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Two Proposals For SD Unified Term Limits Vie For Spot On November Ballot

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.

Should San Diego Unified trustees have term limits? Two parties are taking steps to put the question before voters in November.

The San Diego Unified School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to push for a ballot initiative that would let voters decide whether trustees should be limited to three four-year terms. Advocacy group Community Voices For Education is countering with its own proposal for two four-year terms. It also wants to eliminate citywide runoffs for school board races.

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“You’ve got to listen to what the voters say,” said Board Vice President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne at Tuesday’s meeting. “If the voters say they don’t like this, they can vote that way. But let’s just let the voters say, without any manipulation.”

The vote came after more than a year of public dialogue about how trustees are elected, including a district survey in which the majority of respondents said they wanted term limits. But a majority — 54 percent — also said they wanted a limit of just two terms. Support for three terms was at 12 percent.

RELATED: Committee Recommends Ballot Measure To Lower The Voting Age In San Diego Unified Races

Community Voices For Education is calling for a ballot proposal that honors the survey results and matches existing election rules for the city.

“San Diego voters have been selecting their representatives directly by district only for their local, state, and federal representatives for decades – this same democratic process should apply when it comes to voting for our school board members,” the group’s proposal reads. “We also agree with... the majority of community members who attended the town hall forums on SDUSD elections, that term limits serve the purpose of creating new ideas and bold initiatives.”

The San Diego City Council has the final say on whether voters get to weigh in on either proposal. Both are expected to go before the city’s rules committee June 13.

At its meeting, the school board also agreed to pursue a 2020 ballot initiative to let 16- and 17-year-olds vote for trustees — an idea which had little support in the public’s feedback — and further study eliminating citywide runoffs, letting non-citizens vote in board elections, and adding board members.

The San Diego Unified School Board wants three four-year terms. An outside group wants just two terms.

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