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Two Donors Still Biggest Backers of School Board Makeover

The campaign to expand the school board has been bankrolled
mainly by two big donors, but says it is now drumming up other
donations.

 

A campaign to revamp the way the San Diego Unified school board is chosen has continued to get the vast majority of its funding from two prominent donors: Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs and CAC Advisory Services LLC, a company owned by businessman and philanthropist Rod Dammeyer.

That isn’t a big surprise: While the name of the group of parents, philanthropists and others pushing for a bigger, partly appointed school board is “San Diegans 4 Great Schools,” the official name of their campaign filing committee is “San Diegans 4 Great Schools with major funding provided by CAC Advisory Services LLC & Irwin Jacobs.”

Those same donors had chipped in most of the campaign money last calendar year. In the first three months of this year, Jacobs gave another $225,000, while the company that Dammeyer runs gave $100,000 and provided more than $6,200 worth in catering and valet parking for an event. No other donors gave from January through March.

“From the beginning, they committed to funding signature gathering,” wrote Erica Holloway, a spokeswoman for the campaign, in an email. “We are now raising funds from many supporters of education reform from throughout the community.”

More than $160,000 of that funding went to the La Jolla Group, which paid signature gatherers to circulate its petition. (San Diegans 4 Great Schools turned in roughly 133,000 signatures last month, hoping to secure a spot on the next citywide ballot.) Donations also paid for consulting, rent, an executive assistant and a string of meetings at the University Club, a private business club downtown.

The group is seeking to expand the school board, now made up of five elected members, to include four more appointed members chosen by a new committee of parent leaders, university chief and a business representative. The campaign would also set term limits and elect school board members exclusively from geographical subdistricts, not the school district at large.

I always take a peek at campaign finance reports to see who’s putting money behind their politics and how campaigns are spending it.

But money is especially touchy in this campaign because opponents like the teachers union and the existing school board have pegged the school board makeover as elitist. San Diegans 4 Great Schools has resisted that label, pointing to parents and community leaders in its ranks.

(Disclosure: Both Jacobs and Dammeyer have also donated to voiceofsandiego.org.)

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

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