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Morning Report: How School Board Candidates Would Tackle Suspensions

San Diego Unified Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Black students make up less than 8 percent of San Diego Unified’s student population yet Black students receive more than 21 percent of suspensions in the district.

VOSD’s Will Huntsberry reports that recent history shows that long-known discrepancy could be addressed.

Huntsberry found that suspension rates for Latino students were dramatically disproportionate in 2012 before the district lowered suspension rates across the board over a four-year period.

Huntsberry checked in with six school board candidates, including two sitting members, about what the school district has done – and could do – to tackle the disparity [1].

(Correction: An earlier version of that story misidentified the candidate who supports the concept of “community schools;” that candidate is Sabrina Bazzo.)

Speaking of educational inequalities … 

As many districts commit to online learning over in-person classes this coming school year, more parents are considering their options. Among the options some are discussing: so-called learning pods in which small groups of families and students try to overcome the shortcomings of solitary online learning. But as Huntsberry notes in this week’s Learning Curve, those pods could exacerbate pre-existing inequities and achievement gaps [2] 

County Undercharging Polluters for Permits to Pollute, State Audit Finds

State auditors say San Diego County’s air quality control agency isn’t charging polluters enough to cover the costs of the program that regulates them. 

Assemblyman Todd Gloria asked for the audit about a year ago after passing a bill that shakes up the county supervisor-led governing board of an agency that has struggled to deal [3] with pollution that exacerbates climate change. 

Auditors estimate San Diego Air Pollution Control District would have to raise pollution permit prices 44 percent to break even with expenses of the program. But state law only allows these fees to go up by 15 percent each year at maximum. The last time the agency proposed an increase was in 2017, according to the audit. 

The agency’s primary role is to regulate “stationary sources” of air pollution, basically any polluter that doesn’t move like a shipyard, Costco or even a school. Instead of raising fees, the agency apparently used a portion of state vehicle registration fees that everyone pays, a practice it’s employed since the 1990s, which auditors basically said wasn’t a good practice. 

Meanwhile, the county consistently misses federal air quality standards [4] on harmful ground-level ozone [5]

The audit also showed the agency failed to investigate one of 10 complaints reviewed by auditors and understaffed its advisory committee to the point where it couldn’t reach a quorum during any of its meetings for the last several years. 

Gloria, who is running for San Diego mayor, said the audit shows the agency’s leadership has not done what the community hopes or expects it to do.
“We want our (air pollution control district) board to be a state leader and not a statewide laggard,” Gloria said.

Task Force to Proceed With Deep Dive on Black Homelessness

The board of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless voted unanimously Thursday to create a committee focused on addressing Black homelessness.

Black San Diegans have long been overrepresented in the region’s homeless population [6], a reality that has gotten more attention amid a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color and reinvigorated discussions about longtime inequities facing the Black community.

Task force board members Jo Barrett, who is Black and once lived in her car, and City Council candidate Sean Elo-Rivera recently proposed the committee be assembled and will chair it going forward. The task force on Thursday pledged to ensure at least half of committee members are Black and to proactively engage the community to help frame the effort.

News Roundup

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and MacKenzie Elmer, and edited by Sara Libby.