Helen Sahadi sees some startling numbers when she looks at public education in the state of Maine.

About 32 percent of the state’s general fund money goes to K-12 education, and yet the dropout rate hovers around 20 percent — and of those who do complete high school and go on to college, nearly 30 percent will likely need to take remedial coursework.

“It’s a major concern,” she said, adding that she saw the situation as being almost at a crisis level. “We need to look at different delivery models of education, to make it more effective.”

Helen Sahadi

• Town of residence: Thorndike

• Party affiliation: Democrat

• Occupation: Owner/operator, Heavenly Socks Yarn shop in Belfast

• Previous elective or appointive office: SAD 3 school board (eight years), finance and dropout prevention committees

• Clean elections candidate: Yes

Sahadi is the Democratic nominee for the House District 45 seat, which encompasses the western Waldo County towns of Burnham, Freedom, Knox, Montville, Palermo, Thorndike, Troy and Unity. Her Republican opponent is Ryan Harmon of Palermo.

Sahadi said she was asked to run for the House seat, and said she gave it some thought before she agreed to do it. She reflected on her eight years on the SAD 3 school board, an experience she said she had enjoyed.

“I thought I would enjoy the challenge,” said Sahadi of the prospect of serving at the state level. “I’m intrigued by the intellectual rigor it would require.”

One area that will likely involve some intellectual rigor on the part of all legislators is how to balance the state budget, given the projected $1 billion budget shortfall.

“We will have to cut,” said Sahadi, who said the goal should be to make cuts involving the “least amount of pain.”

Sahadi said she was committed to not doing anything to raise property or income taxes, because she had heard from people in her district how important that was to them. She said the Legislature would need to take a hard look at what the role of Maine state government should be.

“What is it that Maine people want their government to do?” Sahadi said.

Addressing Maine’s failure to fully fund its pension system for retired state employees, Sahadi simply said the state should “meet the obligations that we have.” She said the more complicated part would be determining how to do that.

With regard to funding for education, Sahadi said she did not believe more money was required. Rather, the money that is there right now should be spent more “efficiently and effectively,” she said.

“I would look at taking the bureaucracy out of public education,” she said. Sahadi said she would put her background as a teacher and school board member to use on this issue.

Producing a more efficient education system is important in order for the state to have a source of skilled workers. she said. Aside from improving education, Sahadi said other things the state could do to help attract new businesses to Maine (or to encourage existing businesses in the state to expand) is to examine energy and health-care costs.

Sahadi said she didn’t have any definite solutions for those issues at this point, but she knew the issues existed and that they were a deterrent for some businesses.

“We need to make sure there are no mandates that would keep businesses from coming to Maine,” she said.

Regarding what types of businesses Maine should seek to attract, Sahadi said the state’s natural resources were a strong selling point. She said that although tourism shouldn’t be the only focus, it was an important area and that bringing people to Maine benefited many residents.

“As a business owner, I notice when visitors are around,” she said. “It positively affects me.”

On the matter of industrial wind power and how it should be addressed in Maine, Sahadi said she supported local towns passing ordinances (if the voters decide to do so), because wind power was still a relatively new issue and there were still unknowns.

In general, she said she supported Maine’s pursuing any kind of renewable energy.

“It ties in to national security, because it gets us off of foreign oil,” she said.

In addition, she said she strongly supported the efforts of Efficiency Maine, because it was a program that had an “immediate impact,” in that it helped people save money immediately (such as through rebates on energy-efficient light bulbs).

Turning to health-care costs and health insurance, Sahadi noted that the next session of the Legislature would be working on figuring out exactly how to implement the national health-care reform bill in Maine. While she thinks that will be a positive thing for many people, she said she had concerns about the mandated health insurance component. She said she had heard the same thing from people she had met while campaigning.

Lots of statistics have been shared this campaign season in the debate over public assistance, and many opinions have been offered on what Maine could or should do differently. Sahadi said she wished all assistance programs could be handled at the local level, such as by selectmen, because “people there know the people in need.”

Town officials Sahadi has spoken with, however, don’t feel that they could take on that additional work. Given that, Sahadi said she would like to see efforts made to give people ways to report cases of assistance fraud or abuse, and to make sure that those reports are investigated in a timely manner.

“That [abuse] is not right,” she said. “No one wants to see that.”

Another important issue for Sahadi is family farms. She said she would like to continue the work that current District 45 Representative John Piotti (D-Unity) has done, because she believes family farms are an integral part of the local economy.

Sahadi is also interested in taking a look at the size of the state’s Legislature. She said that in the past, geography may have necessitated a Legislature of that size, but that in today’s world of Facebook, e-mail and other forms of instant mass communication, the Legislature could perhaps be reduced in size.