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San Diego Unified board members discuss special education. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Special education costs are soaring across the region and crippling school district budgets.

Not only are there more kids qualifying for services, they’re costing more to serve.

Maya Srikrishnan spent months pulling together data from districts across San Diego that are seeing double and triple-digit percentage increases in costs. “Local funds contributed to special education increased nearly 65 percent between the 2012-2013 school year and the 2016-2017 year” at San Diego Unified, Srikrishnan reports. At Sweetwater Union and Vista Unified, the increases are more like 160 percent.

If student outcomes were notably more successful due to that increase in money, it might be something. But outcomes aren’t improving.

Good Schools for All: Poway Unified Edition

We’re back with a new episode of our podcast Good Schools for All. This time, Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk with Marian Kim-Phelps, who is Poway Unified’s newish superintendent. Kim-Phelps took the helm at a district lauded for its excellence, but also rocked by the ousting of its previous superintendent, who now faces felony charges. She talks with us about her views on transparency and what she wants to do with the district in the coming years.

Meet the New Chief, Assistant to the Old Chief

A months-long, nationwide search for San Diego’s next police chief has ended with the promotion of SDPD Assistant Chief David Nisleit to the top job. Nisleit is a 30-year veteran of the force. City leaders showered him with praise Thursday. Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who must retire because of her pension arrangement.

The City Council still must approve Nisleit’s appointment. But Council President Myrtle Cole already indicated her support at the announcement. It’s hard to picture from where five votes against Nisleit would come.

City Councilman David Alvarez expressed reservation.

“The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) has fewer officers today than they did when the Council confirmed the last police chief. The failure of leadership has depleted the Department,” he said, in a written statement.

Nisleit will take over an understaffed department focus on hiring an additional 200 officers. He also said he wants to focus on racial profiling in the wake of San Diego State University report that was watered down and ignored.

The announcement also brings to an end the secrecy surrounding the parties tapped to vet the candidates for the job. Critics argued the identities of the hiring panel’s members should be made public, for the sake of transparency. Faulconer released a list of the panel’s members along with the announcement of Nisleit’s selection. It included representatives from regional groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Anti-Defamation League, as well top law enforcement figures from neighboring cities and states.

Meanwhile, over at the FBI, 19-year veteran John Brown has been tapped to lead the agency’s San Diego office. (Times of San Diego)

Calling the SDPD’s practices “Orwellian,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher urges San Diego’s new police chief to quit taking DNA samples from minors on the street without any cause or parental notification.

Cannabis Convicts Get Help From Cities

The district attorneys responsible for San Diego and San Francisco are actively seeking out people convicted of misdemeanor crimes related to marijuana and erasing their convictions. It’s a movement made possible thanks to the ballot initiative that legalized adult-use of marijuana in California. District Attorney Summer Stephan said 55 people were released from jail and hundreds from probation after her office reviewed pending cases related to cannabis. “So far, 680 cases in all have been dismissed or reduced in San Diego,” Stephan says. (New York Times)

Lightning Round

The city will loosen up some zoning restrictions to allow development of residential homes alongside commercial shops in certain areas. (Union-Tribune)

KPBS reports San Diego is back into a “moderate” drought. Maybe save water, but don’t save too much of it! It’s tricky.

The number of people reporting sexual misconduct by a Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Fischer now stands at 14. (NBC 7)

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will step up its presence at courthouses to catch people targeted for deportation, due to the “increasing unwillingness of some jurisdictions to cooperate with ICE.” (NBC 7)

KPBS profiles a working poet who has recently arrived in San Diego to deliver dreamy poems to people’s doorsteps via bicycle. He’s already been hit by a truck. He’s alright, though.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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