Two Donors Give Big to Campaign to Expand School Board
January 26, 2011
by Emily Alpert
A group of philanthropists, parents, business leaders and others seeking to revamp San Diego Unified school board elections raised more than $451,000 last year, according to its most recent campaign filings. Most of that money came from just two donors.
A company owned by philanthropist and businessman Rod Dammeyer, CAC Advisory Services LLC, gave $300,000 last year to San Diegans 4 Great Schools. Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs gave $150,000. The group also got smaller donations from several retirees, including retired school administrator Linda Sturak, who gave $500.
"We've had a couple other donations but at this point, they're really providing the bulk of it," said Scott Himelstein, the group's president. Himelstein said while the donor list is short, the campaign was still meeting its fundraising and spending targets so far.
Last year, the group spent or owed more than $50,000 of that money for radio advertisements, more than $130,000 to pay petitioners and more than $115,000 in consulting costs, according to documents filed with the city yesterday that cover the last few months of the calendar year.
San Diegans 4 Great Schools is campaigning to expand the school board, now composed of five elected members, to include four more appointed members. The campaign would also set term limits and elect school board members exclusively from geographical subdistricts instead of making them campaign in the school district at large.
Its backers say the changes would stabilize and depoliticize the school board, stopping the political turmoil and the revolving door of superintendents in past years. Opponents, including existing board members and the teachers union, call the plan elitist and undemocratic and say it won't help schools.
(Full disclosure: Camille Gustafson, VOSD's marketing director, also donated $100 to the campaign.)