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Fighting Over School Reopening Plans

 February 23, 2021 at 4:46 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, February 23rd. Lawmakers propose their own plans for re-opening schools... More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. California legislators have approved 600-dollar stimulus checks for low to moderate income residents. Governor Newsom has said he will sign the bill into law. Checks will go to about 5.7 million Californians who make 30,000 a year or less. Immigrants who file taxes and make 75,000 a year or less are also eligible for assistance. The Petco Park vaccination Superstation is set to reopen today after being closed since last week due to delayed shipments of vaccines. Those delays are blamed on the extreme cold in the middle of the country. UC San Diego Health officials say all appointments for second doses will automatically be rescheduled. If you had an appointment through MyUCSDchart, check the website for updates. The San Diego City Council is expected to tackle short-term rentals again at its meeting this morning. City council president Jennifer Campbell has proposed an ordinance that she says is a compromise between rental companies and local property owners. The compromise caps short-term rental units to 1 percent of the city’s housing stock, limiting it to about 54-hundred units in total. Currently the city auditor says there are some 16-thousand units available for short term rentals. Campbell says her proposal is meant to increase housing supply. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. Educators, state lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom are all at a standstill over plans to reopen California’s public schools for in-person learning. CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon reports. After negotiations with Gov. Newsom fell apart, legislative Democrats last week unveiled their own plan for reopening schools. Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting wants to put more pressure on districts. He says many schools didn’t push hard enough to get kids back into classrooms last fall. The state offered up five billion dollars for schools to spend on safe reopening, but Ting says districts only spent 11 percent of it. TING: They want us to give them money with no accountability, no guarantees of in-person learning this year. I am normally a huge proponent of local control but this year, local control has been a complete failure. Many school officials say portions of the bill would hinder reopening. Meanwhile, Newsom says the measure wouldn’t get kids back to classrooms fast enough. And that was Capradio’s Nicole Nixon. Meanwhile, The San Diego Unified School District continues working towards in-person learning. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has more. Franklin Elementary in City Heights is one of a number of schools across the district that have launched in-person Learning Labs, which are serving students with disabilities and others who have fallen behind during distance learning. Allison Paredes is a kindergarten teacher at Franklin who started with just 6 students for a few hours a day. But those few hours have made a significant difference. I’ve been able to have my most vulnerable students coming in so my students where english might not be their first language, so it helps with the language barriers. Or my students that have IEPs, individualized educational programs in place. So it’s been really great. Starting next week she’ll have up to 14 students for a full school day. But she won’t be on her own: the district is providing a classroom aide to make sure students are staying safe and on track. Districtwide about 20,000 students qualify for the program. Joe Hong KPBS News. More than a decade ago, the Marine Corps established the Wounded Warrior Battalions, for Marines with the worst mental and physical injuries. But those battalions aren't addressing one of those troops' most common issues: that Marines who are suicidal or suffer PTSD are still being discharged for misconduct. KPBS Military Reporter Steve Walsh has the story Staff Sgt. Romeo Pactores, Jr has multiple combat tours, starting in Iraq in 2004 and later Helmont province in Afghanistan, when his outpost was attacked from a nearby village. “Getting attacked, firefights, so when I got back I noticed I was a different person.” A few years later as an instructor, he remembers saving a Marine’s life. He says a young Marine threw a live grenade and it bounced back, landing in between them. The Marine froze, and Pectores dove on top of him. “Everything was slow motion. By the time I grabbed that Marine, I really thought I was going to lose my leg.” It’s also where he received a traumatic brain injury. “I started getting headaches, really dizzy:” Pactores’ 18 year career as a Marine came to an abrupt end, After a DUI in Okinawa. Hearing voices, he was hospitalized with suicidal thoughts, and flown back to the Naval Hospital in San Diego. He spoke from a Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton, as he was fighting to stop the Marine Corps from kicking him out of the service. “I feel