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As pandemic funding ends, San Diego schools face uncertain financial future

 January 12, 2024 at 5:07 PM PST

S1: This is roundtable. San Diego schools saw a major influx of pandemic aid meant to ease the impacts of school shutdowns and learning loss.

S2: Chronic absenteeism is kind of upriver of a lot of these other negative academic performance indicators , and simply because if kids aren't in class , they can't learn.

S1: But that funding is coming to an end. San Diego Unified School District is facing a major budget deficit next school year. What's at stake for San Diego's kids ? All that , plus the weekly roundup. The Kpbs roundtable is coming up next. San Diego schools are facing financial challenges as federal pandemic aid is set to expire and budget deficits loom. This sobering financial reality comes as San Diego students and schools continue to recover from the lasting impacts of the pandemic , including learning loss , chronic absenteeism and lower enrollment. So what do students and families need to know about where schools are today and what might be coming here ? To help us break it down ? Our Kristen Takeda , education reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune. Also joining us is Carolyn Jones. She's the K through 12 reporter for Calmatters. And Jacob McWhinney is here. He's the education reporter for Voice of San Diego. Welcome to roundtable.

S3: Thank you for having us. Hi.

S4: Hi.

S2: Thank you. Hey , Scott.

S1: So I want to start before digging into the financial clouds hanging over schools. What do we know today about the pandemic's impact on learning loss ? Jacob , I'll start with you.

S2: Well , we know that it's not looking great. You know , when we got out of the pandemic , at least in San Diego County schools and in San Diego Unified in particular , we saw that the learning loss over the pandemic resulted in the erasure of about five years of standardized testing scores of gains that had been made over the past five years. And , you know , tests are , as many education officials will attest , are not the end all , be all when it comes to education statistics. But the more worrying statistic that I saw was the near tripling of chronic absenteeism across the county. And that is something that I think that education officials and parents should be paying attention to more than anything. I mean , chronic absenteeism is kind of upriver of a lot of these other negative academic performance indicators , and simply because if kids aren't in class , they can't learn. And so if there are interventions that are happening in class , they won't be effective at all if kids aren't there to experience them.

S1: And Kristin , tell me a bit more about the pandemic's impact on students education and learning loss.

S3: Yeah , so I think Jacob summed it up pretty well. I mean , basically we saw performance drop after the pandemic and it hasn't improved like the past couple years have been pretty the same in terms of performance. So it's I don't know if we're going to end up ever getting back to like the levels that we had pre-pandemic. Um , and , um , in terms of graduation rates like those have also kind of stayed the same from last year. So I think in general , yeah , we're seeing kind of a stagnation of performance. And so but again , the chronic absenteeism is a major issue , although it did improve from last year , but it's still way higher than it was pre-COVID.

S1: And Carolyn what are you seeing.

S4: Well statewide. Yeah , the same thing that's happening in San Diego is reflected throughout the state of California. Chronic absenteeism soared after the pandemic. It hit 30% in California , um , in 2022. The good news is that last year it fell significantly. It went down to 24% , which advocates and schools and families were , you know , really happy about , although it's still more than double that. It was pre-pandemic. Um , and test scores have been stagnant from last year , I think , which was a really big disappointment for for schools and for everybody , because so much money and so much attention has been put into helping kids catch up from learning loss. And so that was a big disappointment.

S3: I think also what I noticed with scores and performance metrics , I think the gaps between student groups are still roughly the same size. So even though , yeah , everybody fell a bit , but the size of the gaps between low income students , other disadvantaged groups , um , students of color , those are still big challenges that schools need to address and still need to close. Yeah.

S4: Yeah. That's right. Same with students with disabilities. Yeah.

