The competition for a Vancouver Public Schools board seat is between a longtime incumbent and a political newcomer, both of whom attended district schools.
Mark Stoker, a Vancouver attorney, and Anthony Licerio, a service agent, met with The Columbian’s Editorial Board on Tuesday to outline their goals for the school district. A third candidate, Shantel Okorie, told The Columbian she is no longer running but did not withdraw her candidacy in time to have her name officially removed from the primary ballot.
Stoker, 59, has been on the Vancouver school board for 10 years, and said he’s running to keep the momentum of the district’s success going.
“I’m running for re-election because I think the district is on a great trajectory toward achievement,” Stoker said. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on and I’d like to see the job get done.”
Licerio, 28, said there are topics that are “not being heard from minority groups” on the Vancouver school board, such as discussions about school resource officers, the “school-to-prison pipeline” and the deportation of students or their families.
“There are a lot of issues we could be talking about that directly impact our school district,” Licerio said.
The meeting came about a week and a half after the state Legislature approved an operating budget with the goal of fully funding kindergarten through 12th-grade education.
Vancouver is projected to see an additional $21,568,793 in funding for the 2018-2019 school year, and $38,507,319 in the 2019-2020 school year once the new funding model raising the state levy and capping local levies goes into effect.
Stoker has yet to see what that means for the district budget this year, as the school board has not met since the budget decision, but said Vancouver Public Schools was among the first districts to sign on to the McCleary lawsuit.
“We strongly felt that the Washington state Constitution was not being met,” he said, adding he was hopeful good news was coming for Vancouver Public Schools.
“It will definitely increase funding,” he said. “How much remains to be seen.”
Licerio, meanwhile, said the burden of paying for local schools should be removed entirely from those who pay local property taxes, shifting it entirely to the state. When local levy rates reach zero, he said, “that point is when we’ll reach our obligations to fully fund education.”
Ballots for the local races will go out Friday. The primary election is Aug. 1.
The top two candidates will go on to the November general election.