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Analysis: Dumanis unveiled her mayoral campaign’s first major initiative last week and it didn’t address San Diego’s financial challenges or any city policies. Instead, she proposed a step toward mayoral control of local schools.
Dumanis wants to add four appointed members to San Diego Unified’s school board, which now has five elected members. She said the four new members would be nominated by an advisory panel and chosen by the city’s mayor.
Her education plan also proposed unwinding state regulation. It said high school students should be able to attend community colleges for some classes but state law currently bans dual enrollment.
However, that’s not true. State law doesn’t prohibit high school students from attending classes at community colleges. Students only need approval from their school and the college.
Jack Brandais, a spokesman for San Diego Unified, was taken aback by Dumanis’ claim because area high schools have long sent students to colleges for more advanced coursework like calculus and political science.
“I graduated from Patrick Henry High in 1976 with six units of college credit because I took two classes taught by Mesa College instructors,” Brandais wrote in an email. “This has been going on for some time.”
Dumanis’ campaign acknowledged making an error and changed the wording of the education plan’s online version. Instead of saying state law prohibits dual enrollment, it now says “state law currently does not allow for enough of this.”
I asked Jennifer Tierney, a campaign strategist for Dumanis, to elaborate on how state law deters dual enrollment. She said Dumanis believes state funding mechanisms provide disincentives to enroll high school students in college-level coursework and should be changed.
School districts get funding based on student attendance. When students spend fewer than four hours at school each day because they’re taking college classes, their school district gets less state funding.
But it’s unclear how much less money. San Diego Unified spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said the district doesn’t know how many students take college classes each year and it’s never calculated the funding loss.
“It would be a lot of work to figure out all these students and where they are,” Rhinerson said. “We just don’t keep track of it.”
Joe Radding, who oversees the state Department of Education’s college preparation program, estimated the cost is minimal. Not that many students usually take enough college classes to kick in funding losses, he said.
But Radding also said another financial disincentive can prevent high school students from taking community college classes. He said the colleges may enroll high school students for free, and they potentially lose money by filling seats that someone else could’ve paid for.
“It sounds kind of mean, but those colleges are facing their own fiscal constraints,” Radding said. “High school students don’t have the same entitlement (to a classroom seat) as do other students.”
To review, two financial forces possibly deter high school students from being able to take community college classes. Their school district might lose state funding and the community college they attend might lose tuition. Either institution could decide they can’t afford to enroll the student in the program.
But contrary to the original wording of Dumanis’ education plan, state law doesn’t prohibit students from taking the classes. For that reason, we’ve rated the statement False.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.
Correction: The original version of this story mistakenly said state law prohibits community colleges from charging high school students tuition. The information was provided by a state Department of Education official. After the story published, he acknowledged making an error. Read the new Fact Check here.
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