San Francisco Unified School District

Education Reformers Say Students Need a Voice in State Funding for Equity

Paayal Zaveri, San Francisco Public Press — Jul 8 2014 - 3:25pm

With California public schools set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding in the coming school year, education reform groups say Bay Area school districts have not done enough to bring students — not just parents and other district residents — into the decision-making process.

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.

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.

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.

Bucking a punitive trend, San Francisco lets students own up to misdeeds instead of getting kicked out of school

Jeremy Adam Smith, SF Public Press — Dec 11 2011 - 2:45am

How one big-city district cut suspensions and expulsions — and why they may rise again

These articles were produced through a reporting collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity.

Instead of being kicked out for fighting, stealing, talking back or other disruptive behavior, public school students in San Francisco are being asked to listen to each other, write letters of apology, work out solutions with the help of parents and educators or engage in community service. All these practices fall under the umbrella of “restorative justice” — asking wrongdoers to make amends before resorting to punishment. The program launched in 2009 when the Board of Education asked schools to find alternatives to suspension and expulsion. In the previous seven years, suspensions in San Francisco spiked by 152 percent, to a total of 4,341 — mostly African Americans, who despite being one-tenth of the district made up half of suspensions and more than half of expulsions. But the data — along with interviews with parents, students and educators — reveal that progress so far is halting and uneven. Critics say that’s because the transition from punitive to restorative justice is underfunded and haphazardly evaluated. The resulting picture is a school-by-school patchwork, at best an unfinished project to reform the traditional juvenile discipline paradigm.

Across San Francisco region, expulsion rates and attitudes toward punishment vary widely

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — Dec 11 2011 - 2:43am

While there are many aspects of culture and politics that unite the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of more than 7 million people, attitudes toward school discipline do not seem to be among them. What happens to students when they disrupt the classroom or commit crimes depends largely on where they live. That is because approaches to expulsion and suspension vary widely across school districts and across the region. While reforms such as restorative justice appear to coincide with decreases in expulsion rates across the region in the last year or two, school administrators at the county and local level have a wide range of views on the best ways to preserve order in schools after a student has misbehaved.

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