San Diego City Council President Tony Young wants to tackle a big issue city leaders have long avoided: Schools.

This year, he said, the council will discuss a proposed ballot initiative that adds appointed members to the San Diego Unified school board and imposes term limits. Young laid out his ideas in a written address on city priorities sent to the media this week.

The reasons, Young said in an interview, are simple. A recent report from a city task force said education was important to the city’s economic competitiveness. Also, Young said the council should discuss schools because the City Charter, which defines the school board’s duties, would be changed by the proposed ballot initiative.

“If that discussion is about our City Charter, we should have some discussion about it ourselves and maybe some recommendations,” Young said.

Council approval isn’t needed for any aspect of the measure. But if voters pass it, the measure requires the council to have an annual hearing on student performance.

Should the council even dip its toe in education, it would be a dramatic departure from recent history. Young said the council never has discussed the school system in the eight years he’s been in City Hall.

Mayor Jerry Sanders has shown little to no interest in school district issues in his five-year tenure. His spokeswoman has literally laughed off the idea of mayoral control over the schools.

Still, Sanders has sent signals recently that he’s taken more of an interest in schools. He backs the proposed initiative and appeared at a kickoff event for it.

For now, Young said he doesn’t have any opinion on the ballot measure or whether it should be put to voters.

“I just think it’s a good example of the debate that’s out there in the city right now and we should be a part of it,” he said.

My incomparable colleague Emily Alpert has done a good breakdown of the ballot measure. Here’s the key nugget:

Backers argue that expanding the school board from five to nine with appointees would stabilize and depoliticize a school system they say still fails too many children. San Diego Unified has swung from one reform plan to the next and has had four superintendents in the past five and a half years. But the idea of appointing school board members has been deeply controversial with many teachers, their union and the existing school board, whose members call the idea undemocratic and elitist.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.