Does your kid’s preschool made the grade? It hasn’t always been easy to figure out the answer.

But now, a little-known local program is putting preschools to the test. Evaluators are scrutinizing them with a fine-toothed comb, examining everything from the ratio of building blocks to toddlers to the number of times that kids wash their hands.  

If a preschool does well, it makes money. Teachers can make extra dough too.

What’s not to like? Well, as our story explains, “here and across California, nagging questions haven’t been answered, from how to fairly judge preschools to how to pay for ratings. Nobody is sure whether ratings will change how harried parents choose preschools. And so far, the San Diego program has been largely unknown to parents, an attempt to avoid scaring off preschools that might be nervous about airing their ratings.”

In a related development, I’m going to get back to finger painting and then take a nap before eating some glue.

In other news:

• San Diego County is big on the idea of outsourcing. It hires private contractors, for example, to help run the local welfare program by placing recipients in jobs and training programs.

To make sure the private contractors were doing their jobs, the county used to motivate them by making their pay contingent on meeting certain benchmarks.

But not anymore. The county says the recession has made those former goals impossible to reach. Now, the county has significantly altered the way the contractors are paid, our story explains, removing that kind of motivation and changing “an important accountability tool in the government’s efforts to both outsource and move residents off of welfare.”

• San Diego’s ethics cops — also known as the Ethics Commission — are trying to put the brakes on unlimited (and barely regulated) campaign contributions by political parties to City Council Candidates, made possible this election cycle by a recent court ruling. They want to hold the political parties to the same individual limits on contributions, so that if the party gives a candidate $20,000 it would have to name 40 contributors that gave the party $500. Those limits are intended to blunt individual influence over elections and politicians.

• We’ve got a big update about the proposed downtown football stadium. Our post explores the idea of a retractable roof (still in play), a sports and entertainment complex next door (also in play) and a possible role for San Diego State alumni.

We also update the evolving vision of the Chargers, who are saying the public could help finance the new field by closing the current stadium and the Sports Arena and unloading the land underneath them.

And in another post, we examine how the media and the Chargers recently seized on the wrong number for detailing how much the public loses operating Qualcomm Stadium a year. 

• The Photo of the Day might make you a little misty: it’s an emotional one.

• The latest edition of Fact Check TV sifts through last week’s spin.

Elsewhere:

• Lorie Zapf, a prominent City Council candidate to replace Donna Frye, didn’t talk to CityBeat last week when it broke the story that she and her husband have defaulted on their mortgage.

But Zapf did talk to 10News when it jumped on the story this week, saying “Our family is doing the same thing families across not just San Diego, but people across the country are doing. We are prioritizing, cutting back and tightening our belt.”

Meanwhile, one of Zapf’s rivals continued to question Zapf’s decisions in light of her promises regarding financial responsibility.

• Local company General Atomics has received a $195 million contract to build Predator-like unmanned drones for the Army. (U-T)

• The LAT says the case against the owner of Pacific Beach’s French Gourmet restaurant is an example of how the feds are cracking down on people who allegedly hire illegal immigrants. The government, the LAT says, is trying to seize the restaurant.

• The San Diego-based company that raised $3 million and hoped to turn three Southern California local news sites into a national empire has pulled the plug on one of them. The Orange County sister site of online startup San Diego News Network shut down suddenly yesterday for undisclosed reasons.

• Finally, I was doing some research yesterday into the Bearded Man Mystery and ran across an 1873 map of San Diego. (Click on it to enlarge the image.)

There are lots of interesting things to see in this map, including big parcels labeled New Town (and, yes, Old Town), Texas Pacific Railroad Land and Hortons Addition.

There’s a lot that’s missing too: Mission Bay as we now know it (it’s called False Bay) and a big fat chunk of Coronado (known as the Peninsula of San Diego).

Balboa Park is on the map, however, although it’s known rather unimaginatively as City Park. And nearby are a couple parcels called Park Villas.

Park Villas? San Diego only had a few thousand residents in 1873. But as always, real estate was all about location. Well, that and foreign-sounding words.

That’s why we end up with developments like Cazzeggiare CentreViewPointe Terrace Vista Lofts by the Sea. (Starting in the high $400Ks!)

 — RANDY DOTINGA

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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