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Four years ago, the state changed how it funded public schools shifting money to districts and schools serving poor students. Now, our Maya Srikrishnan reports it’s “nearly impossible” to track the funds in San Diego Unified. As a community member asked recently at a board meeting, “No accountability, no detailed budget, why don’t we know where every cent is going?”
Plenty of people around the state are asking the same question, including local legislator Shirley Weber, who’s pushing a bill to make things more clear: “I could not tell you with any confidence that the money meant to go with kids to special needs is going where it’s supposed to go,” she said. “We shouldn’t fund a low student-teacher ratio across the district. The special grants were built around the idea that it takes more money to equalize a situation and create a level playing field for these kids.”
San Diego Unified plans to lay off hundreds of staff members, but it’s not responding to a statewide or national economic crisis. Other large districts like Los Angeles Unified and our own South Bay’s Sweetwater Union are cutting back but to a much smaller extent. So why is S.D. Unified having such a problem?
Board member Sharon Whitehurst-Payne claimed that the district kept hiring more and more staffers even as its enrollment dipped: “This district has gone down in enrollment every single year, for I don’t know how many years, and yet we have not reduced the workforce commensurately with that. I mean that’s the reality.”
Is her claim correct? We ran it through San Diego Fact Check. It is. “District staffing numbers have gone up since 2013, even as student enrollment dropped,” reports our Ashly McGlone.
The school board also voted to form a committee on Tuesday night to review the district’s graduation rate.
The committee will be made up of several San Diegans form outside of the district, including San Diego Workforce Partnership CEO Peter Callstrom, San Diego Education Research Alliance Executive Director Julian Betts and Center on Policy Initiatives Executive Director Kyra Greene.
Board President Richard Barrera said he thinks the committee will be able to address “questions and criticisms.” He may have been referring the questions our Mario Koran began to raise last year when he started digging into how San Diego Unified’s graduation rates were calculated.
• In other news, San Diego Unified’s plan to quickly purge nearly all district emails older than six months on July 1 was put on hold by the school board Tuesday night. Board members voted 5-0 to direct Superintendent Cindy Marten to produce a report analyzing the district’s public records process and retention, and to compare the district to other government agencies. Once the report is complete, Marten must now bring a recommendation for any changes to the board so it can be discussed in public before any emails are deleted. As we’ve previously reported, that was not staff’s original plan.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez reported on social media that a lobbyist for the San Diego Association of Governments told her the agency was planning to put up a ballot measure in 2018. The goal? To reform itself.
We don’t know what’s going on. She took it as an attempt to circumvent her bill, AB 805, designed to add auditing oversight to SANDAG and allow the city of San Diego to leverage its weight on the board of directors more easily.
• The San Diego City Council voted along party lines to endorse Gonzalez’ bill Tuesday.
• Meanwhile, Councilman Chris Cate is asking the city attorney if the city can declare the football stadium in Mission Valley to be “surplus property” in order sell it. And the investors behind the endangered SoccerCity project have concerns of their own.
Downtown’s newly revamped Horton Plaza Park is supposed to be too full of events to become a resting spot for the homeless. But things haven’t worked out that way, as our Kinsee Morlan reports in this week’s VOSD Culture Report.
“Homeless people have the right to hang out in public parks as long as they’re not breaking any laws, but when a park starts looking like a full-time homeless encampment, that’s when the rest of the public tend to stay away,” Morlan writes.
So what happened? The shopping center management planned to put on events, but those have included musicians performing for free for “exposure.”
But as we say in Freelancer World, you can die of exposure. And, as a Horton Plaza tenant puts it, “a guy with a hula-hoop is not programming.”
Also in the Culture Report: “Certified biodynamic coffee beans,” a new craft soda company in town, video games on tap at the Fleet Science Center and more.
Plus: A lot of people are wondering why the board of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum fired its executive director. It’s another one of those situations where a board can’t talk about it.
• The latest edition of the VOSD Podcast Network’s Kept Faith sports podcast weighs in on “The Rizzo Slide” (no, not an attraction at a Disney park in Rome) and the debate over whether the team manager should have retaliated against a bad move with baseball violence.
• At long last, the local transit system’s Compass Card works like a transit card should: You can now store money on it, keep it around, use it until you run out of money, and then add more money to it. How ’bout that.
• SeaWorld stock is sinking amid news of Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Justice Department probes. (Times of S.D.)
• It’s a year ending in 7, and that means people are running around remembering the Summer of Love, fawning over The Beatles and once again debating the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Your esteemed Morning Report scribe weighed in the matter as a teenager 30 years ago (click here to see the evidence), and he will not be budged no matter what Sgt. Pepper nonsense the L.A. Times still keeps throwing at readers.
Now, downtown’s newly remodeled Bristol Hotel is memorializing The Beatles in its own special way — via embroidery. As the U-T explains, the hotel is embracing a 1960s aesthetic, and that includes throw pillows embroidered with an image of a ticket stub from the 1965 San Diego performance by The Beatles at Balboa Stadium.
So very rock and roll! By the time the hotel tries for a ’70s look in a few years, I’ll be looking forward to Santana sewing kits and Led Zeppelin loofahs.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.