Tonight’s regular meeting of the full Board was short, without much of note on the agenda–except:
- The annual report from our Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF) Community Advisory Committee. This committee is appointed by Board members and the Superintendent, and advises the Board on the funding priorities for the “third-third” of the fund (the PEEF is divided into three parts — early childhood, which is overseen by First Five; Sports, libraries arts and music, or SLAM; and the “third-third,” which can be spent on any education-related use). Last year, much of the third-third was put into reserve to be applied to the district’s budget shortfall, with about $700,000 spent on the implementation of the restorative justice program. In this year’s report, CAC members strongly recommended funding learning support professionals (essentially, counselors) in every elementary and middle school (many positions were cut last year). We heard powerful testimony from two high school students about the importance of these counselors in helping kids find someone to talk to, stay in school, and get their medical, social and emotional needs met. Once the video of tonight’s meeting is posted, it’s worth watching these two gentlemen tell their stories, because it is powerful testimony of the kind of support this funding is bringing to our students every day. CAC members also asked for greater transparency in budget decision-making — this past year decisions were made without much explanation or input from CAC members.
- A discussion about funding for private tutoring programs available to students at Title I schools. Also known as “SES Tutoring,” these funds are made available under NCLB to low-income students to be used for private tutoring services — families have the right to choose any provider from a list approved by each state’s Department of Education, and to receive the service either at home, at school, online, or at another site such as a public library. While no one disputes the fact that low-income students should be given additional resources to fully benefit from their education, it’s completely up to the local districts to make sure whether these private providers are in fact delivering the services they’ve promised, and whether those services are effective. SFUSD gets about $800,000 a year to contract out these services, and commissioners asked a number of questions about the monitoring we’re doing of these providers. It sounds like we are doing the best we can to monitor — and indeed we have tightened up our M.O.U.s with these organizations in recent years — but no one seems to think this is a particularly good use of Federal Title I funds.
- A resolution asking for the immediate release of Steve Li, a student as City College who has been detained by immigration authorities for almost two months. This is an almost incomprehensibly unfair case that has received lots of media coverage in recent weeks (advocacy information is here). The resolution passed unanimously.
- C5 International Charter School petition introduced. The Board will consider the application at the Budget and Curriculum committees in the coming weeks.
I’m a new member of the PEEF (Prop. H) CAC, and one thing I am calling for is sunshine on the items that the city provides, or claims to provide, to SFUSD as the “in-kind services” portion against its Prop. H obligation to the schools. I haven’t yet learned why and am trying to research this, but in the past, there WAS sunshine on this portion of the PEEF resources, allowing the public the opportunity to weigh in on the items the city claimed as Prop. H in-kind resources. Now it’s done entirely in the backrooms, and the culture seems to be that whatever the city claims is a done deal, no questions asked. Items that are universally believed to be city-funded are actually being counted against the Prop. H obligation, such as the salary and benefits of the sustainability coordinator who works with our schools. It is a concern that PEEF funds by used as the voters intended.