The Chronicle is in high dudgeon over the school board’s slow pace in reinstating JROTC. But the editorial says that our March 24 meeting adjourned without any action being taken on the controversial program. That’s essentially accurate, but not exactly true. The resolution to reinstate JROTC was introduced for first reading, and under school board rules, an item introduced for first reading receives minimal public comment (typically five minutes or less) and is referred to committee without the board taking any action.
This is what happened to the JROTC resolution co-sponsored by Commissioner Wynns and myself. The item was introduced, President Maufas allowed proponents and opponents each five minutes to offer comment on the item, then referred it to three committees: Personnel, Budget and Curriculum. I’m assuming the resolution will be considered at the next meeting of each committee and return to the full Board sometime in May.
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It also appears that Berkeley Unified (my alma mater) will need to find a way to keep funding their nationally-recognized school lunch program now that they have exhausted their three-year grant from the Chez Panisse foundation. What has been done in Berkeley deserves accolades, no question, since it challenges all school districts to find ways to improve the nutritive value and overall appeal of meals served to students. But this is not easy stuff, as anyone who listened to the discussion of the “Feeding Every Hungry Child” resolution last Tuesday evening understands. And it should be noted that Berkeley Unified has a couple of advantages, financially, which have allowed it to move faster on improving quality than many other districts:
- Berkeley charges more for lunches than San Francisco does;
- They get more funding — prior to passage of Prop 13, Berkeley voters passed a parcel tax to help pay for better school food; and as a result, post-Prop 13, their school district is entitled to receive from the state an additional revenue stream called “Meals for Needy Pupils”, which increases each year and is expected to be about $1.33 for each meal served to low income students in 2008-09;
- The Chez Panisse Foundation has provided significant subsidies — these have allowed Berkeley to spend more on developing local suppliers of fresh ingredients and organic produce and also to build a central kitchen where meals can be cooked from scratch;
- Berkeley’s Board of Education has agreed to kick in significant funds to subsidize their student nutrition program this year — the Chronicle reports $250,000 – $350,000 in additional monies, for a district of 9,000 students. In San Francisco, that amount would be proportionately much higher.
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Hat tip to Sweet Melissa for reporting that Fiona Ma has dropped the P.E. credit component of A.B. 223, the bill that would order us to reinstate JROTC. Instead, she’s become a co-author of A.B. 351, which expands the options school districts have for offering P.E. credit. (Or “dangerously waters down the P.E. standards,” depending on which of my emails you are reading).
Even though it is Board protocol not to extend public comment to more than five minutes on a particular issue, the Board can still suspend its rules to extend public comment to more than five minutes. The fact that chairwoman Maufus did not move up the agenda item despite dozens of students present, and a fellow elected official, shows extreme disrespect to those whom she is elected to serve.
I also question whether or not this resolution needs to be sent to three committees. It’s been through Budget and Curriculum in the past, and it certainly does not belong in Personnel (the Budget Committee can take care of that). Stalling this issue only makes the lives of our students and administrators harder. I urge the Board to just vote on it, and get this matter over with. All the commissioners already know how they are going to vote – more or less.
The current standards (the ones Ma is trying to make more adaptable) sound to me like P.E. for bureaucrats.