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Filner releases education plan

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Congressman and San Diego mayoral candidate Bob Filner released Thursday an education plan directed at increasing the city’s involvement in the lives of school-aged children and their families during non-school hours.

The nine-point plan looks to streamline the way public funds are spent on youths. Filner said San Diego currently deals with a student as three people, with the county addressing health and social services, the city handling public safety and recreation, and the school district focusing on education.

He said the agencies need to collaborate to produce a comprehensive solution to youth services.

“There is a clear need for mayoral leadership in this area,” he said. “Locally my governing mantra will be a city, not just a school system, but a city has to be responsible for its children.”

San Diego City Council President Tony Young attended Filner’s announcement of the plan and supported its vision for the city.

This is the third time Young has attended a mayoral candidate’s education-related announcement without extending an official endorsement to the candidate. Ahead of the June primary, he gave his approval to Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s education plan.

Last month, he appeared with Councilman Carl DeMaio, Filner’s general election opponent, to call for a summit between city stakeholders in education to address disparities between student outcomes by council district.

Young said he’s strategically withholding his endorsement in what he calls “a very important decision.”

“I am trying to push the issues too,” Young said. “I’m trying to insert certain things into this race. One of them is education, and I’m happy with what (Filner) has done, I’m happy with his proposal. Hopefully (DeMaio) comes out with something too. That’s my goal.”

Filner’s plan calls for the creation of a youth development office that would identify gaps in youth services and identify opportunities for collaboration between the city, county and school district to increase support networks.

It would also create an internship program for youths to work in city departments. The city would also enter into partnerships with training and apprenticeship programs to develop work experience for 16 to 24-year-olds.

A library ordinance passed in 2000 aimed to set aside 6 percent of the city’s general fund to libraries. Filner says his administration would reinstate the ordinance.

The only element of the plan that specifically addresses the San Diego Unified School District’s funding issues is his pledge to fight for the district’s funding at the state level.

Young specified his interest in one of Filner’s proposals, the establishment of a San Diego Education Foundation to invest in education and work force development that would be funded by businesses, private donations and grants.

The plan also includes free student passes on city public transportation when going to or from school. He acknowledged that making the $36 monthly cost free to students would require a subsidy from other public agencies, as well as a vote from the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System’s board of directors.

“It would be a subsidy that we, or MTS, or the school district, would somehow make up,” he said. “It’s not a great sum of money, but it means a lot to individual students.”

During the press conference, Young said he appreciated that the plan didn’t attempt to take control of the school district — as District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had moved to do in her mayoral bid — and wasn’t combative with teachers or schools.

DeMaio in August suggested establishing report cards for individual schools on issues like drop-out rates and learning environments as a means of addressing the district-level disparities between success rates.

“If we start issuing these report cards for every school individually, we’ll have a bunch of parents and neighbors that will hold us accountable for doing the things we need to do,” DeMaio said. “What gets measured gets done.”

In other policy proposals, DeMaio has touted the benefit of performance-based pay and department budgeting based on performance.

“We’re shattering through the misconception that the city should have nothing to do with our schools,” DeMaio said in August. “Great cities require great schools.”

On Thursday, Young said he was glad Filner’s plan didn’t address teacher compensation.

Filner said DeMaio’s move toward an education policy was part of an effort to appeal to moderate voters.

“Show me a statement in four years as a councilmember where he ever said education is important,” Filner said. “He discovers these things after four years, so I don’t trust anything he says.”

Filner, for his part, has moderated his positions for the general election as well, though many elements of his education proposal have been frequently mentioned during debates.

However, he now says he’ll implement the voter-approved pension reform initiative Proposition B after previously calling it a fraud. He similarly says he’ll enact the council-approved plans for a Convention Center expansion and renovation of Balboa Park after previously calling those projects, respectively, a billion dollar giveaway to private interests and something that would destroy the historical integrity of Balboa Park.

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