S2: Yeah , it's really true. And when you look at chronic absenteeism , for example , when we say that broadly , it tripled over the pandemic. That is true for both , you know , higher income and lower income schools. But where those schools started was very different. So where they ended up was also very different. So for example , a school in in La Jolla , like bird Rock elementary , just for example , could have been at , I don't know , like a 3% before the pandemic and increased to about a 9%. But then you have schools like Rodriguez Elementary in Barrio Logan , which is which is a much more lower income school that increased from about 25% to about 76% , which is a shocking rate of chronic absenteeism. And Carolyn was totally right. Chronic absenteeism did drop. But what we're seeing now is that is that it's going to be the sticky issue that's along around for a much longer time than I think a lot of education officials were hoping.

S1: So you got to say , what sort of proposed solutions are you hearing ? What what possible answers are out there to try to reduce that number ? If the numbers come down a bit , but it's remaining sticky , as you said. What's the answer ? Try to make sure that kids are attending class.

S2: Well , there are a lot of different answers. You know , chronic absenteeism is really tough because it's a bit like a puzzle , right ? Every child's reason for being chronically absent is different. Some may live outside and have a hard time getting to class every day. Some may not have transportation and have to take the bus , or and others may simply have have developed a sort of disconnect with school and not feel motivated to go. And so the ways to to , you know , intervene and get kids back into classrooms is very different from , from child to child. That's why a lot of schools have have implemented this sort of four tier , you know , strategy to , to combat chronic absenteeism , where the lowest tier has to do with , with , you know , increasing the connection that every child feels to a school and the highest tier is focused on , on really trying to do kind of surgical and , you know , very customized interventions for the students who need the most help. And without those sorts of tiered interventions and without those very strategic interventions , we really aren't going to be , you know , seeing much , you know , progress. Uh , unfortunately , the blunt instruments don't often work for something as as very unique as chronic absenteeism. Kristen.

S1: Kristen. Angelica , you've both written about San Diego County schools. You know , as we've been discussing by many metrics , worse off in a lot of ways than they were before the pandemic. That's despite receiving a mountain of pandemic relief funding in San Diego Unified , for example , got more than $500 million from the federal government. So let's talk a bit about where did that money go ? Kristin , tell us about that.

S3: Um , yeah , it went to a number of different places , a lot of interventions focused on supporting students as a whole and making sure they're able to go to school. So we were just talking about chronic absenteeism. Schools used it for kind of like family services assistants who would help just make calls to families and figure out why they're not coming to school. Um , we saw earlier in the pandemic , we saw things like retention bonuses for employees to keep them in school or to keep them in the district , kind of like staff oriented areas. We saw , um , some money going to nurses. I mean , kind of like all the support staff who help run schools and help keep kids healthy. They put some money into the Virtual Academy for San Diego Unified. So as more earlier in the pandemic , when more students wanted to do an online option or stay home , they also used some money for transitional kindergarten. I think it was on the basis that they believe , like serving students early would help keep them in school and just help their development in general. So we saw a lot of different interventions. And so what I'm interested in seeing later this year , especially as the as we mentioned , like that money is going to expire. What was the lasting impact of those interventions or are we able to measure those. Um , and then we're also going to have to look at , you know , which ones are going to get cut , put on the chopping block because the money is running out. And which ones , if any , will we be keeping ? There's a lot of things to look at this year for that. Um , that's one of the main things I would look at.

S1: Definitely interested in looking more at where some of those cuts are coming.

S2: Um , she did a really good breakdown back in 2022 , about as to where 236 something million dollars went and the vast majority of it went to staffing. There were there have been questions about , you know , how San Diego Unified spent some of this money. Um , you know , they did just finalize a deal recently with the the teachers union that takes the teachers for three years and will in total cost about half $1 billion. And that's raised some eyebrows for people.


S3: And so they feel that the cost of living , the fact that it's rising so much , they feel they need to have a competitive compensation in order to retain teachers and to attract teachers. And I think the case for school districts across the county is that they're all competing for a limited teaching workforce that's available. So I think schools are constantly especially for special education teachers and hard to staff areas like that. It's always a challenge. To have enough staff , all the staff that you need. But I would say , yeah , that's probably one of the main arguments , I guess , or main messages from the district as to why they want to keep compensation competitive.

S2: Kristen's totally right. Um , they have kind of waved off concerns by saying it's all about acquiring new talent and retaining current teacher levels.


