School Beat: Critical Events for Public Education Supporters

by Lisa Schiff on October 27, 2005

A near-flood of important events is coming upon us, including activities that will help us and those that simply require as much participation as we can muster given their importance.

Enrollment Events

First off is the Public School Enrollment Fair, this Saturday, October 29th from 9:00am – 3pm at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. This annual event is an excellent one for those starting to look for elementary, middle and high schools for their children. All the schools are represented at booths staffed by principals and often teachers and parents as well.

If your child is ready to for a new school, this is the place to begin your search. If you know others who are looking for schools (or should be), you can download a flyer about the event in English, Chinese or Spanish from Parents for Public Schools (, the group that originally started the fair, which the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has now adopted and turned into a regular SFUSD event.

The enrollment fair is a large, sometimes overwhelming event. For a smaller setting that is more focused on a particular school level, Parents for Public Schools is hosting a number of events at a variety of schools. This is an opportunity to find out more detailed information about the enrollment process and to see some schools that might not have been on your radar. For a list of events, check out the PPS website at

Proposition H Input

The plan for monies from Proposition H, the bond measure that was passed to support increased access to pre-school and to expand library, sports, music and arts programs in the schools, is still undergoing review and development. Upcoming committee meetings provide an opportunity for the public to provide input into how things should move forward. Such input is especially desired from those people helping to make decisions at school sites, as well as those just generally interested in these areas.

One of the most controversial aspects of Proposition H has been the use of the “third third” slice of the funds. The first two slices go towards preschool and sports, music, libraries and arts, respectively. The legislation indicates that the final third of the money can be used to support programs in a variety of ways, including employee compensation. This set of resources has been seen by some as an opportunity to provide teachers and staff with a small financial gesture of support, given that they have not received cost of living increases in their paychecks for quite some time.. That same possibility has been viewed by others as being in serious conflict with what voters felt they were agreeing to when they passed the measure.

In addition to this complex question, there are others, such as whether the money should be distributed evenly on a per student basis or whether it should try to bolster programs.

Several meetings have already occurred, but there are two more coming up and if you can’t attend these, you can always send your opinions and ideas to
Wednesday, November 2nd
Burton High School
400 Mansell Street
6pm to 7pm

Thursday, November 10th
Mission High School
3750 18th Street
6pm to 7pm

Those inspired to get involved can find more information, including the final text of the legislation, on the SFUSD website:

School Board Issues

In addition to the ongoing labor dispute between SEIU Local 790 and SFUSD, several other critical matters are being discussed that are of interest to community members. These include the search for a new superintendent; the development of a new student assignment plan (in part prompted by the potential change in status of the consent decree agreement to which the current “Diversity Index” was a response); and another round of school closures.

The Board of Education has started initial discussions regarding the superintendent search and developing criteria for examining criteria for closing or consolidating schools.

These tasks will have immediate and long-standing impacts on our communities. Announcements of committee meetings and meetings of the whole of the School Board at which these issues will be addressed can be found on the SFUSD webpage devoted to the School Board ( ).

School closures were scheduled to be discussed at this past Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, however, the meeting was canceled due to an action on the part of UESF and SEIU Local 790 members. The meeting has been rescheduled for tonight, Thursday, at 7:30 at 555 Franklin Street.

Special Election

Out of everything, the upcoming special election is hands-down the most critical event facing us. Propositions 74 and 76 promise serious blows to our public education system. Proposition 74 will punitively expand the probationary period of teachers from 2 to 5 years, and Proposition 76 will essentially kill the minimum funding guaranteed by Proposition 98. If we do not defeat these measures, public education in California will undergo a dramatically negative transformation.

While these propositions are not currently winning in the polls, such indicators have failed us before. The sense among those in the field is that voter turn-out will be essential to defeating these and the other destructive measures on the ballot. In addition to making sure we vote ourselves, this is a good time to chat with friends and neighbors and urge them to vote no on at least these two Propositions. As well, participating in time-honored Get Out The Vote drives is highly effective. Call the San Francisco office of the Alliance for a Better California ( to help out (415-503-5797).

Lisa Schiff is the parent of two children who attend McKinley Elementary School in the San Francisco Unified School District and is the president of the board of directors of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco (

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