Almanac

Viewpoint - October 12, 2011

Incumbents have the edge in college district

Of the seven candidates running for the San Mateo Community College District board, we support the incumbents, Karen Schwarz and Patricia Miljanich, both elected in 1995, and Dave Mandelkern, first elected in 2003. One other candidate, Joe Ross, responded to the Almanac questionnaire. Three others either declined our endorsement or could not be reached.

In many ways, the challenge at the college district, which serves 44,000 students at three campuses, can be boiled down to one word — money, and the board's effort to gain public support for a parcel tax and new buildings in the wake of a rollback of state support. Last year, voters approved a $34 four-year parcel tax that will help hire more instructors, but Ms. Miljanich said some students still cannot get the classes they need.

Demand for classes at Canada College in Woodside at the district's two other campuses in San Mateo and San Bruno goes up when the economy goes down. That is the case now, and a major reason why the board is asking voters in this election to approve a $564 million bond issue to build and upgrade campus buildings.

Ms. Schwarz believes the state formula for funding higher education is hard on community colleges, which get $6,000 per student compared with $12,000 for the California State University system and $18,000 for the University of California. "It seems discriminating to me to fund at such a different level while providing the same education," she said.

Mr. Mandelkern and Ms. Schwarz believe San Mateo County needs a public four-year college. He added that he would seek more collaboration with nearby state universities and expand the college's presence in the county's coastal communities.

Voters should remember that community colleges are the only option for many students who cannot qualify or afford four-year colleges. The colleges provide a wide range of classes for adults, too, and offer vocational training in some fields.

The incumbents, Patricia Miljanich, Karen Schwarz and Dave Mandelkern have been wrestling with the tough issues before the district for many years and deserve to be returned to office.

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