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Survey: Majority Favors Term Limits, Local-Only Elections For San Diego Unified Trustees

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in...

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

In a draft report, an advisory committee recommends the San Diego Unified School Board put forward a November ballot initiative on board elections.

Based on feedback from an online survey and series of town hall meetings, it says the board should let voters decide whether trustees should have term limits and be elected in smaller, local-only elections. Currently, candidates compete for votes in the neighborhoods they would represent during the primary, then move on to a citywide runoff in November.

RELATED: Group Is Challenging San Diego Unified's Elections Instead Of Its Incumbents

Of the 1,243 survey respondents, 81 percent said trustees should have term limits, with the majority preferring two four-year terms. And 60 percent favored local-only elections, eliminating citywide voting for the position.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they were parents in the district; 25 percent said they were district employees.

Among town hall attendees, about 60 percent were in favor of term limits and local-only elections. However, the committee noted in its draft report the data is flawed. Town hall moderators surveyed attendees before and after group discussions about the proposed changes. The data is from the follow-up surveys, which not all attendees took. Support for the changes were more pronounced in the earlier surveys.

The committee also says the outcomes may have been impacted by limited outreach, low town hall attendance and a constrained timeline.

The committee began its work in March after the San Diego City Council turned down four proposals for ballot initiatives that would have amended the district’s election rules.

The citizen groups behind the proposals said more transparency and better community representation was needed, while council Republicans sought to bring the rules in line with recent changes at the city and county level — an argument Trustee Richard Barrera called “a clearly partisan, political move.” Democrats have long dominated the school board.

The committee had to finish its work this month so the board can vote on the recommendation in time for the city to review and approve an initiative for the ballot. The board’s next regular meeting is May 29.

Based on feedback from an online survey and series of town hall meetings, an advisory committee says the San Diego Unified Board should let voters decide on election reforms.

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