Tabatha Footman-Robertson, a fifth grade teacher at Edison Elementary, work with two of her students. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A San Diego Unified press release earlier this month announced $10,000 signing bonuses for special education teachers and nurses. It did not announce that signing bonuses signal both a subtle and a major shift in leftist education policy. 

Until relatively recently, teachers unions and union-backed officials adamantly opposed special pay incentives of any kind. 

Merit pay was the most widely known. Teachers panned it as subjective and unfair, since merit bonuses were generally based on test scores. And, in fact, studies of merit pay have shown that it did not push teachers to teach better. 

A less often discussed idea — which was also more effective, according to some research — amounted to a type of hardship pay. 

The idea was this: Teaching in high-poverty schools is harder than teaching in affluent schools. And because of this, it is very hard to retain high-quality educators in high-poverty schools. So, paying teachers more, either through bonuses or a yearly stipend, will make it easier to get the best teachers in the schools that need them most. 

Will Huntsberry checked in with San Diego Unified’s longest serving board member to find out if the new signing bonuses might mean that progressives will reconsider their stance on hardship pay. 

You can read his piece here to find out. 

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

County OK’s New Budget. Here’s What It Funds

The County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed its $7.35 billion budget, which goes into effect July 1. 

Priorities in the new budget were largely focused on addressing the region’s homelessness crisis, mental health services and adding more county staffers. Chair Nathan Fletcher called it the region’s “most progressive” budget yet.

“It is a budget that the people of San Diego County can count on to support them,” Fletcher said in the news release. “This is the most progressive and working family focused budget passed during my time here as a member of the Board of Supervisors.”

Want to understand how exactly the county’s budget process works? We break it down in this episode of San Diego 101.

Click here to read more about what else the county budget prioritizes. 

Related: County supervisors on Tuesday also declared fentanyl a public health crisis in the county.

More State Budget Relief 

We learned Tuesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers over the weekend agreed to eliminate the debt that defendants have accrued in traffic cases for missing payments on tickets. As Jesse Marx reported last week, civil assessments have helped finance trial courts throughout the state for decades. But in response to pushback from advocates, who’ve argued the civil assessments constitute a hidden tax on the poor, state lawmakers proposed that those fees be eliminated for good. 

Newsom wasn’t willing to go that far. Instead, California will cap fees at $100 going forward. 

Advocates have warned that a reduction in fees won’t solve the underlying problem because people still won’t be able to pay it. The nonprofit Debt Free Justice California Coalition vowed in a press release to keep fighting until the civil assessments are completely gone.

“The continuation of civil assessments will burden many more Californians and undermine the very financial relief the Governor seeks to deliver through this year’s budget,” said attorney Rio Scharf at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Fast food workers and union organizers march outside Jack in the Box headquarters in Kearny Mesa on June 9, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana for Voice of San Diego

Fast Food Worker Bill Moves Forward 

A bill to establish a fast-food sector council in California passed another hurdle on Tuesday, clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The original iteration of AB 257 was introduced by Lorena Gonzalez before she left the Assembly. She and others rallied outside the San Diego headquarters of Jack in the Box last month for a new statewide body that could set minimum standards on wages, working conditions and training. The bill now gives the Legislature the right to modify or prevent any proposals from taking effect. 

Fast-food workers and union leaders say the bill is necessary because of the low pay, wage theft and working conditions. At Tuesday’s hearing, one worker said her manager denied her time off after a miscarriage. Before voting yes, Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco said the nation’s labor laws and the franchise model have made it nearly impossible to collectively bargaining across the industry. 

Opponents, including chamber groups and business owners, argued that existing state law is already sufficient to penalize both franchisees and fast-food corporations if they break the law. The bill would make corporations jointly liable for any violations, causing one owner to complain that franchisees would effectively become middle managers. 

Assemblyman Chris Holden promised to keep working with opponents on possible amendments, so the bill might change in the coming weeks. Sen. Brian Jones, who represents parts of East and North County, voted no but did not say why. 

In Other News 

  • There was much speculation Monday night about whether mysterious lights in the sky were UFOs but San Diego police told NBC 7 they were actually military flares.
  • Forget the fireworks. Fox 5 reports that Imperial Beach will instead host a “high-tech drone show” on July 4. 
  • Nieman Lab reports that newspaper print circulation is plunging among every demographic other than retirees, as evidenced by the newspaper for a Florida retirement community that sells more print copies on an average weekday than seven metro papers elsewhere in the country. Related: Our local newspaper of record, the Union-Tribune, will publish a digital-only paper on July 4 for the first time in its more than 150-year history.

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Jesse Marx, Lisa Halverstadt and Catherine Allen. It was edited by Megan Wood and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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