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San Diego Unified School District’s highly touted graduation rate from the class of 2016 was made possible by the fact that hundreds of students, who were not on track to graduate, left traditional high schools for online charter schools.

The charter schools are geared toward helping at-risk students recover credits, according to our Mario Koran. Had those students stayed in public school and dropped out or failed to graduate, San Diego Unified’s overall graduation rate would have fallen from 92 to 83 percent.

The students who left traditional high schools for the charter schools were also able to avoid a series of college-prep classes now required in regular public high schools. This was part of the reason so much attention was on the class of 2016: San Diego Unified had enhanced its graduation standards starting with that class.

Neither the district nor the charters are breaking any rules as hundreds of students shift from one to the other. Many of the kids might not otherwise have finished school and the charter schools appreciated the funding that came with them. And Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten and school board members have repeatedly held up the district’s graduation rate as validation of their approach – they even mentioned it in a recent resolution inviting U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to visit.

A district spokesperson, Shari Winet, declined to discuss numbers before the full story was posted yesterday afternoon. Then, after the story appeared, the district began tweeting about it. The district at first objected to our use of the word “unload” to describe what it did to students who ended up in charter schools, but didn’t challenge any facts. Here they are: In the past, the district has said it does not have a policy of referring students to charter schools. But Koran visited Diego Hills, one of the charter schools where students ended up. There, students said principals or counselors from San Diego Unified advised them or their parents that a school like Diego Hills would be a better fit. One student, 17-year-old Genesees Romero, said, “Instead of working with me, they just decided to kick me out.”

Koran talks more about this story on a new Good Schools for All podcast. Co-hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn also talk more about DeVos and concerns about steering money away from public schools to private schools.

Manchester Mission Valley

Hotelier and former newspaper owner “Papa” Doug Manchester joins the assemble cast of competing developers with plans for some sort of sports thing in Mission Valley.

His plan, an alternative to the “SoccerCity” idea by another group of investors, would remodel the existing Qualcomm Stadium for soccer and football and build an NBA sports arena, plus create some housing and commercial space, according to the Union-Tribune. He seems to have recently switched from his earlier plan to build an all new stadium.

Of course, San Diego doesn’t have an NBA, NFL or pro soccer team at the moment, so it’s unclear who could use any of that stuff besides SDSU.

In Other News

Certain representatives of Sempra Energy or its subsidiaries, which include San Diego Gas & Electric, are not supposed to be lobbying against certain plans that would hurt the company’s Southern California utility monopoly. Yet, two representatives of the company seem to have done some lobbying during a recent meeting of the County Board of Supervisors. The California Public Utilities Commission is now investigating SDG&E, according to the Union-Tribune’s Joshua Emerson Smith. KPBS also says the company may have broken some rules.

• Most of the state is no longer in a severe drought, according to one measure of drought. There are different ways of defining “drought,” though, and this is only one of them. In San Diego, the County Water Authority has repeatedly said the drought is meaningless or entirely over for us. In other parts of the state, wells are still running dry.

• President Trump again created consternation yesterday by suggesting that the deportation of undocumented immigrants would be a “military operation.” Later in the day, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the military, in fact, would not be used for deportations. (Politico) (Editor’s Note: Check out the Posse Comitatus Act.)

• The U.S. government agreed to pay $1 million to the family of a Mexican man who, under the influence of methamphetamine, died after a confrontation with border patrol agents in 2010. (Union-Tribune)

• A mobile home park along Mission Bay got a three-year reprieve from being shut down and turned into a marshland. Campland on the Bay’s fate has been in doubt for a few years while officials explore how to redevelop the area, reports the Union-Tribune’s David Garrick.

• The city announced that its credit rating had been upgraded by Fitch Ratings. That can be a good sign of the city’s fiscal health, despite a $50 million or so budget shortfall, and can lower borrowing costs when the city wants to take on more debt, which is something it usually does when it wants to build new things or upgrade infrastructure.

• The San Diego Reader profiles Veronica Medina, the San Ysidro School District’s homeless liaison and a true hero in public education. We learn about Medina’s work but mostly about students along the border living in crowded hotel rooms, rundown mobile homes, cars and even junkyards, something that this story’s author, Barbara Zaragoza, also wrote about last year.

Correction: An earlier version of this post said a mobile home park along Mission Bay got a three-month reprieve from being shut down. It got a three-year reprieve.

Ry Rivard

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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