A group of researchers at UCLA have completed a sobering study of the effect of the economic downturn on California schools and their students, based on extensive interviews with 87 principals across the state. The key findings in the study include:
–The recession has created acute new social needs for students attending a broad cross section of California public schools;
–California’s weak educational and fiscal infrastructure has limited the ability of schools to respond to these new needs, despite the extraordinary efforts of local educators;
–Conditions supporting teaching and learning have eroded;
–Many school programs and services previously viewed as essential (such as summer school) have been eliminated or cut back;
–Budget cuts have undermined efforts of schools to sustain improvement and reform;
–As school-by-school fundraising supplements inadequate budgets, opportunities for children in poor communities can fall further behind opportunities for children in wealthier communities. This has serious implications for attempts to close achievement gaps.
The study likens current conditions to what the state’s schools experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the characterization is more apt than they know: California schools have not experienced funding cuts of this magnitude since–wait for it–the Great Depression.
I was not on the Board when the sustainability coordinator came on board, so I’m not personally familiar with the circumstances. It’s true that his salary, while paid by the City’s Dept. of the Environment, is treated by the City as an in-kind expense (we are required under Prop. H to have a certain percentage of in-kind expenditures in the fund). But would I have identified a sustainability coordinator as the highest priority in-kind service? Probably not. In any event, you might want to tune into tomorrow night’s Board meeting, where Commissioners Kim and Mendoza’s sustainability resolution is up for second reading — I think then you’ll be able to get a better idea whether you think the coordinator has proposed useful activities or not.
I heard that Mayor Newsom hired a “sustainability coordinator” for SFUSD from Prop. H money, which could have been used directly to benefit kids, and imposed this on the school district — and that this person has not done one single useful thing. Rachel, can you comment on this hire?
Have we told you how grateful we are that you decided to run for school board and got the Emerge training you needed to win? It is great knowing you are there, advocating for our kids, and using your well-honed journalism skills to both find out what is *really* going on and to report back with refreshing clarity. Thank you, Rachel.