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Roundtable: Raising Taxes; More Salk Troubles; Old Problems At SDUSD; Bye-Bye Remedial Math

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RAISING TAXES COULD BE SIMPLE

The Story

The California Supreme Court decided this week that proposals by citizens to raise taxes for roads or schools should be treated differently than initiatives from local governments.

Tax increases put on the ballot by citizens’ groups could pass with a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds required for government proposals.

The court’s ruling agreed with an earlier one from the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

This is could be a very big deal for San Diego. Last year, SANDAG’s half-cent tax increase for transportation projects failed with 58 percent of the vote. A 2008 measure to fund county fire services failed with 64 percent.

Initiatives on issues like the Convention Center expansion, affordable housing, school construction, or even taxes on soda, may re-appear on a ballot near you, soon.

RELATED: California Supreme Court: Local tax hikes proposed via initiative are different from those by elected officials

RELATED: The State Supreme Court Just Changed Everything We Knew About Local Tax Hikes

SALK NEEDS A SHOT IN THE ARM

The Story

When two of its female scientists – and later a third – sued the Salk Institute for bias toward their male colleagues in pay, promotions, grants and leadership opportunities, a statement approved by Salk President Elizabeth Blackburn denied the charges and disparaged their work, rankings and publishing records.

Much has happened in the two weeks since that news broke. On August 18, Blackburn issued a new statement - just before a major fundraiser - saying the Salk greatly values the contributions of the three scientists.

Then billionaire Ted Waitt, chair of the Salk board of trustees, announced he is leaving in November for personal reasons.

Now the Institute, which raised $361 million privately two year ago with Waitt’s help, is facing intense competition and huge financial challenges. One big one: to develop discoveries that will attract big money from drug companies, government, etc.

Meanwhile, the Salk's neighbors at UC San Diego raised $1.12 billion for research last year. Scripps Research is working to speed up its pipeline of therapies.

RELATED: Salk faces 'daunting' need for money despite big success with donors

RELATED: Salk president softens criticism of 2 faculty who sued for gender discrimination

SD UNIFIED: NEW YEAR, SAME PROBLEMS

The Story

Cindy Marten has been superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District since 2013. When she took the job, her evaluation of the state of the district was poor, but she didn’t blame anyone.

Four years on, the big problems are piling up, but Marten still doesn't blame anyone. And she doesn't confront the problems publicly.

A few of these big problems:

-SDUSD has fewer students than in 2013, but more employees. Class size, meanwhile, remains the same.

-Despite an increase in funding, deficit-mandated layoffs for the 2017-18 school year.

-The district touted an improved graduation rate. But it was achieved by pushing poor-performers into charter schools.

-Schools are falling into more disrepair, in spite of billions in tax dollars approved by voters for repair and construction.

-Rebuilt Lincoln High School is losing students. The school was without a principal for more than a year, until students staged a walkout.

Nothing to see here, folks, says Marten, which is true. Public records requests to the district go unanswered. SDUSD almost purged all its emails over six months old, and a journalist was warned by the communications chief that her body might wash up on shore.

It was a joke, he said.

RELATED: San Diego Unified Has an Overwhelming List of Problems, and the District Should Lean Into Them

ELIMINATING REMEDIAL MATH

The Story

For math-deficient students to succeed at college-level math, the trick is to eliminate remedial math classes.

Make sense?

Actually, yes, say a growing number of community and four-year colleges.

Currently, most junior college students must pass several low-level math classes before being allowed to take math that will count toward their AA degrees. Often, they get stuck, give up and don't move on.

Just 10 percent of Cuyamaca College students who needed remedial math made it through a college level course under this system. So Cuyamaca is among several colleges eliminating remedial classes in favor of college-level classes that include remediation.

Preparing for this change, SDSU and Cal State San Marcos are joining a statewide effort to revamp their math curricula and do away with some common math courses so more students can graduate.

RELATED: Cuyamaca College Offers Case Study In Eliminating The ‘Math Pipeline Of Doom’

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Roundtable is a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join host Mark Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.

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