S4: They've spent money on things like , um , ventilation systems , which makes sense during a pandemic. Um , technology and again , staffing. So it , you know , as the other two were saying , it's going to be really interesting to see what gets cut as we look down. Um , you know , kind of reduced budgets this coming year. So yes , although I think San Diego's unique because of the cost of living issue and because of the teacher contract that they signed last year.

S1: We touched a bit on absenteeism. Tell me about enrollment. You know , what does enrollment look like at San Diego schools ? How has that changed and what sort of challenges might enrollment pose for some of the tricky financial questions that are coming up ? Yeah.

S2: So so enrollment decline has been this long term issue that the pandemic kind of supercharged , right. Um , from 2018 , from the 2018 2019 school year to uh , to last year , uh enrollment dropped from about 124,000 students to about 113,000. So that's an enrollment decline of more than 11,000 students. That breaks down to about 9% , which is which is very , very significant. The rate has kind of the rate at which enrollment has been declining. It's decreased slightly since we've come out of the pandemic. Um , but but it's still declining. The San Diego Unified is has , has really hoped that it's entering into transitional kindergarten before some other districts in the state would help it kind of draw new students in and sort of become this Bui against this larger enrollment decline. But while it has kind of softened those numbers , it hasn't reversed the trend altogether. And enrollment decline is is a chief concern , along with chronic absenteeism when it comes to funding for the future. Right ? California school districts get funding based on average daily attendance. And so if kids aren't showing up for school , then you get less money. And if you have less kids to show up to school , um , you also get less money. And so as as the district looks forward at these really large budget deficits , enrollment and chronic absenteeism , kind of hand in hand are things that they have to figure out which is which is why increasing the average daily attendance is one of the things that San Diego Unified has , has put as a priority to , to deal with those budget deficits that they're looking at.


S3: But , um , they think that a lot of students are leaving just because of the cost of living , like they're either moving out of state or they're moving to other parts of the county or other parts of Southern California. But they believe , like the cost of living is probably the main factor driving out families. I also notice this too , but I think like because partly because a lot of the new housing. Yeah , the new housing in San Diego city boundaries is kind of not for families , is more like apartments and like just housing that's not geared toward necessarily families with children. So I think also the demographics might be changing in , in general for the city. But I also think the pandemic definitely accelerated enrollment decline. So I think we can and there have been lots of reports , like across the country about kids just kind of disappearing from school or just dropping out. And I think part of that was just the dynamics of the pandemic. You know , students , especially students in disadvantaged neighborhoods or backgrounds , like they might have gotten disengaged from school and just kind of fell through the cracks. And when we went online and just when we were not having that traditional , uh , school environment anymore. And so now that students and families have had a few years where school wasn't regular or wasn't quite the same as it was before , it might have just changed. It may have shifted kind of the scope or and. Environment around schools , if that makes sense. Yeah.

S1: Yeah , absolutely. Um , Jacob , you've done some reporting about how some students are staying home , right ? Uh , you've written about the significant jump in those choosing homeschooling in the San Diego area. Tell us what you found. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. So , as Kristin mentioned , education officials have been wondering for years where have the kids gone ? Because , you know , there are these larger demographic trends , as she mentioned , like increased housing costs and just that Americans are have , you know , been having fewer kids ? Um , but there are more kids , unquestionably , who are being homeschooled. Now. Exactly what those numbers are has been hard to figure out. Um , the Washington Post did this really , really in-depth story where they gathered data from across the country , and I used some of that data and zeroed in on San Diego , and it showed that , um , uh , home schooling had had skyrocketed. Right. So during the virtual enrollment years , it had increased by as much as 150%. Um , last year it had decreased a bit , but it was still up 88% from pre-pandemic levels. Um , you know , now , this data that that The Washington Post gathered , it's full of asterisks because , um , uh , homeschooling data in California is really hard to come by. They don't really report it in the same way that other states do. Um , so that being said , parents I've spoken to had said that this was very , very likely a significant undercount because the Washington Post did not use or did not count kids who were enrolled in home based charter options. And to them , that's pretty much everyone that they speak to , right ? They feel that the vast majority of people , at least in San Diego County , are enrolling in these home based charter options that kind of allow parents to or kind of guide parents through the process of homeschooling. And so any way you slice it , the increase has been significant. It's just a matter of how big the increase has been.

