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Check the San Diego school district’s freak-out-o-meter: it’s heading even closer to the red zone thanks to even more bad news from the state.

At stake is whether the school district will run out of money and be taken over by the very state that’s giving it so much agita.

The district made a big gamble earlier this year, agreeing to rehire some of the hundreds of teachers it had to lay off on the assumption that dollars would be available to pay for them. That assumption is now looking more ill-advised than ever after a crucial state analysis released yesterday brought doomsday closer.

Another state report comes out in December, and then the governor will use both forecasts to decide whether to cut schools by more than $1 billion.     

Everything isn’t entirely set in stone, however. There are already some signs that lawmakers will try to avoid the school cuts.

Our story offers background and insight into what might happen next.

• Meanwhile, reducing class sizes to help students do better is supposedly a no-brainer, but it’s not clear that it actually works. So San Diego schools tried it out, hoping to gain some insight.

Well, so much for that: the verdict isn’t in, and it might never be in. “The program suffered so many changes that district officials now say they’ll have a hard time evaluating the results,” Emily Alpert reports. “The school board changed which schools were involved. Some schools used their extra teachers to provide extra help instead of shrinking classes. Some carefully tracked results, others didn’t.”

That Schools Closing Plan? Wasn’t Us! (Except It Was)

Parents were fighting mad about the potential of school closures, and they converged on the San Diego school board earlier this month to protest. One school board member, Shelia Jackson, tried to deflect the anger.

“It’s not appropriate for people to come to us and be upset. We didn’t even know what the criteria was, we didn’t even tell the staff which direction we wanted,” she told the crowd.

Is she right? Not by a long shot, San Diego Fact Check finds. It gives her a rare and non-coveted “Huckster Propaganda” verdict. That means we think she made a statement that’s “not only inaccurate, but it’s reasonable to expect the person who made it knew that and made the claim anyway to gain an advantage.”

In fact, the board was very involved in setting the criteria about which schools might be closed. None, by the way, are going to be shut down, at least for the moment.

Quick Hits

• Cops once again rousted Occupy San Diego protesters early Wednesday and took 10 people into custody, NBC 7 San Diego reports. Police say most of those at the scene were homeless, and they added they’ve gotten reports of weapons and rats at the downtown site.

• The police officer’s union wants to save the city money by shifting them to a state program that has lower costs. (U-T)

• The U-T takes a look at the ongoing downtown central library project, where as many as 110 workers — some making $65 an hour — are on duty at one time. 

The Toxic Risk Lurking Next Door

Several local facilities appear on a once-secret Environmental Protection Agency watch list of places that emit potentially toxic chemicals into the air, NPR and The Center for Public Integrity report.

About a dozen facilities in the county are rated at the highest level of possible danger, meaning they’re thought to pose the most potential risk to human health. Among others, the facilities include General Dynamics (NASSCO), Naval Air Station North Island, Solar Turbines, and Callaway Golf Co.

Check this map to see which potentially dangerous facilities are near you. 

San Diego’s Failure to Engage

Local pollster John Nienstedt talks to CityBeat about some unhappy numbers he compiled recently: he found that the county ranks 43rd out of 51 metropolitan areas in the country when it comes to civic engagement.

He defines engagement as voting, working with neighbors to solve a problem, participating in groups and volunteering. We ranked low in all except volunteering, in which we were in the middle of the pack: “he found that 27.2 percent of county residents volunteered their time to a worthy cause, 55 percent voted, a paltry 6.4 percent worked with neighbors to solve a problem and only 28.7 percent were involved in community organizations.”

We just need to figure out what our problem is,” Nienstedt tells CityBeat. “Because if we don’t, we’re going to be running really fast in the wrong direction. And what’s the point of that?”

Radio Chatter: U-T Future and Waterfront Spectacle

VOSD Radio tackles the uncertain future ownership of the U-T, the Chargers stadium search, and the proposed mondo sculpture on the waterfront that’s making everybody go bananas.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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