Morning Report: Sweetwater Shakeups Could Disrupt Classroom Learning - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: Sweetwater Shakeups Could Disrupt Classroom Learning

The Sweetwater Union High School District building in Chula Vista / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The Sweetwater Union High School District has been under intense pressure in recent months to find any savings it can. In the 2017-2018 school year, officials overspent the budget by $30 million. 

Mid-year through the current school years, students are going to experience new cuts to their classroom, Will Huntsberry reports. The district is expected to end the current school year roughly $5 million in the red.

There’s also a proposal to cut several major positions from school sites next year. Principals across the district received news that they are currently slated to lose funding for academic intervention coordinators, athletic directors, attendance coordinators and some resource teachers.

Districts often calculate enrollment and then apply an expected attrition rate when determining how much funding each school should get. What’s unique about Sweetwater’s decision is that it’s happening mid-year. 

Principals will need to adjust their master scheduled. Some classes may be consolidated. Other teachers will lose resource periods and coaches may be asked to teach more classes instead of plan for their athletic programs.

A district spokesman acknowledged that the midyear reallocation was new and unique, but disputed that the changes have anything to do with the district’s ongoing budget crisis.

One state agency has accused the district of knowingly covering up its overspending. There’s also a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation in the works. 

San Diego Front and Center in Future Homelessness Debates

A group of stakeholders that included San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher delivered a set of recommendations last week to Gov. Gavin Newsom about how to move forward with his plan to put homelessness front and center in the 2020 budget. Those recommendations advised against “sweeps and criminalization,” which have been shown not to reduce homelessness, and contrast with what Republicans offered in recent days. 

Conservatives are advocating that policing be used as a tool to combat homelessness — and asking the public in the process to reconsider what compassion means

State Sen. Brian Jones, for instance, said the real problem was a pair of voter-approved state measures that changed the severity of certain crimes, making it harder to force people involved in minor criminal activity into treatment or jail, and that granted early parole to certain offenders. We broke down the GOP approach to homelessness on the podcast.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Friday that he was working on a state ballot measure in 2022 aimed at reducing homeless, possibly by rolling back the same criminal justice reforms that Jones had highlighted to us. The whole thing is vague at this point. 

“Californians want to clean up our state,” Faulconer said in a statement Friday. “This committee will carry the voice of the people to the ballot box by developing an initiative that works to clean up our public spaces, keeps our communities safe, and stops the state from turning a blind eye to the inhumane and unsafe homeless encampments that have become a symbol of the government’s failure to act.” 

An example of how national conversations on homelessness are likely to go can be found in this Washington Post op-ed that published Monday: “California even has a promising example of what can happen when the right person is in charge. In San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s blended approach to homelessness seems to be succeeding where Los Angeles struggles.”

Is the Mayor Preparing to Challenge the Governor?

Faulconer is stepping down at the end of this year, but the ballot measure will undoubtedly keep his name in the news. 2022 also happens to be the next gubernatorial election, and as Politico noted, “the Republican mayor is widely seen as the most viable candidate for the party that continues to shrink in California.”

In any case, you’re going to be hearing a lot about what San Diego has and hasn’t done on homelessness in the coming couple years. 

In the Politics Report this week, Lisa Halverstadt fact-checked Faulconer’s claim that homelessness had decreased 9 percent since he took office and while technically true (or true-ish), his statement was missing some important context. The methodology for counting the homeless changed in 2019, making claims about trends imperfect. 

U-T columnist Michael Smolens also wrote this weekend “the notion that San Diego has become the good outlier in California regarding homelessness would have been unthinkable not long ago.” During the Hepatitis A outbreak in 2017, 20 people died and hundreds more were sickened under his watch. Grand jury reports had warned that a problem was looming. 

Politics Roundup

Privacy Activists Take Aim at City Attorney

A coalition of community activists that’s advocating for a moratorium on the city’s “smart streetlights” is also demanding that City Attorney Mara Elliott recuse herself from any future decisions. The Union-Tribune reports that the group wants an independent lawyer to advise officials on the program. 

Economic disclosure statements show that Elliott owns between $10,000 and $100,000 worth of General Electric, which financed the installation of thousands of cameras and sensors. The city approved a $30 million contract in late 2016 under the premise that the devices would be used for planning and environmental purposes. Unbeknownst to some elected officials, police began accessing the footage in 2018. 

Elliott’s campaign consultant portrayed the demands of activists as unfounded and politically motivated. He said Elliott’s family stock, which “made a whopping $200 from last year,” was too minor to constitute a conflict. 

In Other News

Clarification: This post has been updated to clarify the amount of Mara Elliott’s stock in GE.

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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