The San Diego school district is on a mission to have a quality school in every neighborhood, a goal that’s both impressive (a big goal!) and depressing (wait, how bad are things now?).

But, as VOSD education blogger Christie Ritter reports, there’s a challenge. Some kids, courtesy of their parents, are bailing. And their numbers are growing, big time. “Parents shop around, finding schools with better test scores, magnet schools offering specialized programs, and, more and more, they enroll in charter schools.”

In total, more than 40 percent of kids don’t attend their neighborhood school.

Our story includes comments from district officials about the choice crunch and the prospects for improving neighborhood schools so engaged parents won’t want to send their kids elsewhere.

Health Care Reform and Health Savings Accounts

• Second Opinion, our series of questions and answers about health care reform, continues with a look at how the new plans offered the state “marketplace” (also known as the “exchange”) compare to health savings accounts.

• A new Los Angeles Times poll says most Californians back health care reform, especially Latinos and Democrats. However, “cutting across partisan and racial lines, Californians as a whole were skeptical that the Affordable Care Act would live up to its name.”

The poll also shows a big divide between whites and Latinos over support of a new policy that allows immigrants here illegally to get driver’s licenses and practice law.

Under Fire, SeaWorld Fights Back in Court

SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales — and the risk they pose to their human handlers — has been a hot topic in recent years, especially after one killed a trainer in Orlando in 2010. The SeaWorld parks, including the here in San Diego, no longer allow interaction between killer whales and trainers during shows, but they’d like to start again.

Federal workplace safety officials stand in their way. Tomorrow, the U-T reports, SeaWorld will go to court to challenge safety citations and claw back a reputation scarred by a book called “Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity” and the damaging new documentary “Blackfish.”

Cyclists, Drivers Who Kill and the Law

“Every time I drive my car through San Francisco, I see cyclists running stop signs like immortal, entitled fools,” writes journalist Daniel Duane in the New York Times. “So I understand the impulse to see cyclists as recreational risk takers who deserve their fate.”

But, he said, that’s no excuse for the fact that the law across the U.S. seems to let drivers off the hook when they kill cyclists. Studies, he writes, “suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities.”

In the big picture, “there is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene.”

Quick News Hits

• Uh-oh. “The city of San Diego will soon be shelling out tens of millions of dollars in claims over corroded sewage pipes leaking hydrogen sulfide gas into expensive condominiums downtown,” the Reader reports.

• A new report on California’s Uneven Safety Net explores the health care for the poor and needy provided by each county. Sixteen percent of San Diego County residents are uninsured, the report says, and the county refuses to provide health coverage to undocumented immigrants (unlike some other counties), although they can get care at community clinics.

• “Four people have been charged in a scheme that used telemarketing tactics to shake down immigrants by claiming that their loved ones had been kidnapped and demanding thousands of dollars in ransom,” the Associated Press reports. “In reality, no one had been snatched and the callers didn’t even know who they were dialing, according to a federal indictment unsealed Friday.”

The suspects include two people who live in Southern California and two Americans in Tijuana. Authorities say they’d call from San Diego phone numbers and try to extort money from relatives of supposed kidnapping victims; in some cases, they succeeded.

• It’s been sitting in the sun for 150 years, but the Star of India still looks great and is going out for a few spins in honor of its birthday, the U-T reports.

• A design blogger’s illustrated visit to the colorful house of her friends Craig and Mary is getting attention on the Internet. The couple are the son and daughter-in-law of Mitt Romney, and they live in a Rancho Bernardo home that seems too precious for words, especially the slide-down staircase for kids.

Now I really, really, really want a slide-down staircase of my own. In a related story, Christmas is coming. (Hint!)

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and vice president of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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Randy Dotinga

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

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