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San Diego City Council Rejects School Board Term Limits, District Elections

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified Scho...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Above: The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.

San Diego City Council Rejects School Board Term Limits, District Elections

GUEST:

Megan Burks, education reporter, KPBS

Transcript

A proposal to bring the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education elections process into alignment with city procedures was rejected by the City Council Tuesday on a rare party-line vote.

The plan to impose term limits and district elections on SDUSD trustees was backed by Republican council members Chris Cate, Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman and Lorie Zapf, but they were outvoted by the panel's five Democrats.

Supporters of the plan said it was similar to revisions to the city's electoral process approved by voters in November—which now requires candidates to win office in the November general election, instead of the primary if they win a majority—and was an issue of fairness.

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The opponents said it was best to leave governing the school board to district officials.

Councilman Chris Ward said he ran for elective office to work on city issues like homelessness.

"We got out of the business of governing school boards 50 years ago,'' Ward said.

As the system currently works, San Diego Unified trustees can serve an unlimited number of four-year terms, and while primary elections are district-only, they have to win office in the general election via a citywide vote.

By contrast, City Council members are limited to two terms and are chosen only by registered voters in the neighborhoods they represent.

Trustee John Lee Evans, one of two board members who recently embarked on their third terms, said the proposal was "a solution in search of a problem.''

Evans said he defeated an incumbent to win office in 2008, and several new trustees have come and gone since then. As far as district-wide voting goes, trustees have to be accountable to parents and students at all of the SDUSD schools, he said.

If the proposal had gone forward, it would have led to a public vote next year to amend the City Charter—which is the city's primary governing document and also sets the overall terms of the school district's governance.

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