The King-Chavez Arts Academy, an elementary school in San Diego’s Stockton neighborhood, was one of six local schools on a state list of persistently failing schools.

This dishonorable designation leaves it facing retribution from state and federal authorities who say it now has four options for the future. The trouble is it has already tried three of the options, which include becoming a charter school and overhauling the staff.  The fourth option not tried so far? Shutting down.

Education writer Emily Alpert explains the unique dilemma for the beleaguered school.

• We’ve been talking for a couple of weeks about San Diego City Hall’s newest budget deficit. To review, in December, the City Council and mayor patted themselves on the back for closing a $179 million deficit and setting up an 18-month budget. In that time, they were going to prepare a plan for the long-term — something that might stop this continued deterioration of city services.

That little grace period was only possible if everything remained stable. We reported earlier this month that the City Council learned it now has to close a $30 million to $60 million gap ripped open when their assumptions from December proved unrealistic. Why the difference between $30 million and $60 million? The Mayor’s Office puts it at $30 million. The City Council’s independent budget analyst put it at $60 million.

The U-T decided to settle on $25 million to $35 million today. And the paper had an interesting quote from Mayor Jerry Sanders, who said he wouldn’t close the gap with one-time sources of funds:

“We have to fix the structural deficit,” he told reporter Craig Gustafson.

A structural deficit means that the city is simply not set up to take in as much money as it’s set up to spend. Fixing a structural deficit means changing the structure of city government and eliminating that chronic imbalance.

Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Mayor’s Office was downplaying the existence of a structural deficit and blaming the city’s problems on the devastating recession.

• The U-T also had an important update on a new issue facing the city of San Diego. Its ban on political parties donating directly to city candidates in elections was thrown out by a federal court. Now the city has to decide how much parties can be allowed to donate directly to candidates.

The paper, though, summarized it like this: “Until now, party influence has been largely limited to symbolic endorsements and indirect financial support, such as creating a campaign mailer that promotes multiple candidates or issues.”

That’s not really the whole story. Local political parties have had a major influence on city elections through so-called member communications. Corporations and individuals for years have been allowed to give unlimited amounts to the local Republican and Democratic parties. The parties, in turn, can use that money to send mailers and other messages to people registered to vote as members of those parties. The Republican Party in particular has been very successful marshalling millions of dollars in support of local candidates, freeing them up to use their own money attracting voters registered as independents or part of the opposing party.

Being allowed to donate $1,000 or more directly to candidates would not add much influence to the power of the local parties compared to what they already wield. We explained the laws in our partnership with NBC 7/39 — San Diego Explained.

• The Wall Street Journal spurred a new round of skepticism about a San Diego driver’s story that his Toyota Prius accelerated out of control recently (a subscription’s required to read the WSJ article). The paper reported that the car’s brakes don’t show the kind of wear they’d have if everything had happened the way James Sikes, the driver, said it did.

The local Associated Press writers had a follow-up with Sikes’ lawyer. He said Sikes’ story still holds up but even San Diego Congressman Darrell Issa, who tapped into his inner-Ralph Nader and has been hounding Toyota for months, is not excited about this guy.

Issa demanded that a staffer watch as government and Toyota officials tested the Sikes’ Prius.

What they found left Issa’s office unimpressed. Issa’s spokesman told the Washington Post that “these findings certainly raise new questions surrounding the veracity of the sequence of events that has been reported by Mr. Sikes.”

Toyota officials are having a press conference here in San Diego today.

Finally, the New York Jets, a team that never seems to have trouble ruining a playoff run for the Chargers, now has signed San Diego’s legendary running back LaDainian Tomlinson. That might be a tough one for Charger fans to absorb.

• Perhaps you can take solace in the success of San Diego State, whose men’s basketball team Sunday got its official invite to March Madness, where it is the 11th seed in the Midwest and is set to play No. 6 Tennessee.

Good luck to State, which is set to play Thursday night at 6:45 p.m. in Rhode Island.


Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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