How Fundraising and Cuts Increase Inequities in S.F. Schools: Jeremy Adam Smith on KALW's "Crosscurrents"

Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 28 2014 - 3:46pm

Jeremy Adam Smith spoke with host Hana Baba on KALW’s “Crosscurrents” about the disparity that parent fundraising creates between elementary schools in San Francisco, which he covered at length in a recent investigation for the San Francisco Public Press.

Poor Is the New Black: Segregation in San Francisco Today

Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 26 2014 - 6:33pm

“This is the San Francisco Americans pretend does not exist,” James Baldwin said on KQED more than half a century ago.

Baldwin, a world-renowned black writer and activist, was referring to the Fillmore district of San Francisco, where he and KQED documented the after-effects city bulldozing, literally, black neighborhoods in the name of “urban renewal,” and the unemployment and isolation of young blacks in Hunters Point.

“There is no moral distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham,” Baldwin said in the same year of the 16th street Baptist church bombing that killed four little girls in Birmingham, Ala.

Since then, the number of black residents of San Francisco has shrunk by nearly half. Black children are grossly over-represented in San Francisco’s foster care and juvenile justice systems, and unemployment among blacks in San Francisco still remains higher than in other groups.

Q&A: Bay Area Needs to Organize to Fight Sea-Level Rise, SPUR Researcher Says

Annie Sneed, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 24 2014 - 2:36pm

Laura Tam, who has done environmental sustainability research at the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association for six years, says climate change adaptation planning is one of her most important responsibilities. She helped shape the Bay Plan, a controversial policy that answered complaints about guidance recommending restrictions on bay-front development issued by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 2010. The following year, she published “Climate Change Hits Home,” listing the ways the Bay Area could be more prepared for changes in weather, freshwater supply and sea-level rise.The following is an edited transcript of our interview with her.

A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

S.F. School Officials Say State Money for Poorest Students Needed to Fill Budget Holes

Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 17 2014 - 2:29pm

An expected flood of new state money for San Francisco schools next fall was intended to offset educational inequities affecting students from low-income and immigrant families. But many school officials say other, more pressing needs will make it hard to target the extra dollars to schools or programs serving disadvantaged communities. They say most of the funds are needed to fill structural deficits, pay for existing districtwide programs and boost teacher pay across the board. School officials say it is not likely that the district will make drastic changes in programs for disadvantaged students the first-year rollout of California’s new Local Control Funding Formula.

Mission Accomplished? Currently Planned Housing Already Meets S.F. Mayor’s ‘Ambitious’ 6-Year Goal

Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 13 2014 - 11:21am

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s goal of adding 30,000 units to the housing market by 2020 may not be as “ambitious” or “aggressive” as he claims. Records show that the city could hit that goal just with existing development projects and those currently under review. An assessment by the mayor’s office shows that at least 27,000 housing units are already in the pipeline for construction. In combination with the planned refurbishing of 4,000 homes, projects now in the planning process would more than meet the mayor’s goal.

10 Solutions to Inequality in Elementary School Fundraising

Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:58pm

PTA fundraising at public elementary schools in San Francisco is wildly uneven, with only a small number of schools raising enough money in recent years to avoid the worst effects of state budget cuts. Based on Public Press research and conversations with experts in the field, here are some options for addressing uneven access to funding for San Francisco’s public elementary schools.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Albany School District Levels Parent Fundraising Playing Field

Emilie Raguso, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:58pm

Concerned about equity, 3 elementary school PTAs pool money for daytime enrichment

The tiny Albany Unified School District in the East Bay was, until 2011, like many others in the state: Schools with the best parent fundraising were able to reap all the benefits for their own kids. Superintendent Marla Stephenson said the disparities had been immediately apparent when she began working for the district in 2008. Three years later she led the switch to a single annual campaign for all three schools — one that could provide an example for San Francisco and other districts struggling with inequities made worse by parent fundraising.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Two PTA Presidents, Two Realities

Jeremy Adam Smith, Luke Thomas and Tearsa Joy Hammock, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:57pm

Photo essay: Ana Hernandez, Junipero Serra Elementary; and Barry Schmell, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy

Today, after five years of severe budget cuts in the San Francisco Unified School District, PTAs are being asked to pay for teachers, reading specialists, social workers and school psychologists, computers, basic school supplies, staff training and more. But not all PTAs can afford those things. Parents at just 10 elementary schools raise more than half the PTA money that all 71 elementary schools in the district take in. Many of the rest raise nothing, or almost nothing.

Ana Hernandez and Barry Schmell come from very different backgrounds, but they have at least one thing in common: They both lead their schools’ parent-teacher associations

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Activists Call for Revival of Harvey Milk’s Anti-Speculation Proposal

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 10 2014 - 5:39pm

Before his death, Supervisor Harvey Milk introduced an “anti-speculation” proposal that would have heavily taxed profits generated by quickly flipping properties in San Francisco. Now Brian Basinger, a housing activist and former president of the nostalgically named Harvey Milk Democratic Club, is pushing for the city to resurrect it. The proposal was one of seven considered at Saturday’s citywide Tenant Convention at the Tenderloin Community School auditorium. Participants were able to rank their preference for various proposals by ballot. The event was the culmination of a series of neighborhood tenant conventions that aimed to generate ideas to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis.

New Law Gives People With Criminal History a Chance for a Job and Housing

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 6 2014 - 7:28pm

A new local law will help people with a past criminal conviction secure housing and find employment in San Francisco. Known as “ban the box,” a newly approved plan by Supervisor Jane Kim will mean job applicants no longer have to disclose their criminal history until after they have participated in a live interview. It will also mean public and private agencies will be limited in how that information can be used to place people in below-market-rate housing.

