With San Diego Unified School District in continued financial distress, the city’s four major mayoral candidates have made K-12 education an issue in the campaign. The city has no direct control over the school system and current Mayor Jerry Sanders has largely avoided talking about education during his seven-year tenure. But across the country, big city mayors increasingly have gotten more involved in their K-12 education systems. And in San Diego, public polls show voters want the mayor and City Council to pay more attention here.

In a series of stories this week, we’ll be laying out the mayoral candidate’s education plans, explaining their ideas and calling out their potential weaknesses. First up: Carl DeMaio.

The Candidate: Carl DeMaio

The Word: Example

DeMaio, a Republican city councilman, has released the most detailed plans of any mayoral candidate for many city issues: pensions, street repairs, economic development. He hasn’t done the same for education. That’s by design. DeMaio has most closely followed the current mayor’s stance toward San Diego Unified. The mayor, DeMaio argues, has too much to do to worry about fixing the school district.

But he believes the mayor can play a role in forcing schools to change. His wants to make the city a financial reform model the district can follow. He argues that if the city can change pensions and implement performance-based pay, there’s no reason the schools can’t.

The Ideas: DeMaio connects his school reform ideas to his other plans. His financial plans will guide how the district can make changes. His proposal to increase volunteering at city parks, recreation centers and libraries will give students places to go before and after school. His jobs plan will increase young people’s workforce training and economic opportunities.

And DeMaio punctuates his education discussions with his personal story. He credits his Jesuit prep school education for turning his life around after his mother’s death when he was a teenager.

The Weaknesses: Well, DeMaio doesn’t have a dedicated education plan.

This isn’t necessarily bad. The city’s own challenges remain immense. Unlike some of his opponents, DeMaio can’t be accused of pandering or dipping his toe into an issue he knows nothing about for political gain. He also can make a case that his reforms at the city will affect how San Diego educates and creates opportunities for its children.

But if you’re looking for a candidate that’s going to prioritize increasing city involvement in K-12 public education, DeMaio isn’t your guy.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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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...

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