S1: Coming up on roundtable , we continue our discussion on schools and what's at stake as they face budget shortfalls.

S4: As the budget cuts actually start happening and we head into an election season and everything , I think things will be changing.

S1: That's next on roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Scott rod. Today we're talking about the impacts of the pandemic on education and the budget shortfall facing San Diego schools. I'm joined by Kristin Takata from the San Diego Union-Tribune , Carolyn Jones from Calmatters , and voice of San Diego's Jacob McWhinney. Switching gears here a little , a new law in California will require cursive lessons in elementary school , and this has garnered some national news coverage. And I mention it because I think there's a strong argument to be made here that putting pen to paper exercises essential muscles for critical thinking and expression for young students. At the same time , you know , with schools facing mammoth challenges coming out of the pandemic and budget shortfalls , I could see some parents saying , you know , gee , is this the best time to be pushing a mandate for something like cursive ? You know , Carolyn , give me your thoughts on this.

S4: Well , it did pass. It is the law. Children will be learning in grades one through six will be learning how to do cursive. I know when I was a kid , a million years ago , yes , we had to learn cursive. I think a lot of it is a pushback against technology to some extent. Students are so glued to their phones all the time. I think that there's some , um , some realization that they should that it's , you know , writing is tied into literacy , as you mentioned , fine motor skills. I mean , there's a lot of benefits to it. And so I think that that was the the push behind it.


S2: And to be honest , I don't I don't really have many thoughts on this. I'm not super sure how effective of a method of kind of linking kids back to the physicality of their work. This will be. But I don't know , I haven't researched cursive in anytime recently.

S1: Kristin , any any thoughts on the cursive mandate ? Yeah.

S3: I also don't know if I remember cursive anymore. I just know how to scribble my name. But even that is pretty , uh , abstract. But , um. Yeah , I , I heard what you said , though , like , and I think that's what a lot of teachers would , might say too , is I think whenever there is like a new mandate kind of handed down to them that they have to implement in the classroom , it's like adding on to another long list of things that they already are trying to manage , like students being absent or missing or , um , trying to help them recover fully from the pandemic. But I also have seen , yes , the arguments in the forehead , um , in terms of what Carolyn was saying about technology , like , that's very that's also a concern. I've definitely heard from educators to.

S1: Shifting back to financials , the budgets here in San Diego , you know , schools are scrambling as pandemic funds are set to expire. Jacob , I think you described their situation , one of your stories as someone pulling up a ladder as they were trying to use it to climb out of a hole , which I think is just such a , you know , such a such an excellent description of sort of the situation that they find themselves in. Tell me more about the budget deficit San Diego Unified schools are facing.

S2: Yeah , I mean , the bottom line is that San Diego Unified is going to face cuts and they're going to be significant cuts. Right ? The district is projecting that this coming school year , they will have $130 million budget deficit. And they forecast that the year after that , it will increase to about $182 million. And those are those are big , big bucks , right ? Um , but even so , the district has expressed that or expressed confidence that they feel they can weather this without resorting to the kind of layoffs that they have in the past. And they've had to go through a series of layoffs that were quite significant. I think exactly what is going to be on the chopping block isn't entirely clear , but they have sort of put some things out there in board presentations. They floated everything from kind of reductions in office staff at the central office , um , reductions in certain programs and staffing freezes. Um , you know , the second one in particular , reductions in programs is is something that really , really kind of , I think worries me and worries a lot of parents , um , you know , as , as Kristin said , we're still a far away from really understanding the efficacy of some of the interventions that that were implemented around chronic absenteeism or , you know , performance issues. That being said , um , you know , the reduction of them , you know , when we are still in the thick of of this kind of pandemic fog is is a worrying development. And that's kind of what I was trying to describe. Right. That's this isn't an endorsement of every penny that that the district has spent. And this isn't an endorsement of every , you know , intervention that the district has implemented. But this is , you know , a worrying position to be in. They're just going to have more work to do and less money to do it with.

