District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis made education a central issue of her campaign for San Diego mayor when she released a plan to reform the city's school district on Thursday.
The plan, "Framework for America's Finest City Schools," comprises eight elements, which Dumanis said would bring needed changes to the San Diego Unified School District.
Among her ideas are increasing the size of the district's board of trustees from five to nine, with the four additional members being appointed by the mayor. The mayor would choose members from a list created by a panel of local education leaders.
Dumanis also proposed creating an independent financial oversight board and allowing parents to negotiate with district employee unions.
Dumanis said she chose to focus on reforming education because her experience as a judge in juvenile courts made her realize many of the city's problems begin in schools.
"I saw 5,000 kids come through the juvenile court, and they all had literacy issues," she said. "Education is where it all starts."
Dumanis also said Thursday's message had nothing to do with her announcement Wednesday that the district attorney's office has filed bribery, perjury and other charges against the Sweetwater Union High School District’s former superintendent, two current board trustees, a former board member and a construction contractor.
"When I was ready, I came out," she said about filing the charges.
Instead, Dumanis cited the threat of insolvency in the San Diego Unified School District as one of the reasons she is focusing on schools.
"Insolvency at San Diego Unified would have a devastating effect on everyone in our city, even if you don't have children in the city schools," she said.
The impacts of insolvency would include a drop in home values, lost state revenue, loss of the ability to retain teachers and administrators, and "recruiting and attaining business leaders would be much more difficult," she said.
"How can we ask businesses to come to San Diego if there's a threat of insolvency?" she asked.
State Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who also is running for mayor, released a statement after Dumanis' announcement. Fletcher went on a seven-month "listening tour" with San Diego City Council President Tony Young to gather ideas for reforming education.
"All candidates for mayor should put forward their plans for education," he said. "When I announced my candidacy in June, I stated that education will play a major role in our campaign and look forward to announcing my full plan in the coming weeks. Not only must the next mayor have fresh, bold ideas, but they must also have the ability to get them done."
Dumanis said she spent the last few months meeting with teachers, parents, education experts, business leaders and students to gather ideas for her plan.
"I believe to truly be America's finest city, we must have America's finest schools," she said.