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 missed this interview in USA Today earlier in the week with Diane Ravitch, NYU professor and former Assistant Secretary of Education under the first President Bush. Once considered a right-of-center advocate of school choice, vouchers and high-stakes testing, Ms. Ravitch has over the years had a change of heart. Her latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, is causing quite a buzz in education circles, because it is her strongest indictment yet of No Child Left Behind and other Bush-era policies she helped enact. To my mind, the most striking passage in a very interesting piece is this one, when Ms. Ravitch answers the question, “What should parents do to ensure their children are getting the best education?”:
There are two different questions. One is what should parents do, and the other is what should policymakers do. If policymakers simply say, “It’s every family for itself,” we’re going back to the early 19th century, before we had public education. Some people had private tutors, and some people sent their kids to religious schools, and some people got together and had little schools that they created. Then at a certain point, there was an awareness that the public had a responsibility to educate the children of the community. If we’re doing a bad job of that, we really should develop public policy that looks to improving the quality of those schools and not just close them down and hand them over to private entrepreneurs. Because then we’re creating a marketplace, and markets have failures. Markets do not succeed in providing equal opportunity. They succeed in creating winners and losers. We saw that in the [economic collapse] of the fall of 2008, and that could happen to our schools as well.
Read the entire interview >>>>
The lead story in this morning’s New York Times is a peek at the Obama Administration’s plans for NCLB (No Child Left Behind, now re-christened ESEA — the Elementary and Secondary Education Act). First passed with great bipartisan fanfare by the Bush Administration in 2000, NCLB sought to focus attention on achievement gaps between different groups, and require all schools across the country to close those gaps by 2014.
Well, here it is a decade later, and we’ve certainly focused on achievement gaps in the past decade, but the goal of bringing all children to proficiency still seems far off. In the meantime, the law has labeled thousands of schools as “in need of improvement,” and come under a great deal of fire for being all stick and no carrot (because it set penalties for failing to reach “adequate yearly progress” but offered few additional resources to help schools get there).
So it comes as a relief that, according to the Times report, the Administration seems willing to abandon the 2014 deadline, as well as other provisions:
Tonight’s meeting wasn’t all that long, as meetings go, but nevertheless I’m tired. So the recap will be stream of consciousness and not-necessarily-in-that-order. Probably the most newsworthy thing we did was pass, on first reading, a resolution supporting Supervisor David Campos’ proposal to restore due process to undocumented juveniles accused of a crime. Without going into the long history, after three well-publicized killings last summer, San Francisco changed its Sanctuary City policy and began reporting juveniles in City custody who were suspected of being undocumented directly to Federal immigration authorities. This often leads to youth being deported, even if they have not committed any crime–because once they are in the hands of immigration authorities, their immigration status trumps any other rights they may have.
We heard tearful testimony from mothers about losing their children to deportation, and comments from Mission High teacher (and Bilingual Community Council chair) Derrlyn Tom about being in the awful position of fearing to bring students to the attention of City agencies because of worries they would be deported and taken from their families.
The Board voted unanimously (with one recusal by Commissioner Mendoza, whose day job as a City employee would put her in conflict with the resolution) to pass the resolution and call on the City to restore due process rights to all students, regardless of their immigration status.