26th District legislative candidates agree school funding issue for needs to be resolved — soon

Candidates can agree on one thing: funding issue for education needs to be resolved — soon.

Twenty-sixth District voters will have a variety of skill sets and resumes to review as they prepare to vote for their Position 1 and 2 state legislative representatives at the state capitol in Olympia.

Two up for election in the Position 1 race are incumbent Jesse L. Young, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Larry Seaquist.

Young is seeking his second full two-year term in the state legislature. The Gig Harbor resident was appointed to the seat in January 2014 to replace Jan Angel, who was elected to the district’s state senate seat. He won a full term later that fall by defeating Democrat Nathan Schlicher, 53.69 percent to 43.31 percent.

Seaquist is attempting to regain a seat in the district. The four-term 26th District Position 2 representative lost his bid for reelection in 2014 to challenger Michelle Caldier.

Young is a software engineer and business owner who has advised companies nationally and internationally. The Wilson High School graduate and valedictorian, and University of Notre Dame grad, has an inspirational background. He has described an upbringing mainly on the streets of Tacoma, part of it homeless, which he overcame through hard work and his “street smarts.”

Seaquist is a 32-year Navy veteran, a former captain of the battleship Iowa and official in the Pentagon. The graduate of Oregon State University has been active in supporting the YMCA program and student groups.

Caldier, a Republican, is seeking re-election to her Position 2 seat and will face Democrat Randy Spitzer.

The incumbent, a dentist by profession, also has taught as an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. She has devoted her practice to caring for the elderly in a nursing home environment.

As with Young, Caldier had something of a challenging life growing up. A foster-care child and on her own at 17, she supported herself with three minimum-wage jobs.

Despite being a single mother at an early age, Caldier was able to earn her doctorate toward her career in dentistry.

Spitzer, a first-time candidate for public office, has a varied resume. The founder of Spitzer Consulting and a business advisor for 21 years, Spitzer also was a state public school teacher for nine years and a certified financial planner. He graduated from Pacific Lutheran University and has an extensive record of community service, serving as executive director of non-profit Cora Voce and board member of Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Candidate questions

The Independent asked the candidates a few questions concerning District 26 issues and their ability to address them:

— The state legislature is in a quandary about how to resolve the public school funding issue. What is your stance?

— What issues do you see as impacting this district the most?

— What unique qualities do you/will you bring to the job?

Here are their answers:

Jesse Young – Position 1 incumbent

Public school funding:

Three key points:

1 – The State’s paramount duty centers on funding, and as a newly elected representative tasked with fixing the problems caused by a broken budgeting system, the first thing is to affect budgetary transparency through the creation of a fourth budget that is funded at the beginning of session for all to see. The state currently has three budgets that are negotiated in secret and passed at the end of session. This scenario allows candidates to make many promises while campaigning, knowing full well the public will never see them break those promises during secret budget negotiations. This must stop, and prioritizing education into its own budget that is dealt with early in session will bring the transparency that we all deserve.

2 – Eliminate top-down mandates on educators. I have been a leading advocate for removing these burdensome reporting, testing and procedural mandates on teachers and children that are making it nearly impossible for educators to actually focus on teaching.

3 – Permanently fund Teacher COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments). I have also been a leading advocate for funding teacher COLAs with the additional caveat that the state should dedicate specific funding to this area so that we can bring a greater level of consistency to teacher compensation. Teachers shouldn’t be used as pawns every two years in a political game of chess, which is what my opponent used them as by continually promising to fund COLAs, but always voting to defund them in the budgeting process.

My leadership on these three core matters is why I have the WEA endorsement over my opponent. I am the only Republican in Western Washington to carry this endorsement.

Top district issues:

Other than education,  they are transportation costs and job availability. I’ve spoken to education in your previous question.

Regarding transportation, my primary efforts have been two fold:

– Reducing tolls to area commuters; which I kept my promise to do by stopping the Narrows Bridge toll increases.- Fighting the disproportional flow of state money to Seattle-based transportation projects. Regarding job creation, I have lead the effort to bring high-paying IT service sector jobs to this district. I have done this on two fronts.  – Targeting tax incentives to persuade IT job creators in California to bring there jobs up here instead of outsourcing them off-shore. My opponent has lauded and previously co-sponsored my efforts on this front.- Working to increase state funding and private sector investment into CTE (Career & Technical Education) schooling options for our kids. I am proud to have been awarded the “CTE Legislator of the Year” award during this session as a result of my efforts.

Your unique qualities:

Humility, hard work and a unique skill set in technology, finance and global commerce that few in Olympia possess. My background in poverty informs every decision I make on behalf of this district.

Larry Seaquist – Position 1 challenger

Public school funding:

Because the Legislature did nothing last session, I wrote a specific work plan for action. My Apple Action Agenda maps twelve big actions necessary to fully meet our obligation to fully educate our kids. There are two Must Do Right Now steps: Solve our teacher crisis and get rid of the toxic tests.

