Board of Education in University Heights on Oct. 24, 2022.
San Diego Unified offices in University Heights on Oct. 24, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

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San Diego Unified seems poised to go four for four in bond measures over the past 14 years. As of this afternoon, the yes vote for Measure U was ahead 62.57 percent to 37.43 percent. The bond only needs to earn 55 percent approval to pass. 

Unlike past bond proposals, there wasn’t much of an opposition mobilized against Measure U, and organizations like the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, which has previously opposed bond measures came out in favor of it. 

The district has pitched the $3.2 billion bond as being necessary to improve school safety and fix old, worn-down schools. If it passes, it could also allow San Diego Unified to become the first district in San Diego County to provide employee housing. The district aims to build affordable housing on district-owned land in University Heights when its central office moves to land purchased in Kearny Mesa. 

One of the bond’s most outspoken opponents is conservative school board candidate, Becca Williams, who is in a surprisingly competitive race for the District C board seat with union-backed candidate Cody Petterson. Williams has criticized the bond for including similar priorities in past measures and has cast doubt on the district’s ability to effectively spend bond money. But on Wednesday, Williams struck a diplomatic tone with Measure U, saying it was a well written ballot item that reflected what voters in the district wanted. 

“People want all the things on the ballot item, and they’re generous and willing to spend the money. That’s why they’ve checked the ‘yes’ box over and over again,” Williams said. 

Williams also said that she’s not opposed to bond measures in general and could even imagine herself supporting them in the future. For her, the main issue at play was whether the district could effectively, and accountably, spend that money. 

“I think the problem is the accountability with San Diego unified and I believe these bonds have been abused and taken for granted and at a certain point you can’t continue to borrow,” Williams said.  

School board member Richard Barrera said the support for the latest bond proposal is consistent with San Diego voters’ historic approval of investment in district schools.  

“People in our community support our kids, support our schools and are willing to make sacrifices … even in this election when people are anxious about the economy,” Barrera said. 

Kyle Weinberg, president of the San Diego Education Association, which endorsed the measure and put money into mailers, added that the union was excited about the potential new funding stream and the possibility of building affordable housing for district employees. 

“Measure U is going to provide much needed funds to maintain schools within our district and also build new schools to attract families to enroll within our district,” Weinberg said. 

Some Odds and Ends 

School Board candidate Becca Williams at the Grant Hotel on Nov. 8, 2022. / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Speaking of Becca Williams: Overnight, Williams ate into her opponent Cody Petterson’s early 10 percentage-point lead, with in-person votes breaking in her favor. Petterson maintains a 6 percentage-point lead, but this race feels far from over. The race, which takes place in a heavily Democratic district, became super charged with partisan rhetoric over the final month as money supporting each candidate flooded into the race

SDUSD’s District B Race Looks Uncompetitive: Unlike the still close District C race, former nonprofit executive Shana Hazan held a commanding lead over former educator and principal Godwin Higa in the latest numbers. Unlike the District C race, which devolved into a messy partisan slug fest that highlighted the candidates’ stark ideological differences, the District B candidates actually agreed on quite a lot. Still, Hazan’s nearly 19-point lead seems unlikely to shift, giving the teacher’s union, which backed her candidacy, at least one secure spot in this election. In an email, Hazan wrote that she was cautiously optimistic of her chances.  

In a text, Higa thanked supporters and said if he loses, he would regret not being in a position to carry out the trauma-informed restorative justice practices that were a hallmark of his campaign. “I hope that Hazan will learn and follow through with these applications as she has purported during her campaigning for this office,” Higa wrote. “I firmly believe that politics, unions, and other organizations must stay out of school board business and races,” he wrote, alluding to the teachers union’s support of Hazan. “This must be strictly about kids!” 

Content Bouncing Around My Mind Palace 

What We’re Writing 

  • Two years of bitter political fights surrounding Coronado’s schools inspired a tense, partisan school board race that revolved around pandemic politics like masking and vaccines, and concerns about critical race theory and LGBTQ issues. Four candidates on the ballot ran on a change platform that played into those concerns. As of the latest available numbers, only Scot Youngblood, a former orthopedic surgeon with the Navy, seemed poised to win a seat on the board. Lisa Meglioli, who attended trainings with the Awaken Church candidate and voter education organization The RMNNT, also has a shot. 
  • As mentioned above, in the final month before election day, money flowed into the District C SDUSD board race between Petterson and Williams. The teacher’s union dumped nearly $150,000 into the race to support Petterson, while the super PAC The Community Leadership Coalition spent around $114,000 to support Williams, the most it spent in any race.  

Jakob McWhinney

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter.

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