
Capps has also fought to ensure that no student suffers from hunger. “We have the third highest rate of poverty in the state,” she says. “So far, we’ve served almost 500,000 meals since our schools were shut down in March. It’s something I’ve always been committed to and we’ll continue to do that.”
As an incumbent, Capps is currently working with other officials to craft a responsible way for the school district to open as many schools as possible to the greatest number of students possible, while still protecting the health of everyone, including students and teachers. “The message has been delivered to us that we need a restart,” she says. “What we experienced in March, April, and May was emergency instruction without any preparation or training. Teachers are going to be getting more support, more instructional training, and continuity.”
For example, school officials are hoping that teachers performing online instruction can actually do so from within their own classrooms, where they have all the technology at their disposal and none of the distractions that come with working remotely from home. “Attendance will be taken and teachers will be able to respond to parents within 24 hours about any concerns. Based on the results of a recent district-wide survey, Capps said, the public is still split on what it wants to happen this fall. “The minority were people who wanted us to fully reopen the schools. Most people favored a hybrid approach, 20 percent wanted a full reopening, and the rest wanted it to be fully remote.”
In preparation for reopening, Capps believes outdoor space coverings can help create a solution to expanding beyond the traditional classroom while still keeping instruction on campus – in other words, bring the classroom outside.
“I’ve looked into the purchasing of tents,” she says. “During the last pandemic, it turns out that [doing so] allowed a lot of kids to continue to go to school safely. We need to purchase the structures and get them up as soon as possible. Everyone agrees that the best place for kids to be is the classroom.”