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

Earlier this month, San Diego Unified leaders announced they would offer $10,000 dollar signing bonuses for new special education teachers and nurses.

This is a new effort by the district to combat a massive labor shortage happening right now.

It may seem totally logical: The district has a lot of COVID relief money and needs more staff.

But the move also signals a significant shift in policy from unions and union-backed leaders. Pay incentives of any kind, for years, have been totally taboo.

Previous proposals for pay incentives didn’t have to do with a labor shortage. Instead, they were about getting the best teacher in front of the students who needed them most. The most controversial proposal centered on merit pay bonuses for teachers whose students scored well on tests. Another proposal suggested teachers should be paid more to teach in high-poverty schools.

VOSD Podcast hosts Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña discuss the possibilities of money incentivizing educators — and the state of local education as we recover from the upside-down reality of the pandemic.

Keatts with the Receipts

Lots of people have been talking about a state decision earlier this month. It said that a local development could exceed San Diego’s voter-imposed coastal height limit.

And it turns out that state officials had to push city employees hard on it as they clung to a decades-long legal interpretation that said only voters could decide about that 30-foot building cap.

Keatts obtained a back-and-forth of emails to reveal how this decision came down. He shared some of the exchanges on the pod this week. Let’s hear it!

Listen Now

Listen: Apple | Spotify | Google

Nate John

Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Gee: It almost sounds like the developer put pressure on the HCD staff through friendly supporters in the legislature, maybe like someone like Senator Toni Atkins, whose wife is a real estate developer consultant who is long-time friends with the developer who was trying to bulldoze city planning staff using that connection. Maybe VOSD can determine if this theory is correct, and determine how much money that developer has spent on that legislator. Follow the money.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.