When she worked for Mayor Newsom, she was part of a project that brought private nonprofits into city recreation centers to provide services — at a time when unionized public employees of the Recreation and Parks Department were losing their jobs. It struck us as a clear privatization effort by the Newsom administration, and it raised a flag that's going to become increasingly important in the school district: there's a coming clash between people who think private nonprofits can provide more services to the schools and union leaders who fear that low-paid nonprofit workers will wind up doing jobs now performed by unionized district staff. And Brodkin's role in the Newsom administration — and her background in the nonprofit world — is certainly ground for some concern.
But Brodkin is also by far the most qualified person to run for San Francisco school board in years, maybe decades. She's a political legend in the city, the person who is most responsible for making issues of children and youth a centerpiece of the progressive agenda. In her years as director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, she tirelessly worked to make sure children weren't overlooked in the budget process and was one of the authors of the initiative that created the Children's Fund. She's run a nonprofit, run a city department, and is now working on education issues.
She's a feisty person who can be brusque and isn't always conciliatory — but those characteristics aren't always bad. Sup. Chris Daly used his anger and passion to push for social justice on the Board of Supervisors and, despite some drawbacks, he's been an effective public official.
And Brodkin is full of good ideas. She talks about framing what a 21st century education looks like, about creating community schools, about aligning after-school and summer programs with the academic curriculum. She wants the next school bond act to include a central kitchen, so local kids can get locally produced meals (the current lunch fare is shipped in frozen from out of state).
Brodkin needs to remember that there's a difference between being a bare-knuckles advocate and a member of a functioning school board. But given her skills, experience, and lifetime in progressive causes, we're willing to give her a chance.
We also struggled over endorsing Hydra Mendoza. She works for Mayor Newsom as an education advisor — and that's an out-front conflict of interest. She's a fan of Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, whose policies are regressive and dangerous.
On the other hand, she cares deeply about kids and public education. She's not a big supporter of charter schools ("I've yet to see a charter school that offers anything we can't do ourselves," she told us) and while she was on the wrong side of a lot of issues (like JROTC) early in her tenure, over the past two years she's been a good School Board member.
There are several other candidates worth mentioning. Bill Barnes, an aide to Michela Alioto-Pier, is a good guy, a decent progressive — but has no experience in or direct connection to the public schools. Natasha Hoehn is in the education nonprofit world and speaks with all the jargon of the educrat, but her proposals and her stands on issues are vague. Emily Murase is a strong parent advocate with some good ideas, but she struck us as a bit too conservative (particularly on JROTC and charter schools.) Jamie Wolfe teaches at a private school but lacks any real constituency or experience in local politics and the education community.
So given a weak field with limited alternatives, we're going with Maufas, Brodkin and Mendoza.
SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD
The San Francisco Community College District has been a mess for years, and it's only now starting to get back on track.