We have a major teacher crisis all over the state. Teachers are quitting in mid-career or retiring early; young people are choosing other careers. We must immediately jump teacher pay to much higher levels comparable to what professionals make in other high skill, high personal touch career fields. But pay is only part of the fix. We also need to restore trust in our teachers and school staff. We need to make sure that the whole community celebrates the exceptional dedication everyone in our schools is delivering every day.

We can restore trust in our educators by immediately deep-sixing the Federal tests, the ones with the bizarre title: “Smarter Balanced Assessments.”  There is absolutely no evidence that these toxic tests, which cost the state and local school districts more than $100 million a year measure anything meaningful.  What we do know is that they poison the learning climate for students and teachers alike.  We need to Opt Out right now. Our teachers are quite expert at judging how well kids are doing in class and steering each student’s learning. If elected, I will make this my most urgent priority.

Top district issues:

Our number one issue is education. All our kids need fully funded, fully staffed schools. That goes double for our kids from low-income families. Many of our neighborhoods need new or refurbished school buildings. South Kitsap School District must build a new high school asap. Not all kids need to go to college.  But all kids need a decent, modern classroom if they are to graduate high school and have a path to a job and a career in our modern high tech, high skills economy. If elected, I will continue to make sure we invest in our whole system of local public education from early learning to K12 to our technical training schools and our colleges and universities. I want to make sure that all paths are open for all our kids to get an education without going into debt.

Investing in education will also boost our whole economy. Washington state’s employers are hungry to hire. I talked with a Boeing executive just this week about their urgent need to hire at all levels. Our software industry is also hungry to hire. We need to open up our community colleges, technical schools and apprentice programs so working adults can retool themselves and move up to higher paying jobs in our high-tech economy.

Unique qualities:

I’m a skilled strategist, expert at bringing angry people together to make real progress for everyone’s benefit. I’ve done that in the explosive climate of the Middle East and other war zones. As chair of the Higher Ed committee, I proved that one can run a major committee on a genuinely bipartisan basis.  It is time to stop the political wars in Olympia. We have a lot of work to do in education, mental health, the environment and ferries. I’ve been called “the hardest working person in the Legislature” because I do believe that we can successfully work on all those problems at one.

I’m also a devout fiscal hawk. For many years I policed the spending of the Navy bureaucrats. I don’t just write bills to create programs, I dive into the agencies that implement the laws to make sure that every penny is spent carefully.

Michelle Caldier – Position 2 incumbent

Public school funding:

During my first term in Olympia, the legislation has increased funding by historical amounts, which made up 48 percent of our state’s operating budget.   On average, K-12 education funding totals $12,000 per student per year. For a classroom of 25 students, that equals $300,000 per classroom per year.

There are significant problems with the funding formulas that allocate how much money each school district receives and how many dollars actually reach the classroom.  These funding formulas need to be addressed prior to asking the hardworking people in our state to pay additional taxes, like the proposed “progressive” state income tax.

Top district issues:

Aside from the possibility of our state implementing a “progressive” state income tax, there are significant problems impacting our district, and a few of those include fixing the K-12 education funding formula, fixing our congestion in Gorst, PSNS and the Purdy Spit, stabilizing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Tolls, and fixing our governmental agencies.

Unique qualities:

I believe in working collaboratively with others, regardless of their background or political affiliation, to come up with real solutions, not political ones. I was honored to be recognized for my bipartisanship while serving my first term as state representative.

Randy Spitzer – Position 2 challenger

Public school funding:

The State Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of children by failing to live up to its “paramount duty” to amply fund (“considerably more than just adequate”) the education of all K-12 students. I absolutely agree. In this next session, the legislature must fully fund K-12 education as described by the court. Doing so will cost $6 to 8 billion for each biennium, an increase of 15-20 percent of the state’s total budget. We simply cannot accomplish this with our current state tax system, which is already taxing seniors and the middle class as much as seven times more than Seattle billionaires. I am deeply concerned that without significant tax reform, we will be forced to substantially slash budgets for transportation, public safety and vital programs like those that help our veterans.

Top district issues:

The 26th District is a largely rural district directly boarding the I-5 corridor. Many of our citizens drive, carpool or ride the ferry to jobs in the Seattle/Tacoma region. We need to ensure that citizens in the 26th have access to transportation options: roads and bridges that are well maintained, ferry, and bus options that are efficient with reasonable schedules and routes. Finally, we owe it to our small business owners in the district to make it easier to start and stay in business by streamlining permitting and reporting processes so that we can create more opportunities for workers to live and work right here in the 26th.

Unique qualities:

I began my career as a high school choir director building successful programs at three different schools and served as an officer of both Eastern Washington Music Educators and Washington Music Educators. I then worked in the financial services business where I earned a Certified Financial Planner designation. For the final two decades of my career, I traveled the country and parts of the world teaching and speaking about how to create a business environment where people can do their very best work, publishing two books on the subject. I have served on the boards of the Bremerton and Gig Harbor Chambers of Commerce and have been an officer in both Kiwanis and Rotary.

In short, I have a long record of leadership and service. I have the skills and experience that have more than prepared me for being a legislator. I am honored to ask for the support of the voters of the 26th legislative district.