The Escondido Union School District headquarters / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The state Department of Education cried foul on Escondido Union School District’s apparent attempt to dodge laws capping student-teacher ratios for special education teachers by simply renaming certain positions.

Voice of San Diego’s Will Huntsberry reports that the district eliminated “resource specialist” teacher positions and transferred most of their duties to “specialized academic instruction,” a move that allowed the district to bypass the required 28-to-1 student-teacher ratio.

After state officials criticized that move, the district began a lengthy legal battle to try to defend its interpretation and now, Huntsberry reveals, the Superior Court appears to be siding with the state.

Another Misconduct Case Fueled by Texting

A San Diego High School special needs teacher was arrested over the weekend for alleged sex crimes involving a teenage student.

NBC 7 San Diego reports the girl’s mother contacted police after she reportedly found inappropriate text messages from the teacher on her daughter’s phone.

VOSD’s Kayla Jimenez has documented repeated instances of inappropriate contact between students and teachers over texts or social media, noting they are a common hallmark of abuse cases. Yet few school districts in the county have policies for those communications. San Diego Unified is one of fewer than 10 districts in the county with such rules in place.

County Budget Reflects Rapid Change in County Government

Policy wonks often say that annual budgets reflect government priorities – and San Diego County officials are trying to emphasize theirs in a budget proposal unveiled late Monday.

The county’s new $6.2 billion budget proposes dramatic increases in funding for behavioral health services, child welfare and housing efforts. County officials say those investments amount to a $112 million year-over-year spike in planned spending for vulnerable San Diegans.

The Union-Tribune broke down the county’s budget proposal – and how county bureaucrats balanced the budget despite the increased spending.

County staffers’ budget proposal reflects a dramatic transition at the county that’s come along with new faces on the Board of Supervisors, changing regional politics and crises that exposed the county government’s sluggish response to the region’s escalating problems.

The Board of Supervisors is set to review the budget at a series of public meetings early next month, including an evening budget hearing that had been nixed last year.

Fifth Avenue Landing Vote Postponed

The Union-Tribune reports that a developer who wants to build a hotel on the site also eyed for a Convention Center expansion has postponed a public hearing on the project.

Ray Carpenter, who controls the waterfront site with partner Art Engel, would not elaborate on the reason for the request to postpone the Port Commission hearing other than to say the group behind the Fifth Avenue Landing project needs more time to finalize the details of its lease agreement.

Fifth Avenue Landing consultant Charles Black told Voice of San Diego he expects the group to be ready to present the project to the Port Commission within the next few months.

Meanwhile, an initiative to expand the Convention Center and pay for homeless initiatives and road repairs is set for the March 2020 ballot. The city and the port had initially agreed to pay Fifth Avenue Landing more than $30 million to walk away from the project if the Convention Center measure passed, plans that crumbled after the measure initially failed to make the November ballot. Now the fate of both projects is uncertain.

Culture Report: A Play on Teenage Reality

In this week’s Culture Report, VOSD contributor Julia Dixon Evans spotlights a musical based on a once-banned 1891 play tackling controversial topics such as teen suicide and sexuality – also starring teens.

Off Broadway Theater Company founder and director Kyle Hawk told Dixon Evans he opted to pursue the controversial play set in 1890s Germany based on feedback from the teens who told him they wanted to participate in a project that reflected their own struggles. Off Broadway Theater Company’s production of “Spring Awakening” will debut this Saturday at the Lyceum Theatre.

Also in this week’s arts and culture roundup: A week-and-a-half series of plays by female playwrights at UCSD, details on the annual North Park Festival of the Arts and much more.

In Other News

  • KPBS tracks the Balboa Park Conservancy’s efforts to track and care for the iconic park’s more than 15,000 trees.
  • A Mexican migrant has been reunited with his 2-year-old son more than six months after he went to the San Ysidro Port of Entry to seek asylum, the Union-Tribune reports. Meanwhile, Reveal found that “The government isn’t reunifying all separated children because it’s treating legal guardians different from parents.”
  • Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office announced Tuesday that the city will offer eight city properties to developers to build up to 198 supportive housing units.
  • Sandag chief Hasan Ikhrata stopped by NBC 7 San Diego on Tuesday to respond to county supervisors who have panned the agency for its decision to curtail planned highway upgrades and invest more in transit.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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