I do not know Marie Freitas or Andrea Collins-Cambra personally.
What they have done with their lives and what they think, however, is important to the 130,000 plus people who reside in the Manteca Unified School District.
Freitas is a retired teacher and Collins-Cambra is a farmer and businesswoman. They are running for the Area 4 seat currently held by Nancy Teicheira who is not seeking re-election. Teicheira was first elected in 1998.
Most of us will not have a say in who gets elected from Area 4 as Manteca Unified has gone to voting for trustees only by the people who live in the areas they represent and not districtwide. The area they seek to represent is bounded by Yosemite Avenue on the north, Airport Way on the west, Main Street in the east and the south rural Manteca area.
I happen to live in Area 5 where the only other contested MUSD election is taking place between incumbent and retired school teacher Evelyn Moore and Cathy Pope-Gotschall who works as a teacher — librarian in the Lincoln Unified School District.
There are those on social media who believe Collins-Cambra is unworthy of being elected to the MUSD board because her children, who attended Nile Garden School, attend high school at Central Catholic in Modesto instead of staying in district. Some of those making that assertion happen to be public educators.
People are free to use whatever litmus test they want in choosing who to vote for. But voting against someone because their children don’t attend public school is almost as shallow as rejecting them based on skin tone or because their favorite color is purple.
Everyone in Manteca Unified has a stake in what the school district does whether they have children in public school or even if they don’t have children. Also given how public education is funded from various state taxes as well as property taxes (renters indirectly pay for property taxes as well) everyone has financial skin in the game.
One of the many “pleasant” highlights of my eight years on the Western Placer Unified School District board was being told a year into my first term at age 20 that I had “no right or business being on the school board” as I did not have children in school nor did I own any property at the time.
My response was polite but not exactly restrained. I pointed out that (at the time in 1976) some 68 percent of the voting age population of California didn’t have children in public school so why should they support school bonds if people with kids took the stance they shouldn’t be allowed to serve on school boards. I also told the lady if she really believed that people without kids in public school should be banned from serving on school boards, then it’s only fair that they be exempted from having to pay their share of taxes that support public schools. My final argument was that as someone without kids in public schools, I had a bigger stake in how effective schools did their job because if they didn’t do it well or make up for any deficiencies that might occur from unsupportive parents the students the system turns out could end up not being productive citizens costing me as a taxpayer and as a private sector employee.
Needless to say she thought I was an arrogant twerp.
What I find real rich is the assumption from some educators that certain classes of people — read that candidates that happen not to send their students to public school — should be excluded from serving on a school board on the wild assumption they have no skin in the game, have a conflict of some sort, or are out to destroy public education because they support private or religious schools or — heaven forbid — might support charter schools.
Someone might want to check to see how many teachers in the Manteca Unified School District or San Joaquin County Office of Education have sent their children to non-public schools before they launch social media whispering campaigns.
Let’s say they make a valid point. Wouldn’t it be equally valid not to vote for a public educator for a school board as well?
The biggest thing that drives school district costs are salaries of teachers. Since school districts do salary and benefit surveys of surrounding districts to help determine local district compensation, wouldn’t having public school teachers regardless of where they work be a tad self-serving as the salary boost they approve as a Manteca Unified trustee could ultimately indirectly boost their salary as well?
So shouldn’t taxpayers — especially the 60 percent or so that don’t have kids in public schools — buy into the argument that public educators should not be elected to public school boards as they have a conflict of sorts?
The argument against that stance is it is a stretch just as claiming someone who apparently has the audacity to send their daughter or son to a parochial school that is deeply based in their faith has no right to be a public school trustee.
The voters in Area 4 should elect or reject either Freitas or Collins-Cambria on whatever criteria they feel comfortable with. But perpetuating a bias on social media if taken to its logical conclusion favors cutting out anybody that isn’t part of the club — either with kids in public schools or who are employed by public schools — will ultimately damage support of public schools.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.