The San Diego Unified School District, facing perhaps its biggest crisis since the 1996 teachers strike, sent out a press release last week hinting that low state funding of education — 46th in the nation in per-student spending — contributes to the massive budget gap that could lead to 1,700 layoffs.
“San Diego Unified is one of many districts across the state facing a spending shortfall for next year,” the district declared.
We ran this claim — essentially that the state holds a lot of responsibility for the district’s financial mess — by San Diego Fact Check. As our Ashly McGlone reports, this claim is A Stretch.
First, the state’s national rating in per-student spending relied on data from the 2013-2014 school year, and the state has passed legislation majorly boosting funding, and giving districts more control over their money, since then. The school district has been spending more than it takes in. And “the district has routinely received and spent more money than other districts in the state.”
Ever-Inescapable, Filner Speaks Again
Bob Filner, the distracted ex-mayor and ex-congressman, has self-published a book titled “Trumping Trump: Making Democrats Progressive Again.” The Reader took a look and found that Filner, who gave a classic apology-non-apology for his alleged sexual harassment in office, is in a confessional mood of sorts.
“I never stole money” — no one ever seems to have suggested he did — “but I did abuse my power as an elected official to convince women to sleep with me,” he writes. “My arrogance blinded me to the demeaning way that I had treated women.”
He writes that he assumed his casual relationships with women were “consensual,” adding that “now I see it wasn’t the sex I was after; it was the power.”
School Layoffs Leave Libraries in Lurch
School libraries will take an enormous hit if the San Diego Unified district goes ahead with massive layoffs: The latest plan adds more cuts and “would lay off all library technicians at middle and high schools. They are the only ones currently staffing their libraries,” KPBS reports. “It would also eliminate six out of nine positions in the district’s central clearinghouse for textbooks, computers and other library assets.”
The district already expects to lay off half of the aides who work at elementary school libraries; a spokesman says vice principals may pick up the slack. Sixteen techies are also slated to lose their jobs.
Though school bond money has built lots of beautiful, shiny new libraries, those facilities are already underused and understaffed because of budget woes. And thanks to a provision in a union contract, parents volunteers can’t fill the staffing gaps.
• Over at San Diego State, the number of non-faculty staff members is shrinking while the number of their managers is rising, the U-T reports.
What gives? It’s possible that the remaining staff members need more supervision. But a campus spokeswoman’s response — she linked more hires to efforts to help students — doesn’t explain anything.
• The University of California is facing a scathing audit that found the administration paid “top workers salaries significantly higher than that of similar state employees, has provided millions of dollars in benefits not typical to the public sector and failed to disclose to the Board of Regents and the public that it had $175 million in budget reserve funds,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
And there’s more, including an accusation that the UC tried to manipulate a survey of employees by the auditors. The UC president called the recommendations “helpful” (she also threw in buzzwords like “constructive” and “proactive”) but says no, there’s no hidden money.
Culture Report: Meet the Worldly Park Project
James Hubbell is one of our most well-known artists, famed for his otherworldly buildings and sculptures. He’s also the driving force behind the Pacific Rim Park Project, which has created seven small public parks in countries that border the Pacific.
This weekend, a tour will check out the parks in San Diego and Tijuana, an especially timely event considering the debate over the border wall. This is the lead story in this week’s VOSD’s Culture Report, our aggregation of news from the arts and culture worlds.
Also in the Culture Report: The San Diego History Center has gotten rid of its required admission fees (donations are fine), dancers are trying to get inspired by the airport, the local lowrider culture is being chronicled, and more.
Water Over 42,000 California Roofs?
Things are looking grimmer on the climate change front. A slow-moving emergency is lapping at California’s shores — climate-driven sea-level rise that experts now predict could elevate the water in coastal areas up to 10 feet in just 70 years, gobbling up beachfront and overwhelming low-lying cities,” CalMatters reports.
How bad could things get here? “Roads, bridges and railways along the coast from Mendocino to San Diego will be abandoned and relocated inland,” the story says. Also, “power plants, nuclear waste sites and other sensitive waterside sites need to be fortified or lost” — all issues of interest to us here.
There’s more. An estimated 42,000 homes statewide are expected to be under water — “with seawater over roofs.”
• Environmentalists want more marshland in a revamped Mission Bay Park. (U-T)
Quick News Hits: It’s a Shark-Eat-Whale World
• City Attorney Mara Elliott is again pushing for every “rape kit” to be tested; there’s a backlog of 2,873 kits collected from rape victims in San Diego.
As we’ve reported, the San Diego Police Department has another perspective. As our contributor Kelly Davis wrote last year, the department is “doubling down on its decision to leave many kits untested.” That is, SDPD is not unique in having a backlog of rape kits. But it is unique in contending that’s actually by design.
• Good news from Imperial Beach: “A man down on his luck last week is on an upswing today after he discovered a $676 cashier’s check on the street by his car and tracked down the woman who had lost it,” the U-T reports. The recipient is so grateful that she’s raised almost $10,000 for the man.
• The carcass of a 55-foot-long whale named Scarlet has been floating southward along the coast, drawing the interest of a female great white shark who’s been chowing down big-time.
One observer posted video of the feast on Facebook and noted that the shark ate so much that she swam around upside-down “like she was intoxicated.”
We feel ya, sharky baby. Food comas are rough, and you can’t even try to recover on a nice couch.
Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors (asja.org). Please contact him directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.