School Beat: Proposition H Committee Recommendations

by Sally Payson Hays on February 24, 2005

(2nd of 2 Parts)
Today’s column offers a brief outline of the recommendations for the disbursement of Proposition H monies for year one SLAM and General Education ($5 million). For a more detailed version, please see the actual recommendations submitted to the Superintendent along with some specific reasoning behind the decisions. (http://portal.sfusd.edu/template/index.cfm?page=initiatives.prop_h)

It should also be said here that in the end it turned out that distribution of funds the first year (and later in the roll-out) were recommended to be allocated equally between the three areas: sports, then libraries, then arts and music. While it has been pointed out that Arts and Music covers more than one area of learning, and is frequently more expensive to implement, there currently exist more resources for them in SFUSD (i.e. the Elementary Education funds).

Regarding the rollout, after much discussion, it was decided that the percentages of spending in all areas (SLAM, and General Ed.) would remain roughly the same as the money available grew. Some areas we left specifically un-designated, because there is a need for flexibility both in terms of integrating master plans, as well as possible areas of need that cannot be determined ahead of time. Other areas (such as for learning support services), final goals when the roll-out is complete were first articulated, and then the first year recommended allocation determined by identifying the percentage of funding available and earmarking it for a specific goal.

For Sports, the committee recommended that, during the first and second years of funding only, (delete this second that) Prop H funds be used to hire a PE content specialist whose specific charge is to develop a Master Plan for Sports. Also during the first year, money was recommended to pay to replace athletic equipment for safety reasons at all SFUSD middle and high schools. An additional $700,000 was set aside for developing and implementing an intramural sports program at middle and high schools (an amount hat will remain constant throughout the rollout).

This proposal generated some debate and it was argued particularly by the athletics department that more funding should be available at least in the first year to athletics instead of intramural sports. In subsequent communication, many committee members stated the continued desire to create an intramural sports program at the very least by the time of the final rollout. Clearly this should be a topic of further discussion for the Prop H standing committee. Although the committee saw a great need for PE at the elementary level (which currently has no program with credentialed PE staff), it was clear that the money available in the first year would not pay for a full elementary program, and to even partially pay for it would mean that no other programs would receive funding.

Thus, with the caveat that by full-implementation, all students (including elementary) should have PE at least once a week during the school day with a credentialed PE instructor, the focus the first year was for the later grades. The committee tried to strike a balance regarding funding at the different levels, and in many other areas in year one, elementary schools received more support.

For Libraries, all funds during the first year were recommended to pay for additional credentialed librarians to work in elementary schools. Since there is a Libraries Master Plan, as funding increases, it was felt that a standing Prop H committee should use the expanding resources in subsequent years to fund libraries in the upper grades as recommended by the plan.
For Arts and Music, the area where the greatest need was apparent is at the middle school level. Thus, in year one, the lion’s share of the portion allocated goes to pay for 15 full-time arts teachers (including visual and performing arts) at the middle school level. As time goes on and funding increases, the same portion of the total funding available will go to support arts programs at other grade levels as well, with specific allocation to be determined by the standing committee as informed and guided by the Arts Master Plan.

During the first year it was also recommended that a base amount per student be distributed for art supplies ($5 each). As the money increases, this amount will also increase, and this may be linked to recommendations from the soon to be completed Master Plan, or will increase to $15 per student, dependent upon later committee recommendations.

For General Education, it was recommended by the committee that the funds primarily consist of cash rather than in-kind services. The reason for this is that many of the needs of the district are specific to school sites, and it was difficult to find areas of overlap with City resources that would prove useful. Also, since there does not exist a master plan for the areas funded with this third of the funding, the committee came up with general long-term recommendations (for when the full $40 million is in place) and then worked backwards to the first year of implementation.

Thus, the recommendations for when funding reaches its maximum were reflected in percentages of funding recommended for the first year and the rollout for this portion was, as a result relatively straight forward. The committee recommended that at full implementation Prop H should be used to pay for 1 nurse, 1 social worker, and 1 counselor per every 400 students– with the goal that every school have a team of professionals working together to improve the health and well-being of SFUSD students.

For the first year, specific allocation would be made to provide nurses and learning support professionals in elementary schools (40 FTE’s in year 1). Also, as a program with a proven track-record, the committee approved funding for the Peer Resources program starting in year one. In later years, in addition to expanding the number of nurses and learning support professionals at all grades, support was also recommended to provide additional para-professionals for grades 4 and 5, asthma prevention programs, field upkeep and custodians especially at the secondary level.

Like these programs, there were many worthy programs that were considered for first year funding that there was not enough money to cover. However, it was recommended that as a part of its duties, the standing Prop H committee annually decide an amount to be distributed to other programs as funding increases.

Subsequent to receiving the Prop H Committee recommendations for the school year 2005-06, Superintendent Ackerman approved them without revision and passed them on to the City Controller. On February 8th, the Prop H Committee presented to the School Board the draft of recommendations approved by the Superintendent. As of this week, the board also approved the year one recommendations with only a few significant changes. The first is to leave it up to school site councils to decide how to distribute funds allocated for athletics and/or intramural sports. The second is that the entire spending plan only be implemented if the City fully funds Prop H for 2005-2006 and if the third of Prop H allocated for General Education is in cash, rather than in-kind from the City.

They have also proposed to make the Proposition H Advisory Committee a standing committee (whether this means current members will still serve has yet to be determined). The next step is for these recommendations to go before the Controller and then to the Board of Supervisors. All in all, the process won’t be final until mid-May at the earliest.

For me, sitting on the Proposition H Committee was an incredibly educational experience. I came away with enormous respect for all the committee members who worked hard to earnestly craft a valuable and useful plan for our city’s children, as well as an appreciation for all of the service providers who have managed to support our kids with so little for so long. While we realized the limitations of what we could accomplish with the money, I think I can speak for others in saying what an honor it was to have a say in doing what we could. The entire committee came away with a greater understanding of the challenges facing our school community, as well as the strengths that we hope this money will foster.

Sally Payson Hays, Ph.D. is a public school parent, the President of the Monroe PTA, a member of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco, and a parent representative on the Proposition H Community Advisory Committee.

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