Christina Laster, the director of policy and legislation at the National Parents Union, speaks to reporters at a protest against San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten’s nomination to be deputy education secretary. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten took her first step toward being confirmed as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday. 

Marten faced questions from Senate Republicans and Democrats on everything from charter schools to college debt and in-person learning. Will Huntsberry wrote about five big moments from the hearing

Marten was generally praised by Democrats and faced her toughest questions from Republicans. 

Sen. Richard Burr referenced several parts of Marten’s record that he said would likely be opposed by Democrats if Marten were a Republican nominee. Burr noted disproportionate suspension rates for students of color, potential violations of public records law and a lawsuit involving survivors of sexual harassment

Sen. Mitt Romney pushed the toughest round of questions. He asked Marten repeatedly why schools in San Diego aren’t yet open. 

“How is it that even to this day that even in the San Diego region there are schools not open yet?” said Romney. “We do have experts at the national level who have said to us it’s OK to open schools and yet the schools remain closed,” said Romney.

Marten declined to give a definitive answer when asked if all schools should open for in-person learning next fall. 

More Proof the Robots Are Taking Over

A San Diego-based company and its Chinese backers are going public. TuSimple, the Union-Tribune reports, seeks to disrupt the long-haul freight industry with autonomous driving technology — which is classic PR spin for putting people out of work in the name of “innovation.” 

But before you go running for your trusty pitchfork, the report notes that “drivers also could potentially sleep while the trucks continue on their routes, sidestepping federal limits for how long drivers can be behind the wheel.” The company hopes to have these babies on the road by 2024, so watch out. 

In the meantime, NBC 7 reports that someone named Dr. Beers has created a bot that tweets out available vaccine appointments. Isn’t the future great? 

South Bay City Big Fan of Its License Plate Readers

Speaking of tech, Chula Vista deemed the city’s license plate reader system a vital tool for investigations but asked the police department to say more about how the system is used and why, the Union-Tribune reports. Police Chief Roxana Kennedy said the department is open to the creation of a citizen oversight board, and CBS 8 reports that her department presented a 15-page report earlier this week. 

Our pal Gustavo Solis revealed in December that Chula Vista police had allowed other agencies, including Customs and Border Patrol, to access its license plate reader data. Elected officials were in the dark about the specifics. The city stopped sharing data with ICE that same month. 

Since then, a group called Stop Chula Vista PD Surveillance has popped up to pressure the city to end the program. 

In Other News

  • Two school districts are offering teachers bonuses to come back to the classroom after a year and adjust to the new teaching model. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Federal officials say the San Diego Convention Center will soon hold up to 1,400 migrant children who were previously in Border Patrol holding cells. (Union-Tribune) 
  • U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes of the next chapter in California’s housing wars. State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins has introduced several proposals to help increase density. 
  • A San Diego city councilman has proposed changing San Diego’s official seal to remove traces of Spanish history and incorporate modern cultural elements. (Times of San Diego) 
  • A biotech company wants to know if the bacteria living in your gut can predict how well a coronavirus vaccine works for you. So it’s asking for your poop. (Union-Tribune) 
  • The Port of San Diego is asking for public input on a new strategy to reduce air pollution. (Coast News)  
  • The Brazilian variant of COVID-19 is now in San Diego County. (NBC 7)
  • San Diego County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas said they’ll bring forward a policy targeting racism against local Asian American and Pacific Islanders soon. (Fox 5)

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, MacKenzie Elmer and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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