S1: And Kristin , that's the situation with San Diego Unified School District. But you know , there are. Others in the county.

S3: So that's something that I think we can look out for is how how proactive is your school district being on talking about the budget early ? Um , because I think definitely other districts will also have to make reductions. And considering the state landscape and the end of the pandemic funding. So I think it would be a good idea for all districts to be talking about this early and then because experts will say , you know , the earlier you talk about it , the less severe the cuts can come across and the more communication that you have about it and the more transparency , the better. So , um , yeah , I , I would like to see more districts having those kinds of meetings too. But , um , yeah. And I was just going to add on to about San Diego Unified. Um , like , I know in terms of like how they're planning to address the their deficit for this upcoming year , I know , like staff attrition is on the table for them , but we don't know yet whether there will be layoffs or not. That would be kind of something we learn more down the line. But , um , in addition to that , they have also talked about , um , yeah , cutting the interventions that they were funding with the pandemic relief funds. So I know that for the one thing that they did fund were dedicated substitute teachers for schools. They would have one substitute , at least one substitute assigned to a school permanently for the year. That's something that they said they would they will they will cut for this upcoming year. Um , and I think also going back to the family services assistance , like to help families with chronic absenteeism or get them back to school. I think because they saw the chronic absenteeism decline this year. They said that they were looking at reducing those as well , since it's they don't believe it's as greatly needed as it was earlier in the pandemic. But I just know that those are some of the things that they have talked about in terms of what they might be cutting.


S4: Just yesterday , the governor released his budget. It's , you know , granted , it's just sort of the first draft. We won't have a final budget really until June. But this is a first glimpse of what we're going to be looking at. And he left education funding mostly intact. All the programs , the big kind of pandemic era programs and pre-dating the pandemic that the governor has championed all our pretty much fully funded school lunches , school meals , school nutrition is all still there. Community schools , which was a big initiative. His is still funded special education. Um , he did suggest some cuts to school , the school facilities fund , which signals that there's probably going to be a bond on the fall ballot for a school facilities statewide , because , as we all know , the schools are old , they're falling apart. There's leaky roofs from Eureka to San Diego. So that's something we can look forward to. And he also is adjusting the cost of living increases. Last year I think it was more than 8%. And this year he's proposing less than 1%. So that's going to be less money coming to the school districts. And as the other two panelists have said , Covid relief money is expiring this year. So and if you factor in declining enrollment , most districts are going to be looking at making some kinds of cuts. And it'll be really interesting to see what they choose to cut some of those really innovative or effective pandemic era , um , initiatives , such as hiring more after school tutors , stuff that's been really effective. I mean , is that is that going to go away ? Um , do we still need it ? You know , is it has it been worth the money , especially with test scores being flat ? I think there's going to be a lot of soul searching. It's school districts everywhere really coming up. I would not want to be a school board member this year.


S3: The district is still kind of figuring things out. And even last week when they talked about this at the meeting , they weren't they didn't go into huge specifics. Um , they said it's because , you know , it's still early in the process. They still don't know. We won't know until the summer , basically like exactly how much they'll have to cut. But I do know , like , things like the dedicated substitute teachers are going away. Yeah. So I think we will need to wait and see. Um , and then one thing we would also want to see is , you know , which where , which schools , which , uh , like , areas of the district would be impacted by cuts. Um , because I don't , um , because cuts don't always affect everybody equally. Um , it could affect , um , like , say , disadvantaged student groups more , depending on just how they're implemented. And I think , um , one of the main. Yeah , like like I mentioned before , one of the main strategies it seems like they're going to lean on rather than layoffs is the attrition part. So basically not filling a position if it becomes vacant unless they absolutely have to. But um , I guess like one consideration for that strategy though , is that the positions that become vacant don't always necessarily align exactly with what student needs are or what school needs are. So that's not , uh , the most it's not going to be exactly right every time in terms of aligning with what the actual the staffing needs are. So they're going to have to figure out how to , uh , kind of meld those two or reconcile that.

