Meet the SMMUSD School Board candidates: Ben Allen

Ben Allen

Name: Ben Allen

Age: 34

Occupation: School Board President/attorney/adjunct professor

Neighborhood in which you live: Wilmont (Santa Monica)

Education: Harvard University (BA in History), Cambridge University (Masters in Latin American Studies), UC Berkeley (Law Degree: my research focused on the law and politics of California school finance)

Why are you running for the school board and what do you want to accomplish if elected?

I care deeply about public education in general, and our school district in particular. My priorities are:

1. Setting high academic expectations and standards

2. Looking out for all students, finding ways to improve outcomes and opportunities for students from every background

3. Preserving the core programs that make our district great: from the arts and athletics to strong academic programs

4. Pushing for environmentally sustainable practices

5. The growth of a robust early childhood system for our community

6. Financial accountability, cost savings, and new revenues for our schools

7. Teacher empowerment, evaluation, support, accountability 

Prop. 30, Prop. 38, or neither?

I’m voting for both.

Do you support separating Malibu and Santa Monica into separate districts?

We are two different communities with distinct political cultures and ways of doing business, and it has proven hard for Malibu to feel well represented within the district power structure. If we can figure out a way to make it pencil out in a way that does not leave Santa Monica holding the bag, I think it might make a lot of sense.

Should the school board place another parcel tax on the ballot in 2014 if statewide tax measures fail to pass in November? If they fail, district officials are predicting cuts in the millions. What’s the best way to deal with the potential deficit?

Parcel taxes are very hard to pass. We are going to have to look in a lot of different directions for solutions, including cuts, new revenue opportunities with the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, new fundraising, finding more efficiencies, etc. It is so important that we pass either Proposition 30 or 38.

What are your thoughts on the decision to move to districtwide fundraising?

I supported the policy along with the rest of the board, and we need to make sure that it’s successful. It’s not a perfect model, but it was reflective of a broadbased desire by the superintendent, board and PTA leadership that we find a way of ensuring that there are strong support programs at all of our schools regardless of means.

What role do you envision playing on the school board?

I hope to continue to be a listener, someone who is thoughtful, weighs the issues carefully and makes good decisions that are in the best interest of all of our kids.

If elected, would you vote to close smaller schools and consolidate to save money?

There is more than meets the eye to what seems like a simple cost-saving act: shutting down a school doesn’t necessarily solve our budget problems because it can easily become a charter school that would take additional funds away from the district.