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Over the past several years, dozens of local charter schools have bid farewell to the San Diego school district’s special-education program for a variety of reasons. They’ve been concerned about reasons of quality, cost and philosophy.

How is cost a factor? Our Will Carless explains: “Because San Diego Unified spends much more on special education than it gets from the state to do so, it has to dig into its budget to make up the difference, a trend that’s led to a steady uptick in the fees charged to charter schools and a corresponding exodus of charters.”

As for quality, some principals say they’ve gotten sub-par teachers from the district. Philosophy plays a role too, with some charter schools seeking to hire teachers who share their beliefs about education.

There’s a larger question here: Why does San Diego Unified spend almost twice as much as it gets from the state to fund special education? The district doesn’t know the answer to that question but is studying it.

Trustee Scott Barnett worries that no one seems to understand the big picture: “How can we know if we’re spending money effectively if we really don’t know where we’re spending it?”

Here’s a Switch: Higher Home Prices

Local home prices were up mildly in December, and the level of housing supply in comparison to demand is healthier going into 2012 than at the outset of 2011, our Rich Toscano reveals.

Councilman Roasted over Felony Abuse Arrest

Steve Gronke, a councilman in the North County city of Vista, made news last fall by unsuccessfully running for county supervisor against incumbent Bill Horn, whose career has survived the most bad press directed at a local politician in memory. Now Gronke’s in the news again, this time for a felony arrest last month on domestic violence charges in connection with an incident at a city park that resulted in physical injury, according to a police report. The D.A.’s office reportedly dismissed the case.

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins blasted Gronke for failing to talk about what happened: “he’s a role model whose behavior is of public concern, a standard he piously defended when it applied to a fellow councilman whose brushes with the law made headlines.”

Jenkins added: “These local pols want to be held in sky-high esteem, they love to preen at the parades, but when the going gets rough …  they climb down off their pedestals and claim to be just regular folks whose private life is of no relevance to anyone, least of all the people who elected them.”

Remembering Two Outspoken Women

• The New York Times remembers Frederica Sagor Maas, a silent-film era screenwriter who evolved into an acidic critic of Hollywood foibles and became one of the world’s oldest people. A looker in her time, she died this month in La Mesa (a hot spot for filmmaking in the silent era) at the age of 111.

She had a way with words, and not just in scripts. “I can get my payback now,” she told Salon in 1999 about the people who annoyed her and then went off and died. “I’m alive and thriving and, well, you S.O.B.’s are all below.”

If you’re curious about the silent film era — maybe you saw “The Artist” win big at the Golden Globes — check the stories in our archives about the silent-film stars who gave their name to the Talmadge neighborhood and the quintessential Hollywood scandal — even including a possible murder — that erupted in the waters off San Diego in 1924.

• San Diego Reader restaurant critic Naomi Wise, known more officially as Joan Golomb Goodwin, died last month after emergency surgery. Her friends remember her in a story, describing a woman who loved her nigori sake, Capri Lights, and sensations of all kinds. (“These are about the sexiest oysters I’ve ever eaten, really an aphrodisiac,” she wrote in a review once. “A dozen and I’d go nympho.”)

She was a “a true friend and culinary mentor,” her friends wrote, giving five stars to her and a “last supper” (“ratings reflect the reviewers’ affinity for the critic and reaction to food, ambience, and service”).

As the U-T Turns

Fresh off a facelift that’s jettisoned both the paper’s name (it’s now U-T San Diego) and the colors of its Mission Valley walls, the U-T has decided to get rid of some workers too.

The paper laid off about 10 employees on Friday who worked in jobs connected to the paper’s website, the NC Times reports. The paper now has about 650 employees.

Hotel mogul Doug Manchester, the new U-T owner, tells the NC Times that it’s talking to “a range of TV stations and video providers” about expanding the U-T empire through partnerships and, possibly, purchases.

Meanwhile, former U-T editorial page editor and bowtie aficionado Bob Kittle tells the sdrostra.com blog that the editorial page “turned to mush” under Platinum Equity, the previous owners who laid him off in 2009.

He’s not thrilled by the paper’s name change, saying it’s a shame that it’s lost the “Union” part of its name, created by a newspaper founder in 1868 as a way to honor the northern cause in the Civil War.

(As I discovered a while back, San Diego was actually a hotbed of confederate sympathy during the Civil War. As for that founder, a guy with the nifty name of William Jeff Gatewood promised the San Diego Union would maintain “a wise and masterly silence” on political matters. If only.)

As for the U-T’s future, Kittle says, “although much of the San Diego establishment has already concluded that Manchester’s ownership of the paper is a disaster, I’m willing to wait and see what he does before passing judgment.”

For more, check out our Q&A with Kittle in 2009 following his departure from the newspaper.

Honoring Dr. King

Yesterday we worked with a team of community bloggers to live tweet the 24th Annual All People’s Breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s a collection of has coverage of the event.

Mottoes and Slogans for the Ages

The County Administration Center is a glorious art deco masterpiece, and the motto emblazoned above its doorway isn’t bad either, as the U-T noted in a profile of the saying over the weekend. “The noblest motive is the public good” has made its way onto stationary and into speeches.

It certainly beats the fictional city motto of Springfield in The Simpsons (“A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man”) and the real-life entries in a 1999 San Diego Magazine contest to give our fair city a new slogan.

The best of all, the magazine, thought, was “A City with Sol.” (Um, eww.) Others included “The Perfect Place to Die,” “Fewer Elderly Drivers than Miami” and (groan) “Vitamin Sea.”

None of them, though, could beat the slogan that a San Marcos girl sent to the magazine: “We’re Better than You, We Have Shamu!”

She’ll be an adult by now, and I’ll bet she’s in a job where zingers come in handy. She’d just better not apply for mine! 

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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