School board members often trumpet the wonderful things a district can enjoy if the voters pass the latest bond measure. Sage Rafferty would rather see bond measures go away.
“The state needs to fully fund education, and it’s in the state’s best interest for the long term,” the candidate for Saugus Union School District Area 4 said. “We need to master fiscal responsibility but come up with a long-term solution instead of just passing bonds.”
His solution: Increase state funding. Until recently, California always ranked near the bottom of per-student funding (Rafferty put it at 39th; other studies now put it between 20th and 37th, up from the 40s four years ago). In 2016-17, the Saugus district got just $7,720 per student, according to the California Department of Education. By comparison, the Castaic district got $97 more and Newhall got $258 more. Sulphur Springs got $8,203 per student per year, and Acton-Agua Dulce got $8,885. The William S. Hart Union High School District got $8,568.
Suddenly having more money per student is not something a school-board member can control. That’s the Legislature’s job. But Rafferty said that as a board member, he would be in an ideal position to lobby state leaders to increase the money flow as well as remain closer to his constituents.
Rafferty, 38, was born in Montana but traveled to faraway places such as China and Dubai when he was young because his father taught English there. “He wanted his children to see the world and be global citizens,” he said.
There’s also a strong military tradition in the family. Rafferty’s grandfather was a Marine in World War II and his father served in the Navy. Rafferty chose the Army because he felt that branch’s values (loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage) aligned with him. He attended officer candidate school and earned commission as a second lieutenant. He was stationed at numerous bases in his nine years, including Forts Lee, Benning, Sill and Drum. He saw time in Afghanistan as part of the 10th Mountain Division, mostly in charge of logistics and budgets.
He had to figure out ways to save the Army money and found the best way was to limit spending. The best way to do that was to ensure the equipment – such as an AGM-114 hellfire missile, which he said costs as much as a house – was properly maintained.
He said his leadership in the military and his time as an aerospace manager at PPG Industries in Sylmar prepare him to lead on a school board, even if that’s slightly different.
“I am running to serve my community,” he said in a press release. “I served in the military to protect and defend the country I love. Even after I left the military, I knew I wanted to fight for something larger than myself. That’s why I want to fight for our children’s education. I also want to fight for teachers. My dad was a teacher. The teachers who shape our children’s futures deserve a fair paycheck and manageable class conditions.”
Another principle Rafferty said he would push for if elected is more transparency. In this case, he wants all board meetings televised. They hadn’t been, but with the coronavirus sending everyone indoors, the board has been meeting via Zoom, which allows for the required public access and participation.
Current board members David Barlavi and Chris Trunkey have endorsed Rafferty, who is running for the seat currently occupied by David Powell, who isn’t seeking re-election.