S1: We're talking about some , you know , big moving pieces here , big deficits , potential programs on the chopping block. You know , what may or may not be in the governor's proposed budget.

S2: I think that , as Kristen mentioned , there are going to be lots of changes to to little things at schools. You know , the the dedicated substitute is going to be a big change for kids who are used to seeing the same substitute every year. Um , there are some programs , like the family Services assistance that that parents may be hearing from. You know , for example , when it comes to chronic absenteeism , I know one of the initiatives that that districts and the county office have really been pushing for things like nudge letters and getting really in contact with parents and letting them know when their child is becoming chronically absent. We could see a reduction in that and potentially just a. The amount of the amount that parents are hearing from their district. And any of that would be , I think , worrying , because that is one of the good things that has come out of this pandemic , that school districts have been more proactive , letting parents know when their child is falling behind. And we could see reductions in things like extended learning opportunities , whether that's , you know , after school or , you know , summer schools. Um , but at the same time , as Carolyn mentioned , there were the governor Newsom did choose to to , uh , save some programs that could have been eliminated , like community schools. And that's something that San Diego Unified has really gone all in on. I think they have currently 15 or 16 schools that are either developing their community schools program or our community schools themselves , often in the more socio economically disadvantaged areas. And that could be a positive change that parents see. You know , community schools are these these schools that offer services and extended learning opportunities and chances for for parents and students to get involved. Um , and although they've been kind of touted in studies before , we haven't really seen them roll out very consistently. In San Diego , I wrote about a school in Chula Vista that had a community schools program 50 years ago , but since then , it's not really something that that we've seen a lot of. And there are hopes from education officials that this could make a big difference , especially for the the kids who have the least. Um , because exactly of those services that these things can offer , whether it's food pantries or mental health services or just physical health services , um , you know , being socio economically disadvantaged , those things don't stop once you walk into a class , you know , you don't walk into a class and all of a sudden have had a good night sleep the night before. Um , and so these sorts of interventions could really make an impact for kids. And I'm hopeful to see that that , you know , San Diego Unified does a good job of rolling those out because they really are all about working with the community so that that you better understand what the community needs from your school.

S1: And , Kristen , Carolyn , I want to come to both of you for your final thoughts on what parents and students can expect for the rest of this school year and then heading into next school year. Carolyn , let's start with you.

S4: Well , yeah. I mean , I think Jacob was right in talking about the emphasis on chronic absenteeism. I think schools are really going to continue to prioritize that because it is tied to funding. They have a real incentive to prioritize it. And there has been some success. So I'm guessing parents can expect to , you know , attend phone calls from attendance clerks , more outreach , more more things at schools to make school more engaging and fun , basically for kids , someplace where kids want to be and where families want to send their kids every day , where they really see that it's worth the effort to get your kid to school day after day. So , I mean , we can expect to see more , you know , family nights , bingo night , um , lots of outreach to families and communities and more more activities focused on student engagement and mental health. So I think we can see more of that. Um , and then , um , and then fall , you know , everything's going to be different next year as the budget cuts actually start happening. Um , and we head into an election season and everything , I think things will be changing. Um.


S3: Yeah , just kind of like see what your school district is talking about. The budget. How early are they talking about it ? Are they holding meetings about it ? And when they do , what solutions are they proposing ? Um , just because yeah , like I mentioned before , like the earlier they talk about it , the better. And then each district is going to implement solutions differently and each district has their own different situation. So um , the cuts that would happen in San Diego Unified are not going to necessarily be exactly the same as those in another district. And I think one thing we might see , and this is kind of going along with enrollment decline in general , which has is not a new trend. And it wasn't it didn't come just with the pandemic. It predated that too. But one thing we see sometimes with enrollment decline is , you know , as the funding drops , then the schools get less funding. But it's not necessarily like the students they're losing are proportional to like the funding losses they're getting , if that makes sense. So , for example , I think schools in the past have dealt with that by like having combo classrooms , like classrooms that combine students at different grade levels , or losing a teacher from a school , and then the rest of the remaining classrooms kind of have to scramble together to send the students that the teacher had to other classrooms and things like that. So I think it's possible we might see things like that happening as more schools and districts have to go through this , uh , budget reduction process. And so but again , that's why I would say , see what your district is saying , see what your school is saying about it.

