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School board member Katherine Nakamura has a competitor for her seat in San Diego Unified: Kevin Beiser, a Sweetwater middle school math teacher with a progressive bent.

Beiser, who teaches algebra and advanced algebra at Granger Junior High School in National City, plans to face off with Nakamura in the election next fall. He is a Democrat who has volunteered on campaigns for fellow Democrats, including Barack Obama and former San Diego City Council candidate Stephen Whitburn. He is active on several committees in Sweetwater schools and has no children — or as he puts it, “I have 170 children” at Granger.

“As a teacher I have a unique perspective,” Beiser said, noting that Granger had shed a negative label under No Child Left Behind while he was there. “I was in the trenches trying to figure out, ‘What can we do to help these students learn?’”

Nakamura, also a Democrat, has been on the board since 2002. One of the firmest and most vocal supporters of former Superintendent Terry Grier, Nakamura is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, and has repeatedly sparred with the teachers union over how to balance the budget, particularly over whether layoffs are appropriate. She fought to make the budget clearer to the public in past years, has pushed at the state level to keep giving students gym credit for marching band, and has warned about the potential impact of a proposal from the teachers union called “maintenance of standards.”

Beiser named several issues that he differed on from Nakamura: The candidate said he would have voted in favor of a project labor agreement for the school construction bond, a controversial issue that Nakamura opposed. He also opposes the inclusion of rifle ranges in schools, which Nakamura voted unsuccessfully to retain because no safety problems had arisen with the ranges.

Beiser also said he would oppose any attempt to “balance the budget on the backs of teachers,” such as laying off teachers and upping class sizes to save money, which will likely ally him with the teachers union and the triad of board members who were elected last November.

Update: This post has been edited to remove an incorrect statement made by Beiser than he had the endorsement of school board member John Lee Evans. Read this follow up post for more.

EMILY ALPERT

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