Pollster John Nienstedt wrote me with an interesting point about what could happen if voters decide to alter the election system for San Diego Unified, which we wrote about earlier this week:

Your readers might like to know in an article like this that roughly 20% of the City of San Diego is not in the San Diego Unified School District. I, for instance, live in San Diego as well as Poway Unified. The interesting implication of this is that, because the city charter governs the school district, changes to the charter — like moving to District-only elections — would have to be ratified by an electorate that partly is tied to other School Districts.

It’s true that San Diego Unified and San Diego don’t completely overlap. Rancho Bernardo, for instance, is in San Diego, but not in San Diego Unified. And parts of San Diego Unified aren’t in San Diego, including students in La Mesa.

A University of San Diego study that explored changing school board elections concluded that any proposed change to San Diego’s charter regarding the district’s board would be offered to the voters of San Diego and small parts of La Mesa and the unincorporated county.

If that is true, the report implies that some voters outside of the school district — those in Rancho Bernardo or other areas of San Diego that fall in other school systems — would get to weigh in on its fate. Frank Kemerer, the study’s author, said he believed that would be the case, but wasn’t totally sure.

“It could be that we’ve read it wrong,” Kemerer said. “This is so confusing — to figure out who gets to vote and who doesn’t.”

Deputy City Attorney Sharon Spivak said that any time someone wants to change the city charter, it has to go to all voters in the city. That would mean that Rancho Bernardans and other city voters outside the school district would get to vote. But Spivak cautioned that attorneys haven’t dug into the issue yet.

“We’ve never had a situation like this,” Spivak said. “It’s unusual because generally, you’re not voting to change something that only affects a portion of the city in the charter. It’s one more reason that it makes you wonder why they put this in the city charter.”

What do you think? Would the mismatch between San Diego and San Diego Unified make altering the charter to change school board elections unfair?

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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