Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns and will be publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.
Lisa Escárcega is running for State Board of Education District 1.
Party affiliation: Democratic Party
Family: Husband Jesús Escárcega and Lisa raised three children here in Colorado.
Occupation: Lisa has been working in education for over 35 years, retiring in May of 2020. Lisa started her career as a school psychologist working with educators, children, and their families. She has worked on the district level, where she testified as an expert before the Colorado Supreme Court on the inequities in education, and ended her career working with districts across the state.
Previous elected experience: None
Family members in government: No
The single most pressing issue facing our state is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
I see two competing issues for the top spot of the most pressing issue – Public Education funding and the privatization of Public Education.
Our lack of funding for PK-12 public education is starving our schools and educators. This is on many levels, by many people, intentional. By not adequately funding our PK-12 schools, the narrative of ‘failing public schools’ gives the cover and support to the need for alternative, choice programs. The privatization sector has used this narrative to funnel money into the alternative, choice sector. Profit is the ultimate motivation which is achieved by selling of services and investment of real estate. Our challenge is to secure increased funding that is directed to traditional public schools and to expose the outside funding by those that want to privatize education.
Related to the above is the need to redo our accountability system for schools and districts. We need to start with defining what is a ‘quality school’. Rather than starting with data that we have and misuse, we start with communities and stakeholders defining what a quality school is. Then we look to see what data we already have to measure the definition, and then we work to develop other measures.
By redefining what a quality schools is, we begin to change the narrative away from ‘failing schools’ toward noting all schools have qualities of excellence and areas for celebration. Support for areas needing improvement is seen as a goal, rather than punishment or closure for failure.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I unapologetically stand for our public education, and will never vote for privatization. That is the biggest difference. I am committed to meeting the needs of all students, not just the few.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
As I said I have worked from the classroom to the board room in education, with the end of my career working in policy with districts from across the state. I have real life experiences of how policy affects the classroom, and the knowledge and relationships to change the policy we need to serve our children left furthest behind.
What steps should state government take to bolster economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic for local businesses?
Though the SBOE does not make policy around small business, we do need to ensure that we maintain a high standard of education and supports for our educators through this pandemic for our future. First and foremost we need to ensure our children who are furthest behind are not falling further behind. We need to make sure all students see a path to the future through education and apprenticeship programs, this includes working to make College more affordable.
How will you address the calls for racial justice and police reform?
ACLU has done great work around how we can reform police in schools. It has proven that it is more effective to have mental health experts and better supports for our educators in schools than cops. I support following the guidelines set forth by the ACLU around removing police from our schools.
We are very lucky here in Denver to watch students from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Early College take the lead having a more honest and reflective curriculum taught to our children. We must continue that work and ensure that as we pass laws that support our Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color our educators are getting the supports to see these changes through to the end. Furthermore we know policy does not change hearts. We need to make anti-biased training part of our daily practice in education, from the top down. We also know a huge part of removing biases is by having diverse leadership. This means we need to do more to recruit, retain, and promote educators of color.
List other issues that define your campaign platform:
What I am most excited and passionate about is bringing a co-governance model to education. We have laws and access to education being determined at every level of government and we should all be working together with community to ensure success for all of Colorado’s Students.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I grew up experiencing poverty. It was my teachers and counselors who broke down barriers, igniting my lifelong passion for public schools and educators. I am a first-generation college graduate, majoring in School Psychology and later received my Doctorate in Quantitative Research Methods. I shouldn’t be the exception to living in poverty. It is this journey that guides me every day. I know every child has a journey and path to success.