If it’s boring, it’s probably good policy

At my most paranoid moments, I sometimes suspect that I was made chair of the Rules, Policy and Legislation committee because it’s the committee that Board members find to be the most boring and useless. The committee’s jurisdiction is Board policies, which means the minutiae of how business gets done at the Board level, and reviewing and ratifying positions on legislation in Sacramento that affects district business.  But in the past year, I’ve realized that clean, accessible and sensible Board policies are essential to the smooth functioning of the district and the Board; and I believe it is tremendously important for San Francisco Unified to take reasonable positions on education-related legislative proposals. Hence the headline of this post.

I have also been happy to be in a position of directly influencing SFUSD’s position on special education-related legislation. I’ve been a longtime advocate for a new perspective on special education on the ground in school districts, and certainly in Sacramento. As a parent and special education advocate, I know my voice has been missing from the policy debates over how to fund and regulate special education in California, and as the chair of Rules in SFUSD I now have a little bit of influence into that larger debate.

At this month’s Rules, Policy and Legislation Committee meeting, the Board will be discussing ways to improve the information transmitted to the Board through K-resolutions, the group of resolutions in each Board agenda that authorizes payments to individuals and organizations for specific services rendered to the district and individual school sites. Board members have been complaining about the quality of information contained in K-resolution requests for years, and all of us believe its time to take another look at the process.

In addition, the Superintendent will be introducing a resolution containing proposed legislative principles for the district to pursue in its decisions to support or oppose specific legislation introduced in the state legislature; after discussion and recommendation by the committee on Tuesday evening, the principles will proceed to the full Board for ratification at the next full Board meeting on Oct. 13.

I know all of this sounds pretty dry, and I am never surprised when few or no members of the public appear at my committee meetings. I rarely, if ever, went to committee meetings before I was elected to the school board. I will just say in the spirit of encouraging civic participation that it has only been since I actually served on a school board, since I observed and absorbed the minutiae of governing, that I realized how tedious and time-consuming it is to support and practice true democracy. As an elected body, we do better when we are watched and questioned by members of the public, so I hope that folks who like to scrutinize our contracts on the agendas, and those who are interested in why the district takes specific legislative positions,will come on down and participate in our discussion.

The Rules, Policy and Legislation committee of the Board of Education will meet Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 6 p.m. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

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