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Sherri Papini admits to faking kidnapping | Rural teacher shortage | Sacramento shooting update

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The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Wednesday, April 13.

Sherri Papini signs plea deal admitting to faking her kidnapping

Sherri Papini, 39, of Redding was released from the Sacramento County jail last month after posting bail. She was being held on accusations of faking her own abduction and lying to a federal officer about it.

Now, the U.S. Department of Justice says she’s signed a plea deal admitting to faking the kidnapping.

Papini faces 34 counts of mail fraud and one count of making a false statement. She is expected to plead guilty to a couple of those charges when she next appears in court.

Papini was missing for three weeks before she was found on the side of a road near Woodland on Thanksgiving Day in 2016. She claimed she had been kidnapped while jogging.

Papini still faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

— CapRadio Staff

Rural schools struggle to hire and retain teachers

School districts across the state are struggling to hire teachers, and this is even more challenging in small and rural districts like those in the North State.

According to a January survey from the Learning Policy Institute, two-thirds of the districts surveyed in California reported an increased number of vacancies since the start of the pandemic and increased difficulty in filling those positions. Joe Hong, K-12 Education reporter for the nonprofit news outlet CalMatters, said rural districts struggle to hire teachers in part because they don't have a nearby university to feed them a labor force.

Hong said he spoke to the superintendent of Lassen Union High School District where the staff shortage is creating challenges for receiving grant funding.

"The process for applying for this money can be very costly in itself. You might have to dedicate a whole team of district employees," Hong said. "And at small districts like the ones in Lassen County, they just don't have the personnel to do that."

When schools do receive grant funding, Hong said it is usually as a one-time payment, which isn't always helpful for retaining teachers over the years.

— Alec Stutson, NSPR

Schools across the state continue to see declining enrollment

California public school enrollment is down again this year by 110,000 students. Last year, enrollment dropped by 161,000.

There are many reasons for this continued steady decline, including fewer births and more families leaving the state. The pandemic also led some families to homeschool their kids or send them to private schools.

Large urban districts, such as Los Angeles, account for close to a third of the drop, but counties from Humboldt to Kern also saw declines, with only Fresno holding steady. Latino kids saw the least decline, with just under a percentage point compared with white students whose enrollment fell by almost 5%.

— Julia McEvoy (KQED), The California Report

Sacramento police seek another suspect in downtown mass shooting

Sacramento police detectives have identified an additional suspect in connection with this month's mass shooting in downtown Sacramento.

Police say Mtula Payton, 27, is wanted on multiple felony warrants, including domestic violence and gun charges. Investigators believe there were five shooters involved and that Payton could be one of them.

Detectives say they've made multiple attempts to arrest him but his whereabouts are unknown.

Six people were killed and 12 others wounded in the shooting. Three people have been arrested in the aftermath, but no homicide charges have yet been brought.

— CapRadio Staff

Rise in gun purchases may lead to more violence, research suggests

Gun purchases have been on the rise nationally over the past couple of years. Garen Wintemute, director of the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center in Davis, said data suggests a spike in firearm violence — including suicide — is likely.

“The nation has engaged in an experiment — not deliberately, but this is what’s happening,” Wintemute said. “We have made firearms all of a sudden much more available than they ever have been. The research suggests that leads to an increase in firearm violence. We are about to find out on a nationwide level whether that’s true or not.”

Wintemute said California regulations have, thus far, kept the state’s firearm violence and firearm suicide rates lower than other states. But he said some progress is erased by the easy importation of guns from other states that are not legal here.

— CapRadio Staff

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • College letter scams ramp up in time for enrollment: “While spring should be an exciting time for high school seniors applying for colleges and eagerly awaiting acceptance letters, it’s also a prime time for scammers to take advantage of that excitement and anxiety.” — Chico Enterprise-Record

In case you missed it

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Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.