Longtime school board veteran John de Beck has a competitor for his San Diego Unified seat: Patrick MacFarland, a 21-year-old who is finishing up his political science degree at San Diego State University.

MacFarland, a Democrat, filed papers to run for the seat late last week. It is his first run for political office. The student graduated from Steele Canyon High School in Grossmont Union High School District and now works with English language learners at the Spring Valley school.

He opposes increasing class sizes, one of the steps taken by the San Diego Unified board this year to close its budget gap, and wants to curtail busing from poor neighborhoods to rich ones by expanding access to advanced classes and opportunities in disadvantaged areas of the school district. He was uneasy about the golden handshake because it was not a guaranteed way to clear out jobs — but was also opposed to laying off teachers, who he said “give students hope and success.”

“I think what (school board member Richard) Barrera recommended — using the entire stimulus money for this year — would have been a smarter option,” MacFarland said. San Diego Unified received stimulus money meant to last two years and is only spending half of it this year. “It would have been a huge risk but I think it would have been a worthwhile risk, to spend all the money right now.”

MacFarland also opposes de Beck’s proposal to split off the coastal regions of San Diego Unified into a separate school district. De Beck, who was first elected to the school board in 1990, is up for re-election next year.


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