Local Elections: Physician Seeks Cure for Berkeley Education

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A graduate of the Boalt Hall School of Law, Lance Montauk wants to take part in Berkeley education once again-but this time as a candidate for the Berkeley Board of Education.

Montauk says he wants to reduce the number of children leaving public schools for private schools.

Lance Montauk

He says he will use his position on the school board to discuss the importance of sending children to public schools in order to bring the issue to the forefront of public debate.

"I want to start dialogue and change (the) perspective so movement toward that direction can be made," Montauk says.

Because recent public school programs have focused on educating lower-achieving students, students who demonstrate high achievement are driven to attend private schools, he says.

"If you tailor classes for people at the lower end of the spectrum, then those at the higher end will leave (for private schools)," he says. "The best kids flee. It's a negative spiral."

Montauk supports allowing teachers to prohibit students they believe are unqualified from entering advanced placement courses.

Montauk also wants to increase spending to raise teachers' salaries and to hire more teachers to decrease class sizes.

He plans to make up for the additional costs by decreasing expenditures on clerical and administrative staff.

"We're not spending money on education, we're spending it on bus drivers and people who clean," Montauk says. "A lot of clerical work can be outsourced, but teachers can't be outsourced."

According to the California Department of Education, the Berkeley Unified School District currently spends nearly twice as much on salaries for school bus drivers than the statewide average. But incumbent school board candidate Terry Doran says these statistics are misleading because some smaller school districts do not use a busing system.

"Many districts in California don't receive that money for busing, so of course we're above average," he says.

"We bus, they don't."

Montauk opposes Measure K, which would raise salaries for board members by $625 per month, paid for by the city's general fund.

Rather, he says the board should better manage the school district's funds in the face of a budget deficit before seeking to increase the salaries of board members.

The Berkeley school district currently faces a nearly $3 million budget deficit. The school board budget deficit last year totaled $5 million, but was reduced following increased class sizes, funding cuts to academic programs and faculty downsizing.

Additionally, the city faces a budget deficit of nearly $1 million.

"It hardly seems like the time to reward their success," he says of the school board.

But Councilmember and District 4 candidate Dona Spring, who supports Measure K, says the measure will increase diversity among school board candidates.

"If we want to attract the most qualified and most competent candidates, we need to offer some kind of compensation," Spring says. "This is meant to give school officials flexibility. Not raising their wages is equivalent to keeping them powerless. It's an issue of fair labor and fair wages."

Montauk also says the school board experiments too much with alternative school programs, such as the recent shift at Berkeley High School from a seven- to six-period school day, calling such changes, "stressful for the organism."

"I'm not interested in a million reforms," he says. "Let's hold the ladder stable. Teachers and administrators would do better if left alone. Let them do their job."

Montauk received a medical degree in Belgium in 1986, and he currently serves as a physician at various locations, including UC Berkeley's Tang Center.


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