S1: I've been speaking with Kristin Takada from the San Diego Union Tribune , Carolyn Jones from Calmatters , and Voice of San Diego's Jacob McWhinney. Thank you for being here.

S5: Thank you.

S2: Yeah , thanks for having me , Scott.

S4: Thank you.

S1: When roundtable returns , we take a look at some other stories we're following on this week's roundup. That's next on roundtable. This is Kpbs roundtable. I'm Scott rod. It's time for our weekly roundup of some other stories we've been following. And joining me now is producer Andrew Bracken. What's up ? Andrew ? Hey , Scott. So tell me , what's caught your eye this week.

S6: So the first one , I mean , we just got done , you know , talking about education. And I think this is something that you and I talked about earlier this week , the New York Times , David Leonhardt , he published a piece looking at SATs. And one other example of how education has shifted over the pandemic is there's been a move away from standardized tests like the SATs , like the acts for college admissions. So his reporting is basically kind of delves into what's been happening , what we're learning about what that move away from those test scores is happening on education.

S1: So tell me a little bit about where we came from with SATs. I remember taking them when I was in high school , and how much emphasis was placed on them for going to college , and how you needed to get a good score to get into the college you wanted to.

S6: And part of it was , you know , like you mentioned , we would , you know , take these tests. Well , a lot of students , more of means would take a lot of preparatory exams and , you know , like SAT training classes and kind of get a head start on that. So a lot of universities began sort of looking at these tests and being like , well , is this the best way to , you know , bring students in and to allow like equal opportunity ? What this reporting seems to suggest , though , is that test scores can be a lot more reliable of college success than I think some of the schools thought. And this is sort of an interesting look into kind of new research , looking into the effect these tests have on college performance.

S1: I'll be curious to see if this is the pendulum swinging back to where things were , you know , several years ago , or if it's going to settle somewhere in the middle where SATs maybe don't have the weight that they used to , but they're given a little more credence maybe , than they have in the last year or two.

S6: Yeah , I think a lot of universities , they stopped relying on the tests for admissions , but some of them didn't say they were going to do it on an ongoing basis. But I think you're right. I mean , I was not a fan of the SATs myself. And it'll be interesting to see , you know , what California universities do going forward as we learn more about the impacts of this change.


S6: A lot of people will be watching those NFL playoffs. It's like a big time of year for sports fans. Well , the California Assembly is considering banning tackle football for kids under 12. And on Wednesday they had a meeting. It's like a committee hearing. But it did pass through that. So now it will go to the larger legislature. It's still a ways to go for this moving forward. But in the last several years we've learned a lot about the impact of tackle football , not just like full on concussions , but those repeated hits on your head do have an impact , and particularly on young people's brains. So this has been sort of something percolating. No state has passed this. I think a few states have tried to pass something like this. And it's also football has been trying to adjust to this reality. I think the rise of flag football has become much more popular. It's also like , you know , sport in a lot of California schools today , and that provides a little different option where kids can still play football but not full on tackle with the helmets and , you know , banging heads.

S1: We're going to see it coming up in the Olympics soon , too. It's going to be an official event. And so I think it's going to raise the profile of flag football , I think is will probably get a lot more people interested in it.

S6: We know so much more about what the impacts of that are. Yeah , this will be interesting to follow. Again , a long ways to go before it become law.

S1: You know , I had a football coach who begged my mom to let me play football when I was like 6 or 7 , and she wouldn't because she was afraid of the injuries that might happen. My mom was kind of ahead of the curve. Yeah. So I turned into a middling soccer player. So that was , uh , I missed out on my football stardom , I guess.

