Big raucous rally by UESF members at last night’s meeting. Our teachers, paras, nurses, counselors and security guards are worried — as many San Franciscans are–about the City’s growing income inequality and cost of living. The past five years of budget cuts were very tough on our school employees and last night they let us know that they need a raise.
The Board and the Superintendent agree — our employees need and deserve a raise. Negotiations are ongoing and I have no doubt that we will be able to come to an agreement that is fair to our employees and is within our means.
We also heard a report from the QTEA (Quality Teacher and Education Act, otherwise known as the Prop. A 2008 $198 parcel tax) oversight committee. This committee serves as the taxpayers’ representatives in overseeing expenditures of QTEA revenues ($35 million in fiscal 2013, according to the audit we received last night). The vast majority of those funds go each year to some form of teacher compensation: sub days for teachers and paras receiving professional development, retention bonuses and bonuses for teaching in hard to staff subjects and schools, tuition reimbursement and coaching for teachers seeking to improve their skills, and much more.
The oversight committee reported on these and other uses of the QTEA funds and expressed satisfaction that more funding has gone to professional development in the most recent budget. They continued to express concern about the Board’s decision in 2010 to use the last half year of funding under the tax (payable 20 years from now) in 2010 to defer teacher layoffs — while the oversight committee agrees that the use of the money was appropriate they are concerned that it will represent a “double-dip” over the long term.
Finally, the Board heard a report on the progress of the Class of 2014 towards meeting the a-g graduation requirements. Graduates in 2014 are the first to be expected to meet the UC entrance requirements, otherwise known as the a-g course sequence. Since the Board passed the more stringent graduation requirements in 2010, we have been monitoring the progress of these first graduating classes — 2014 and 2015 — towards meeting it.
While we have made a good amount of progress — especially considering the dismal predictions early on about whether our students would be able to meet the more rigorous standard–there are still a lot of students in the class of 2014 who are not on track to graduate. First, the good news: more than half of the class met the entry requirements for UC (meaning a C or better in a-g classes) this fall, and another third will likely meet those requirements by the end of this school year. Three-quarters of current 12th graders will meet the requirements to graduate.
The bad news is, of course, that half or more of some subgroups (African American students) are not on track to graduate. It was the right thing to do to increase the rigor of our graduation requirements, but the data for this current class shows the price we have paid for that decision: this class represents, as the Superintendent asserted last night, the most prepared class we have ever graduated from San Francisco Unified. And at the same time we must recognize that this class represents a group of students who were largely unprepared by our schools for the requirements we are now saying they must meet. I do have every confidence that we will get more of our students over the line by the end of the 2014 school year and in subsequent school years, but at the same time it is important to pause and absorb where we are now.