they are going to put me on the street, with no help, after all the years of service.” Kristopher Goldsmith says it’s a common story. It happened to him. “Yeah, I was I was kicked out of the army in 2007 after surviving a suicide attempt. And this is the type of thing that is all too common. Some branches are worse than the others.” Goldsmith has gone on to form Higher Ground, where he advocates for changing the law so that fewer troops get discharged for misconduct in the first place - which affects their veterans benefits. He says it's still happening as often as it does, because it’s too easy for commanders to separate service members. “There's no accountability. Officers can discharge people and ruin their lives by stripping people who are suffering from PTSD, from access to health care. And that officer just gets to move on with their life while someone, you know, may end up suicidal may end up dead a few years later.” Goldsmith says he’d like to change the law so when commanders kick someone out of the service, it hurts them when they're up for promotion. At the Camp Pendleton Wounded Warrior Battalion where Pactores was assigned, the commander wouldn't address individual cases. Lt. Col. Brian Huysman, said most of the Marines who end up here are on their way out of the Corps, many voluntarily. “My focus is to ensure their medical treatment is coordinated. That’s really where that begins and ends. We’re aware of legal issues. Of course we are aware those things are going on. But really our focus is on the medial side.” Huysman is a former infantry officer without a medical background. Wounded Warrior battalions are Marine units - not medical units. They coordinate treatment and connect with the VA benefit system, for those Marines being discharged because of illness or injury. It was Pactores’ commander back in Okinawa who wanted him to be involuntarily discharged for misconduct, even though he’s undergoing treatment. At the 11th hour, Pactroses hired a private attorney, Jay Sullivan, to try to stop him from being discharged. “if someone doesn't save him, I believe he will die. And he cannot do this alone. He needs help. He needs a lot of help because the disorders that he has are permanent and he will be struggling for the rest of his life.” Pactroses says it’s more than a potential loss of benefits. It’s a sense of abandonment. 00;04;35;08 “I had my interview with the sgt. Major and the Lt. Col. yesterday. I couldn’t control my emotions, so I just started breaking down and, you know.”. A few days after the last interview, Staff Sgt. Pactroses texted that his involuntary discharge was final. He had to leave the Wounded Warrior Battalion at Camp Pendleton and head home to Texas, where he faces an uncertain future. For KPBS News I’m Steve Walsh This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Coming up....some of Governor Gavin Newsom’s biggest donors received no-bid contracts during the covid-era. We’ll hash through the finer details next, just after the break. A CapRadio investigation has found an overlap of companies that made substantial contributions to Gov. Gavin Newsom and received no-bid contracts from the state. Or, said contributors received influential appointments and other opportunities related to California’s pandemic response. The contributions range from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars and the contracts range from $2 million to over $1 billion — including the one awarded to Blue Shield for vaccine distribution made public earlier this week, worth up to $15 million. State government reporter Scott Rodd spoke about his investigation with CapRadio’s Ed Fletcher. That was CapRadio reporter Scott Rodd, talking about his latest investigation into Gov. Gavin Newsom, which you can read more on at Cap Radio Dot Org. And for our arts segment today…. La Jolla playhouse continues to release new digital wow or without walls shows online since live performances are still not allowed. KPBS Arts Reporter Beth Accomando says you can finish out black history month with an intergenerational poetry piece called spittin’ truth to power while light leaping for the people. Spittin’ Truth To Power While Light Leaping For the People uses images, music and spoken word in the West African tradition of griot in which traveling poets employed oral storytelling and song to pass down history from one generation to the next. This free three-part series from La Jolla Playhouse’s Digital WOW features DJ Shammy Dee and octogenarian poet Alyce Smith Cooper. … I’m howling in rage at the injustices... The Playhouse invites you to take the sermon challenge and create your own version of the “Sermon” video using dance, spoken word, or whatever you’d like to spit your own truth to power. Beth Accomando, KPBS News. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Gov. Newsom’s plans to reopen schools stalls again in the legislature, as lawmakers propose their own alternative plans. Meanwhile, wounded warrior battalions are discharging veterans for misconduct, even those who are suicidal or suffering from PTSD. Plus, some of Governor Newsom’s biggest campaign donors received no-bid contracts during the state’s pandemic response.