About Us

Contact Us

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

From the Outside Looking In


By Alexa Llewellyn




Schools Not Cells

Or, Teaching an old School Board new tricks

It takes a city to educate a child.

– Susan King, SF Green Party

According to Donna Warren, Greens’ candidate for lieutenant governor, the state of California uses one statistic to determine the need for more jail cells.

It looks at the number of third graders who can’t read – and from that stark statistic, figures out the number of cells those eight year olds will need to be housed in ten to fifteen years from now when they turn to a life of crime.

Does the state using this statistic to figure out how to increase spending on remedial reading? Does the state using this stark number to figure out how to reduce the class size of third through fifth grade classrooms throughout the country? (Currently, the state only mandates that K-2 classrooms have 20 students or less.) Does the state figure out how to spend money on the education gap between students who don’t know their alphabet at kindergarten and those who do – before it gets wider and wider and wider? Does the state figure out the savings between educating a child at $4,000 a year and housing a prisoner at $60,000 a year?

Does the state for even one minute consider that these children whom it is planning to lock away in fifteen years have the potential to cure diseases, create masterpieces, develop new ways of thinking and/or be productive citizens who contribute taxes to the state’s coffers and – get this, Governor Davis – are more likely to donate to a reelection campaign? (Let’s get their attention where it really is.)

In gross dollars, the state of California ranks #34 in the amount of money it spends per pupil. If you use the cost of living index to temper those dollars, the state of California ranks #48 in the amount of money it spends per pupil.

If money talks, then we can see where the “Education Governor” really puts his priorities.

There are two candidates running for School Board who understand that the time to reach students is now. Who understand that the children who are dropping out of school need to be reached now. That the time to remove the education gap between entering kindergarteners with universal pre-K programs is now. There are two candidates who understand, not only in terms of economics but also in terms of integrity and greater good, that the state of California should be spending more on students – not more on prisons. That the state of California should be investing in its children’s future – and not in future prison cells.

Those candidates are Sarah Lipson and Whitney Leigh.

Sarah is a long-time teacher at West Portal Elementary, a consistently high ranking school in the Sunset. She is currently on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter, Elsie. Sarah has also worked as a mentor for teenaged girls and has been an advocate for children all of her life. At debates, the audience loves her passion for the children and feels her empathy for parents and teachers. She speaks eloquently against high-stakes testing, about the lack of support that the current School Board has given to community schools (such as Phoenix High School), and for the need to give teachers a respectful salary that reflects their difficult task.

Whitney was a public defender for ten years for both Santa Clara and San Francisco counties. He spent most of his time defending youths. He saw that the detainees at the Youth Guidance Center were missing out on their education while they were locked up. Did you know that there isn’t a GED program at the Youth Guidance Center? Most of these detainees were not doing well in school before they got locked up. But how does the School Board expect them to do well when they get out (or even stay in school at all after they fall behind their classmates) – if they don’t have access to books, resources, teachers, and tutors?

More than any other candidate running for School Board (including the three incumbents), Whitney has worked one-on-one with the students who are being marginalized by the school district. The very ones who are hurt most by the cuts in funding, the lack of investment in safe schools, the lack of support to teachers in terms of resources, salary and training, and the lack of respect given to parents who have to negotiate a bureaucratic nightmare just to get their children enrolled in a school.

Vote for the future of San Francisco. Vote for the children rather than the status quo.

Vote for Sarah Lipson and Whitney Leigh on November 5.