What's the most important developing news story in California that Californians aren't paying attention to?
The San Diego schools.
Insolvency of the San Diego Unified School District -- and a possible takeover by the state -- are now being talked about as real possibilities by none other than the district superintendent, Bill Kowba.
If state budget cuts are triggered in December, it seems likely that San Diego Unified could be left with a $100 million-plus budget deficit it can't close. That could lead to the appointment of a state administrator to run the schools.
Previous state takeovers, most notably in Oakland and Compton, have produced modest improvements in districts. But they are difficult, damaging events. The state loans districts money but requires the money be paid back; more cuts are often required to do that.
The public has little say in takeovers; the local school board is neutered as a state administrator takes over. (And guess what -- the man who served as state administrator in Oakland and Compton now works for San Diego County).
A state takeover of the San Diego schools likely would become a national story, for a number of reasons. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the U.S. Its school district is the second largest in the state.
People all over the world, with no interest in San Diego schools, will be watching the effect a takeover has on a municipal bond market.
It's also an open question whether the cash-strapped state has the resources and know-how to do a takeover right. And the pressure will be intense -- since state cuts, prompted by the broken budget system, will be the precipitating cause of the state takeover. (But certainly not the only cause, as the Voice of San Diego explains here).
Stay solvent, San Diego.
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