Write-in candidacy scrambles San Diego schools election - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Write-in candidacy scrambles San Diego schools election

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - It is not just math teacher Kevin Beiser facing businessman Steve Rosen in one of two races Tuesday for the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education - incumbent Katherine Nakamura is back into the mix, too.

In one of the more interesting twists of the election season, a judge ruled that Nakamura is eligible to try to reclaim her seat as a write-in candidate after coming in third in the June primary.

The winner of the race, and another between five-term incumbent John De Beck and Scott Barnett, will take seats on a board grappling with a fifth straight year of spending reductions. The budget shortfall in the 2011-12 fiscal year, for which planning already is under way, is estimated to be $141 million.

School officials hope to shrink the gap with a $50 million infusion of cash from Proposition J, which if passed would impose a parcel tax on all property within the boundaries of the district.

Nakamura said after her primary bid fell short that a lot of parents told her they were sorry they could not vote for her in the primary because geographic districts were used in that election.

She said her constituency is not just residents of her district -- East San Diego, San Carlos, Tierrasanta and Scripps Ranch -- but parents and students citywide who are involved in programs for which she advocates, such as arts and music education, GATE, jROTC, and magnet and charter schools.

They're the ones who suggested she make another try in the general election, Nakamura said.

"My thought was how am I going to get people to spell ‘Katherine Nakamura?'" she said. The law requires a reasonable facsimile of her name to be written on the ballot, she said.

Rosen said he fears that Nakamura's renewed candidacy will confuse voters but he has not changed his strategy.

The television studio builder said voters want new people to guide the district.

"The message I'm hearing back is frustration with the school board," Rosen said.

Voters believe the trustees are too cozy with labor unions and not directing enough money to classrooms, Rosen said.

Critics of the board contend that if more employees were laid off earlier, the budget deficits would not be so bad now.

District officials counter that their workforce has dropped by 9 percent since 2007, including both teachers and staff. However, most of the reductions came via normal attrition and offers of early retirement.

Beiser, who has been endorsed by the San Diego Education Association, did not return numerous telephone messages.

Before the primary election, the South Bay math instructor who lives in San Diego described himself as a "third choice" between pro- and anti-union forces, someone who prefers collaboration.

He has also criticized the financial management of the district.

De Beck is an outspoken former instructor who has represented La Jolla, Pacific Beach and Point Loma for 20 years. Barnett is a former executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and is now a consultant.

Proposition J will require a two-thirds "yes" vote to pass. It almost was withdrawn by board President Richard Barrera in July because of potential conflicts with another ballot measure to raise the sales tax in the city of San Diego.

If it passes, a $98 annual levy will be placed on homeowners, $60 for each unit of multi-family housing, and $450 on commercial/industrial properties.

The district would then direct $150 per pupil to individual schools. The rest of the money will be used to cap K-3 class sizes at 24 students, pay for science and technology programs, and improve technology education.

Supporters say the parcel tax will provide a consistent stream of local funding that can't be affected by the whims of Sacramento legislators. Rosen, an opponent, said after money is distributed to the schools, there won't be enough left over to fund the other priorities.

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