San Diego Unified Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Black students make up less than 8 percent of San Diego Unified’s student population yet Black students receive more than 21 percent of suspensions in the district.

VOSD’s Will Huntsberry reports that recent history shows that long-known discrepancy could be addressed.

Huntsberry found that suspension rates for Latino students were dramatically disproportionate in 2012 before the district lowered suspension rates across the board over a four-year period.

Huntsberry checked in with six school board candidates, including two sitting members, about what the school district has done – and could do – to tackle the disparity.

(Correction: An earlier version of that story misidentified the candidate who supports the concept of “community schools;” that candidate is Sabrina Bazzo.)

Speaking of educational inequalities … 

As many districts commit to online learning over in-person classes this coming school year, more parents are considering their options. Among the options some are discussing: so-called learning pods in which small groups of families and students try to overcome the shortcomings of solitary online learning. But as Huntsberry notes in this week’s Learning Curve, those pods could exacerbate pre-existing inequities and achievement gaps 

County Undercharging Polluters for Permits to Pollute, State Audit Finds

State auditors say San Diego County’s air quality control agency isn’t charging polluters enough to cover the costs of the program that regulates them. 

Assemblyman Todd Gloria asked for the audit about a year ago after passing a bill that shakes up the county supervisor-led governing board of an agency that has struggled to deal with pollution that exacerbates climate change. 

Auditors estimate San Diego Air Pollution Control District would have to raise pollution permit prices 44 percent to break even with expenses of the program. But state law only allows these fees to go up by 15 percent each year at maximum. The last time the agency proposed an increase was in 2017, according to the audit. 

The agency’s primary role is to regulate “stationary sources” of air pollution, basically any polluter that doesn’t move like a shipyard, Costco or even a school. Instead of raising fees, the agency apparently used a portion of state vehicle registration fees that everyone pays, a practice it’s employed since the 1990s, which auditors basically said wasn’t a good practice. 

Meanwhile, the county consistently misses federal air quality standards on harmful ground-level ozone

The audit also showed the agency failed to investigate one of 10 complaints reviewed by auditors and understaffed its advisory committee to the point where it couldn’t reach a quorum during any of its meetings for the last several years. 

Gloria, who is running for San Diego mayor, said the audit shows the agency’s leadership has not done what the community hopes or expects it to do.
“We want our (air pollution control district) board to be a state leader and not a statewide laggard,” Gloria said.

Task Force to Proceed With Deep Dive on Black Homelessness

The board of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless voted unanimously Thursday to create a committee focused on addressing Black homelessness.

Black San Diegans have long been overrepresented in the region’s homeless population, a reality that has gotten more attention amid a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color and reinvigorated discussions about longtime inequities facing the Black community.

Task force board members Jo Barrett, who is Black and once lived in her car, and City Council candidate Sean Elo-Rivera recently proposed the committee be assembled and will chair it going forward. The task force on Thursday pledged to ensure at least half of committee members are Black and to proactively engage the community to help frame the effort.

  • Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office announced Thursday that more than 300 homeless San Diegans who had been staying at the Convention Center shelter have now moved onto housing – and that another 600 have been linked with housing vouchers or other subsidies to help them secure homes. More than 2,500 people have stayed at the temporary shelter since it opened in April.

News Roundup

  • San Diego County is grappling with lab staffing and equipment shortages in its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, as KPBS reports. County health officials reported 409 new cases and 17 new deaths on Thursday and as the Union-Tribune’s Lyndsay Winkley noted, nearly 22,000 San Diego County residents have now tested positive for coronavirus and 465 have died. At the same time, the county is also struggling to keep up with investigations of new cases. The county said Thursday that only 37 percent of contact tracing investigations have been initiated within 24 hours over the last seven days.
  • NBC 7 reports that Oceanside’s police chief has ordered an internal probe of a Tuesday arrest of a carjacking suspect who fell onto his head after being subdued by a stun gun and then was forced to lie facedown by two officers. NBC also reported on San Diego civil-rights attorneys’ Thursday announcement that they have filed more than a dozen claims against local police agencies, including many over allegations of excessive force during protests in May and June.
  • Navy officials announced Thursday that all known fires have been extinguished aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Base San Diego. (10News)
  • Chula Vista’s newly retired city manager is temporarily back on board at the city to help the city process appeals of cannabis business applications. (Union-Tribune)
  • 10News discovered some San Diego County churches are planning to proceed with services despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Monday order. 
  • The Union-Tribune reports that SeaWorld San Diego was the only major theme park in the U.S. to see a drop in attendance last year.
  • In an op-ed, civil rights activist Shane Harris argues that white progressives should avoid jumping into and weighing in on disagreements on issues among the Black community.

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

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