By Ray Ellis
Having spent the last 20 years volunteering with local nonprofits that work to improve the lives of children and families, I strongly believe that providing quality education is key to building healthy and vibrant communities. While the City Council does not directly oversee public schools in San Diego, there are many changes I can and will make as a member of the City Council to improve educational opportunities for our children.
Unfortunately, underfunding from the state government has forced many local schools to cut their music and arts programs over the last few years. We should work with local nonprofit organizations to bring these enriching subjects back to our classrooms. Many arts organizations are already working to fill the void, but we need sustained leadership and investment to make sure students at every school have the same breadth and depth of opportunities in the arts.
I also want to do more to link students to the talented scientists and innovators we have in our own backyard. The research and technology sectors are booming in San Diego — especially in District 1. We need to build more public-private partnerships with businesses and research institutes to bring things like coding courses, science equipment, tutoring and technology to classrooms and after-school programs in every neighborhood. All of our students should have equal access to the equipment and learning experiences that can give them a leg up in college and beyond.
A great example of the way the city can support our local schools is through our transportation infrastructure. Getting to and from school should be as safe as possible for kids and their parents. We need a robust system of well-maintained sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes if we want to encourage children to walk or ride their bikes to school. We should also invest in reviewing and updating traffic circulation and safety measures during peak travel periods in District 1. By making our communities more bikeable and walkable, we can encourage healthy and active lifestyles for both children and adults.
Sharing public facilities is another great example of where the city and the school district can do more to work together for everyone’s benefit. An initiative in University City called Imagine UC 2020 is focused on improving Standley Park and the adjacent Spreckels Elementary and Standley Middle School. I want to work with our neighborhood schools, parents, community planning groups and other stakeholders to develop a process to identify similar opportunities in other neighborhoods throughout the city.
Similarly, we should capture the full potential of city facilities by finding new ways to accommodate after-school learning programs. The La Jolla/Riford Branch Library offers a fantastic model with its Life Science Collaboratory, which provides residents of all ages the opportunity to learn and experiment in a real biology lab. Mayor Kevin Faulconer also has set a new precedent by increasing library hours and funding the “Do Your Homework @ the Library” program. Programs like these at our libraries and recreation centers are key to closing opportunity gaps among the diverse population of San Diego school children.
We should also look at limiting the terms of school board members. The current system, which is governed by the City Charter, allows school board members to serve an unlimited number of terms. Once they are in office, school board incumbents almost never have to face a viable challenger to be re-elected. This makes it easy for school trustees to become too focused on their own personal interests rather than those of the community and our students. We can fix this problem by amending the City Charter.
So much of what we do as a city has a direct impact on children and their ability to learn and grow. As a member of the City Council, I will do everything I can to advocate for our children and create opportunities for them to succeed. The future of our city depends on it.
Please take a minute to read my education plan at www.ellisforcouncil.com. Thank you!
Ray Ellis is a community volunteer, small business owner and Carmel Valley resident running for San Diego City Council in District 1.