S6: One of our guests was Don Lee from the Los Angeles Times , and we talked to him about , you know , some of the population loss that California has seen in recent years. And he published a new piece , particularly about immigration in California and kind of just reframing it. We've been seeing a rise in migrants particularly , you know , a lot coming through the San Diego region. But this is an interesting story because it kind of points to , yes , California has lost some. 75,000 people in 2223 , but it would have been far more had it not been for immigration. And it's sort of an interesting dynamic to , you know , to change and societal change. I think a lot of countries are seeing population loss and are really potentially facing major challenges from , you know , lower birth rates. People aren't having kids at the same rate that they used to , but they don't have immigration. You know , it's like China and Japan. A lot of countries in Asia are struggling with that. So it's kind of like , you know , California has lost population , but it would be much more significant without this immigration influx. That's so important to kind of the heart of what California is.

S7: How do you.


S6: And they all I mean , I think we've talked about it with them before , but particularly election year , it's like , oh , nothing's going to happen is sort of what you hear. A lot of the other thing is I feel like it's it's so interesting because here we're we're very close to the border and we're close to Tijuana. We're close to Mexico. We have this relationship. So we're kind of close to what's happening with the migration. But at the same time , a lot of the decision making is in Washington , D.C. , and this is something that Gustavo talks a lot about. You know what I mean ? And they're just not making headway. So I think generally in the election year , it's kind of like , uh , shrug your shoulders and wait until the next administration and see if they can make progress on immigration.

S1: I want to wrap up with a story from one of our colleagues , Amita Sharma. She did a fantastic feature about the Union Tribune's Spanish language paper Curbing production. Tell me about what happened there.

S6: Yeah , this is a great piece. Amita did. And it was just kind of about this sort of quiet end to the Union Tribune and Espanol. And what she kind of highlights is also like we were just talking about it's an election year. And just like of all the times , I think they stopped publication December 30th of last year and just how important it is to have in an election year , it's , you know , it's an ongoing story. Amethi has done reporting on , you know , last year , Alden Global Capital , buying the UT and kind of projecting forward some of the things that might have might happen. And this is kind of an example of it losing that kind of local connection to local issues that are pretty needed in an election year.

S7: And yeah.

S1: The unceremonious end to the publication , as you had mentioned before , I believe it was , you know , a tweet from someone from the UT that essentially notified the public. Um , really just a sad end to what seemed to be such an essential piece of the news ecosystem here in the San Diego region. Yeah.

S6: Yeah. And I think one thing I don't know about you , but I definitely tend to have these conversations with other folks in the newsroom is like , where's news going ? Particularly local news and community news. You know , you compare it to decades in the past. It's a much different landscape.

S1: Well , Andrew Bracken , thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing what you've been reading this week.

S6: Thank you Scott.

S1: Thanks for joining us today. You can email us at roundtable at Kpbs. Org or leave us a message at (619) 452-0228. You can listen to our show anytime as a podcast. Kpbs roundtable airs on Kpbs FM at noon on Fridays and again Sundays at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. Technical producer is Rebecca Chacon. Brooke Ruth is Roundtable's senior producer. I'm Scott Rod. Thanks for listening.

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Parents taking photos of their children's first day of school at Adams Elementary School in Normal Heights, Aug. 30, 2021.
Carlos Castillo
Parents take photos of their children's first day of school at Adams Elementary School in Normal Heights on Aug. 30, 2021.

San Diego schools saw a major influx of pandemic aid meant to ease the impacts of school shutdowns and learning loss. But that funding is coming to an end. The San Diego Unified School District, the state's second-largest district, is facing a major budget deficit next school year. On this edition of Roundtable, we take a look at what’s at stake for San Diego students.

Plus, we hear about other stories affecting our region on the weekly roundup.


Kristen Taketa, education reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Carolyn Jones, K-12 reporter, CalMatters

Jakob McWhinney, education reporter, Voice of San Diego