As California rejected its governor’s anti-labor propositions in November, Shane Brinton, a student at College of the Redwoods and member of the Young Communist League, was elected to the Northern Humboldt Union High School Board. The board governs four high schools and an adult education program in Northern California.
In the race for three board seats, Brinton came in third in a field of eight, 500 votes ahead of local developer Dan Johnson, who had donated thousands of dollars to his own campaign.
“I decided to run because I had attended Arcata High School, where there was a total lack of communication between the board and the high school administration, on the one side, and the students, parents and teachers on the other, who were isolated from the decision-making process,” Brinton told the World.
The board, influenced by a Christian conservative minority, would not allow peer sex education in the high schools, he said, in spite of a high rate of AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections among teenagers.
A central issue in the campaign was the presence of military recruiters in the schools. “My position that high schools should provide serious education rather than recruitment for the military got support from parents and college students,” said Brinton.
Brinton’s stand on the special election propositions and his support for the prevailing wage, brought him the endorsement of the Humboldt County Central Labor Council, the Building and Construction Trades Council and Operating Engineers Local 3. “The other candidates didn’t take any position on these matters,” he said.
Other issues were a healthy school lunch program and job skills and vocational training. “We need to build partnerships with unions as well as local businesses,” Brinton said.
“I couldn’t have done it without the unions,” he commented. His grassroots fundraising campaign brought in $2,000 and allowed him to run a television commercial, produced for free by a college film student, in which he urged voters to “Vote No on Propositions 74, 75 and 76 — and Yes on me.”
Brinton and a group of volunteers painted their own yard signs and knocked on doors to talk to voters in the four small cities in the district and at the university. He also received the endorsement of the county Democratic and Green parties.
Faced with red-baiting from a local newspaper, Brinton pointed out that he was a registered Democrat and that the election was nonpartisan.
He looks forward to working with the other school board members. “I got elected to stir things up, but not to cause trouble,” he said. “I’m not going to jeopardize school funding, but if we have to make cuts, we need to talk with the teachers first.”