Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2015 - 4:05pm
Two years into operation, the city’s seismic retrofit program is finding some success: Almost all of the targeted buildings’ owners have had them inspected. Only 18 scofflaws remain. But even for most of the compliant owners the hard part is yet to come: They will need to retrofit their “soft-story,” wood-frame buildings.
By 2005, when a federal judge lifted the most recent desegregation orders, San Francisco Unified School District had been trying for more than three decades to make its schools more racially and socioeconomically diverse, starting in 1971 with forced busing. San Francisco schools no longer exhibit the level of racial isolation they once did, but they are now resegregating, as are many others across the country. In 2013–2014, in more than one-quarter of city schools, 60 percent of the students were of one race. That is a far cry from 1966, when more than one-third of the schools had student populations with 80 percent or more belonging to a single racial group. (In 2014, just three schools were segregated to that degree.)
Each January, parents across San Francisco rank their preferences for public schools. By June, most get their children into their first choices, and almost three-quarters get one of their choices. A majority of families may be satisfied with the outcome, but the student assignment system is failing to meet its No. 1 goal, which the San Francisco Unified School District has struggled to achieve since the 1960s: classroom diversity. Since 2010, the year before the current policy went into effect, the number of San Francisco’s 115 public schools dominated by one race has climbed significantly.
Over five decades, San Francisco saw a demographic transformation in its public school system. In 1969, white and black students together were the majority, as in most of the rest of the United States. Since then, San Francisco public school enrollment has fallen by 39 percent, and almost all the missing faces are white or black. But the two groups have not disappeared in the same way.
If one looks at the San Francisco Unified School District as a whole, a clear pattern emerges: Schools with the highest level of achievement tend to have the lowest levels of family poverty. And schools that are identified as “racially isolated” are visibly clustered by both income and achievement. This plot shows the base Academic Performance Index for each school in the district for which data are available, as well as the percentage of students poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, which are used as a proxy for measuring poverty.
Schools across San Francisco show markedly different levels of racial and ethnic diversity. Increasingly over the last five years, schools are dominated by one racial group. With mathematical tools, it is possible to measure which schools are the most and least diverse. We chose to rank schools using a formula that economists use to tell whether an industry is dominated by monopoly ownership, the Herfindahl-Hirschman index, also known to ecologists as the Simpson diversity index. The idea is the same: Sum up the squares of all the fractions of your sample. The higher the number, the lower the diversity.
While San Francisco’s school assignment system has benefited families with the means to transport their children to schools with the most desirable programs, it creates dilemmas for more disadvantaged students who must travel long distances to school, often without the help of their parents. Many lower-income students must choose between long commutes on unreliable public transit and attending lower-performing schools closer to home. This may help explain why San Francisco public schools, like those in many cities nationwide, are increasingly resegregating as decades of court-ordered diversity measures recede into history.
Last winter, the San Francisco Public Press published a detailed, data-rich narrative showing how private funds have saved a few schools from the ravages of years of budget cuts, but ended up exacerbating educational inequality within the San Francisco Unified School District. As a researcher for the project, I assisted the team in scouring through mountains of public documents, including budgets, California Department of Education data reports, hundreds of parent-teacher association nonprofit tax returns and statistics from other state and local agencies.
As seen in our fall issue, this illustrated report tells the true story of two individuals as they struggle to find housing in San Francisco. Follow the different paths of David and Laura as they navigate the city’s supportive housing system.
Potrero Hill and Mission District residents complain about nearby homeless encampments, which have grown in sheltered areas as winter approaches. Police and city officials say the problem is too big to solve. One resident took matters into her own hands. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco in the fall 2014 print edition.
Angela Hart, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 10 2014 - 5:52pm
Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
San Francisco has struggled for more than 10 years to solve the problem of chronicl homelessness. While the current consensus endorses the principle of “housing first” — stabilizing people by getting them off the streets and into basic housing — there is little agreement about the optimal policies to pursue. We asked eight civic leaders for their ideas about how to improve the living situations of the thousands of people currently living on the streets and in shelters.
Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 10 2014 - 5:22pm
Football players have recently made the news for allegedly assaulting their romantic partners. But both inside and out of sports, this type of crime often goes unpunished because victims refuse to cooperate — a problem that San Francisco City Hall continues to grapple with.
Homeless people with schizophrenia face abnormally high hurdles to obtaining their Supplemental Security Income benefits. But one government program has sliced their wait times to mere days, rather than months. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
Evelyn Wang, San Francisco Public Press — Dec 8 2014 - 3:52pm
Studies show insecure housing can aggravate existing psychological problems, or even create new ones. Obtaining housing has been shown to improve mental health. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
For Kim Knoble, the city’s behavioral health court kept her out of jail and helped her recover from a debilitating disorder. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
Sanne Bergh, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 25 2014 - 10:45am
A state law approved by voters on Election Day will reduce tough sentences for some felonies. But it could also provide a financial windfall to local community courts, which divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi says that the city’s jails are giving inmates the psychiatric services they cannot get at the major medical centers. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
Even after residents get in to supportive housing, they face many obstacles to keeping it, and make up a disproportionately large number the tenants threatened with eviction. Part of a special report on homelessness and mental health in San Francisco, in the fall 2014 print edition. Stories rolling out online throughout the fall.
Noah Arroyo, San Francisco Public Press — Nov 19 2014 - 5:17pm
San Francisco’s vote to raise the minimum wage on Election Day reflects the widening recognition of deep income disparity. While the wage hike is a boon for those who toil under law-abiding bosses, thousands of San Francisco employers skirt existing minimum wage requirements, studies indicate.