In recent weeks, the San Francisco Unified School District held a series of community forums to ask parents what they think kids need in order to thrive in school. The meetings were held as part of a policymaking process leading up to next year's renewal of two important funds — the Children's Fund and the Public Education Enrichment Fund, which account for some $100 million in funding combined.
There were huge turnouts — a Chinatown forum, where Mayor Ed Lee was reportedly in attendance, attracted more than 180 participants, while a Nov. 14 meeting at Cesar Chavez Elementary in the Mission District drew a crowd of between 80 and 90.
The parents weren't exactly asking for more museum field trips for their kids. During breakout sessions where facilitators wrote group members' concerns on flip pads, a few recurring themes emerged. "Job security for parents," one read. "Affordable housing," another stated. "It's a shame to have to talk about lack of funds given wealth and corporations in SF," more parent feedback stated.
Maria Su, director of the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and their Families, thanked parents for coming and told them, "We know how hard it is and how challenging it is to survive in the city. But that doesn't mean we should give up."
The whole exercise provided a glimpse into just how tough it is for families to get by in a city where a hefty cost of living amounts to serious pressure. "The sacrifices they make is, their children will have access to resources you can't get anywhere else," said Mario Paz with the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, who works with a lot of Latino immigrant families.
A report digesting the findings of stakeholder focus groups boiled it down. "Many participants commented on ... the extraordinarily high cost of living in San Francisco," it noted, which "contributes to both financial and emotional strain on the part of our many working class and lower income residents."