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Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Let’s Protect Our Right to Elect the School Board — Vote No on Measure C

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Author: Amy Denhart
Created: 18 September, 2020
Updated: 14 August, 2022
4 min read

This is an independent opinion. Have one of your own? Write it! Email it to hoa@ivn.us

When the COVID-19 crisis forced schools across California to physically close in March, the San Diego Unified School Board moved quickly to make sure that students who depend on school breakfasts and lunches would continue to receive daily meals. In order to prioritize where to first establish distribution sites for school meals, the school board identified the neighborhoods where the highest percentage of students in need live. Beginning in March, with nine locations, the school board expanded the program to 82 locations, all based on the needs of students, and has served more than four million meals since March. 

It seems logical and appropriate the school board, consisting of five elected members representing different geographical areas of the district, would make collective decisions by prioritizing student needs. In my time as a parent of students in San Diego Unified, I have seen the school board consistently act in this way, with a shared commitment to equity despite the fact that the District educates students in neighborhoods as diverse as City Heights and Barrio Logan in the south, to La Jolla and Scripps Ranch in the north. 

By contrast, when the county’s Board of Supervisors made decisions regarding distribution of federal funds for COVID-19 testing, the supervisors ignored the fact that the highest percentage of positive cases is concentrated in higher poverty communities in the South Bay and East County. Instead, the supervisors played parochial politics, and distributed the resources equally among their five districts. The result was that some communities had a shortage of available testing, while in other communities supply exceeded demand. The collective spirit that “we’re all in this together” was replaced by old fashioned politics - “what’s in it for my constituents.” 

ALSO READ: Measure C Will Correct a Decades-Long Battle for Voter Rights in San Diego Schools | San Diego Teachers Pull Double Duty

Why would the school board consistently act in a way that prioritizes students’ needs first, while other local governmental agencies think first about politics? After all, like the Board of Supervisors and City Council, each school board member lives in and represents a unique geographical district. The difference is simple. In the case of the school board, we all get to vote for all five members, and hold them collectively accountable for serving all kids. In the case of the Board of Supervisors and City Council, each of us can only vote for one member, and none of us have a say in who makes up the decision making majority of the body. 

The results from San Diego Unified over the last decade demonstrate why all of our kids are better off when all of us have a say in who sits on the school board. Among large, urban districts in California, San Diego Unified ranks first in graduation rates, first in college readiness rates, and at or near the top of rankings for literacy, math and science. On the most recent National Assessment for Educational Progress – known as the Nation’s Report Card – our District significantly outperformed all other large national districts in terms of student growth, prompting Michael Casserly, President of the Council of Great City Schools, to say that San Diego Unified “blew the socks off” the Nation’s Report Card. Researchers from Stanford University and UCLA have documented our district’s success, and hold up San Diego Unified as a “positive outlier” in closing the achievement gap and making gains for all students. 

Particularly during this time, when we all need to be acting for the good of the entire community. It would be a big mistake to give up our right to hold the entire school board accountable for meeting the needs of all of our kids. Switching to a system where school board members operate like other politicians – thinking only of the interests of their own districts and not about the needs of all students – would inevitably lead to turning our back on equity and reversing the gains our District has made over the last decade. That system, which Measure C would establish, might make it easier for special interests to dominate school board elections – in the same way they now dominate elections for other offices. But we shouldn’t give up our right to vote for the entire school board just because special interests want to put politics above the needs of kids. 

Vote No on Measure C!