“But it is
an egg. It's in our nest," said Mr. Bird. "If an egg is in your nest, you
sit on it and keep it warm. It doesn't matter whose egg it is.”
Eastman, Flap Your Wings, 1969
district is looking to reduce its budget by $16 million to meet a
projected deficit. But the cuts appear to send mix signals on its
the San Francisco Unified School District's Budget and Business Services
Committee was given a list of recommended budget cuts prepared by the
superintendent's senior staff.
proposed set of cuts targeted the Special Education Department. The staff
explained that it was going to incorporate measures to "early identify"
students who are being mistakenly described as needing special education
services. Placing these students in more appropriate classes would not
only help them to reach their potential but would also reduce the amount
of funds that the school district needs to invest in special education.
Since special education services require additional expenditures, reducing
the number of students in special education classes would save the school
SFUSD's senior staff got to the Child Development Center's budget. Child
development programs are for four year olds who will enter kindergarten
next year. The senior staff recommended cutting all four of the district's
social workers who work with SFUSD's pre-schoolers.
take a step back. When is the best time to "early identify" behavior or
learning challenges in children before they become obstacles to learning
in the classroom? Education manuals agree that the time is pre-school.
Ergo, this is one of the reasons that we have pre-school programs — in
order to give children the tools that they will need to thrive in
kindergarten and elementary school.
pre-school is the best time to "early identify" behavior and learning
challenges, who are the people most likely to identify these problems and
figure out creative ways to tackle them? That's right — the social workers
in the pre-schools!!
But all four
social workers who currently work with SFUSD's pre-schoolers will be gone
next year. So much for early identification — and helping pre-schoolers
thrive when they enter into kindergarten.
Part of the
problem is a disjuncture between what the public wants and what the senior
staff and the administration of the school district want.
district's administration complains about "encroachment." Webster's Online
Dictionary defines encroachment as "entry to another's property without
right or permission."
school district defines encroachment as expenditures that are not fully
reimbursed by the federal and state government. The district complains
that special education, pre-school, nutrition, and transportation are
"encroachment" items in the school budget, because state and federal funds
do not cover all of the costs of these important services to our
In 2004, San
Franciscans voted overwhelmingly against the current federal and state
Republican administrations. The average San Francisco voter has repeatedly
made it very clear in the voting booth that he or she does not agree with
our current Republican president and our current Republican governor on
war initiatives, taxes, energy policies, and yes, education.
cutting “encroachments,” we should be proud that the district's policy is
to provide more funding for special education, pre-school, nutrition, and
transportation than the Republicans want to invest in our future leaders.
But if we
are to keep investing in special education, pre-school, nutrition and
transportation, where do we find $16 million? Here are some ideas, for
— Cut the
superintendent's housing allowance. Let's be honest. The superintendent is
the highest paid individual within San Francisco's government, with an
annual salary of $250,000. She does not need an additional $4,000 per
month for housing.
— SFUSD is
shutting down four schools and planning to lease at least two of them.
Have the administration move into the district’s empty space at 135 Van
Ness and into Golden Gate Academy (or SOTA) and lease the building at 555
Franklin. It's a good building in a good location — the district could get
a good deal of rent for it. And since there is already space where the
administrators can go, they might as well use it.
— Do we
really need three assistant superintendents for elementary education?
— Do we
really need a public outreach (aka public relations) department with a
budget of $400,000?
— Cut the
school district's travel budget. According to the superintendent's Form
700, all of her conferences and meetings throughout the country were on
the district's dime. Cut the superintendent's travel to one trip per year
and let her pick up the rest if she feels a need to get to a meeting.
district's budget officers appear to have forgotten the purpose of the
school district — to teach children. By cutting people who actually work
with students in the classroom and keeping people who spend most of their
time in the offices at 555 Franklin, they are sending a message to
parents, teachers, and children about their priorities.
And it isn't