Infographics: School Fundraising in S.F. by the Numbers

Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Tom Guffey and Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 6 2014 - 5:10pm

The San Francisco Unified School District aims to spend its funds equitably, not necessarily equally. That means giving more to schools with the highest needs, based on a complex formula. But in the past decade, parents at some schools have developed sophisticated fundraising operations to make up for years of tight districtwide budgets. The result: parents at a few schools are able to significantly supplement their children’s education, while most are not.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

How Budget Cuts and PTA Fundraising Undermined Equity in San Francisco Public Schools

Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 3 2014 - 5:09pm

PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE MONEY: Parent fundraising for elementary education in S.F. skyrocketed 800 percent in 10 years. The largesse saved some classroom programs, but widened the gap between rich and poor.

In an era of shrinking public investment in schools, parents have struggled to hold the line one school at a time. Since the pre-recession year 2007, elementary school PTAs in San Francisco collectively managed to more than quadruple their spending on schools. 

With this money, some schools have been able to pay teachers and staff, buy computers and school supplies, and underwrite class outings and enrichment activities. These expenses, previously covered by the taxpayers, are increasingly the responsibility of parents.

But school district finance data, PTA tax records and demographic profiles reveal an unintended byproduct of parents’ heroic efforts: The growing reliance on private dollars has widened inequities between the impoverished majority and the small number of schools where affluent parents cluster.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Debate in 2014: Use State Windfall for S.F. Schools to Aid Poorest Students, or Raise Teacher Pay?

Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 3 2014 - 5:08pm

New state dollars will begin flowing into the San Francisco Unified School District in the fall — and policymakers and activists have already begun arguing over how to spend them. Should the San Francisco Board of Education use the $22 million from a new funding scheme to increase teacher salaries districtwide? Should it hire more classroom aides? Or should it adjust its decade-old equitable funding policy that gives a leg up to schools with many children from poor families?

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Some S.F. Leaders Want Failing Streetlights Added to Seismic Safety Bond

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 29 2014 - 2:26pm

A $400 million bond to improve emergency-response services and other public safety infrastructure in San Francisco will be on the June ballot, but Supervisor Scott Wiener said the bond should be expanded to fix hundreds of streetlights that have fallen into disrepair. The bond would include $70 million to repair and retrofit fire stations, $30 million for improvements to police stations and $65 million toward the construction of a new seismically sound medical examiner facility. It would also include $70 million in upgrades to the city’s alternative water supply system used to fight fires and $165 million for a new police building for traffic and forensic services. The proposal is the second in a series of Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bonds that the city has proposed in order to cover the costs associated with retrofiting buildings and other infrastructure in preparation for a large earthquake.

Audio Interview: Board Game Teaches California’s Cap-and-Trade Climate Program

Chorel Centers and Adriel Taquechel, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 27 2014 - 12:56pm

Public Press reporter Chorel Centers sat down with editor Michael Stoll and illustrator Anna Vignet to discuss the creation of a board game that allows teaches players how California’s year-old cap-and-trade greenhouse gas pollution control program works. It's part of a trend of “gamification” of the news, using interactive formats to engage audiences and teach complex policy issues. Players work as greenhouse gas tycoons in a race to make money before the caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases take full effect. The game is laid out like a Monopoly board.

The project was published in the summer 2013 print edition, and the prototype board game was printed on the back page of the first section of the newspaper. It accompnanied an extensive investigation on California’s cap and trade program, which aims to cut back to 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 2020.

New Responses to City Housing Crisis Include Eviction Protections, Construction Incentives

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 15 2014 - 5:22pm

Supervisor Eric Mar on Tuesday floated a plan to protect tenants from eviction by property owners selling units within multifamily buildings under tenancy in common agreements. It is the latest in a series of attempts to reduce displacement and increase affordable housing opportunities. David Campos called on Mayor Ed Lee to join him in regulating the tenant “buyouts” that often allow landlords to evict without invoking the Ellis Act, and Scott Wiener introduced new legislation to encourage developers to build more affordable units.

Supervisors Respond to Increased Pedestrian Deaths With Questions About Ride Sharing

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 8 2014 - 7:32pm

With pedestrian deaths reaching a high point in San Francisco last year, elected leaders vowed Tuesday to address a problem that killed 20 people in 2013. The issue was given a new sense of urgency with the tragic death of another pedestrian just outside City Hall shortly after the supervisors’ weekly meeting concluded.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: What Ed Lee Has Promised

Adriel Taquechel, San Francisco Public Press — Jan 3 2014 - 1:06pm

In the two and a half years since he became mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee has predicted that his economic development efforts across the board would yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs for San Francisco. But it could be years or decades before we know whether many of these predictions pan out. Plus: Listen to reporter Adriel Taquechel’s audio update on the story.

Counting Costs for S.F. Workforce Development Programs

Adriel Taquechel and Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 20 2013 - 1:26pm

City programs offering workforce development services range from simple access to a job-listings database to a full-time, 18-week certification course that funnels graduates into union apprenticeships. They vary widely in cost, with some intensive programs costing tens of thousands of dollars for each participant placed in a job. Related: “HELP WANTED: City Hall Focuses on Hot Job Sectors, but Struggles to Track Workforce Training Budget,” the cover story in the fall print edition.

S.F. Board Watch: Supervisors Take Aim at Bottled Water

Josh Wolf, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 19 2013 - 10:24pm

Bottled water is the latest bottled beverage in the line of fire after Supervisor David Chiu proposed controlling its sale in San Francisco.The proposal comes soon after another proposal to tax soda, which will likely appear on the ballot next November. In other news: The city moves forward on protections against harassment by landlords, and the Board of Supervisors approve a land swap with the school district to create more below-market-rate housing.