Alioto-Pier plays the school card

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Former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier is barely registering in the mayoral polls and at this point has about zero chance of getting elected. So she's thrown out a desperation pitch, trying to get votes from people who think kids should all go to neighborhood schools.

A mailer that I got yesterday shows two sad looking children in front of a Muni bus with the line: "Our ride to school is longer than our parents' ride to work. Who will stand up and fight for us?"

There are shades of the old (sometimes racist) anti-busing stuff here -- why should kids have to ride buses - buses -- to go to a school that isn't right in the neighborhood? There's also very much a class issue -- the public schools in rich neighborhoods have resources (that is, rich parents) that schools in poor neighborhoods don't. So kids who grow up in (still segregated) poor neighborhoods won't get a chance to have the same quality education as kids who had the skill and drive that it took to be born to wealthy parents.

Sure, we could "make every school a great school," as the neighborhood schools crew likes to say -- but that would take money. Tax money. Lots more tax money.  And I don't hear Alioto-Pier talking about repealing Prop. 13.

Here's the reality: In most public schools, parents have to raise money to supplement what the district can offer. You want smaller classes, or language options? Fine -- come up with $50,000. Hold fundraisers, write grants, beg and plead -- and some school communities are very good at it. Clarendon routinely raises $200,000 or more a year. My daughter's school, McKinley, holds a car was and Dog Fest, and we got a corporate grant to rebuild the playground. Those things take (a) parents who have time and (b) parents with the skills to write grants and (c) parents who have money to contribute on their own.

You segregate school attendance by neighborhood and you'll get some schools that have a lot of a, b, and c -- and some that have almost none. Now, you could "tax" the good fundraisers -- force, say, the Clarendon and McKinley parents to give 25 percent of everything they raise to other schools that don't have the same parent resources. I'm not actually against that. But it's almost impossible to administer and unlikely to happen.

Or you could say that parents all over town have the right to choose a school anywhere, including one of the ones in the wealthier parts of town. Then the parents who have resources wind up helping out kids who come from poorer families, because the schools are more socio-economically diverse.

There's also the fact that San Francisco is a pretty small city; taking a bus from my neighborhood, Bernal Heights, to my son's middle school, Aptos -- in a different neighborhood in another part of town -- isn't that big a deal.

And there's the indisputable fact that most parents don't want to be limited to their neighborhood schools. They want choice. There are different types of programs for different kids -- and you can't have Mandarin, Spanish and Japanese immersion all offered at every single elementary school. 

And by the way: Most parents who want to send their kids to the nearby schools get their way already. The new assignment policy gives priorioty to neighborhood residents. And 80 percent of the parents who enter the lottery get one of their seven choices. (Enter the lottery and chose your neighborhood school and the odds are pretty good that you'll get it. But a lot of people don't do that -- they want a different program or opportunity somewhere else. San Francisco very rarely forces kids to take long bus rides; those kids mostly go to schools that their parents chose for them.) It's not a perfect system, but as a parent who's been through it (twice), I can tell you it's really not that bad.

Then there's the fact that the mayor doesn't actually get to decide any of this. The school assigment policy is set by the School Board. So even if Alioto-Pier got elected, there's no way she could implement the "neighborhood school plan" that she's talking about.

This is just outright pandering to a West Side crowd. And it's probably a waste of paper and ink -- Alioto-Pier's not going back to City Hall.

Comments

And she's way cuter too.

While only the SFBG would call a system where children can walk to their local school, er, segregation.

Posted by Wanda on Oct. 06, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

Easy way of dealing with the "class issue" of which Tim is so fond. If schools want to hold fundraisers and can - then more power to them. Demonizing involved parents is really the wrong way to go about building a class-free society.

Neighborhood schools build and maintain strong neighborhoods, and San Francisco is way out of step with other progressive cities, like Seattle and Portland, on this issue.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 06, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

Thanks Tim. I would also add that every member of the current school board -- left, right and center, opposes the simplistic and poorly written neighborhood schools initiative.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 06, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

Who are the right wingers on the school board?

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 07, 2011 @ 1:21 am

Please stop quoting the District's 80% number. It's accurate but misleading. That includes kids who are siblings of other kids already in the school (who get priority) as well as those in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The percentage of kids not in one of those groups who get one of their 10 choices is closer to 60%, and an even lower number get one of their first 3 choices.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 10, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

I mean seriously.

It is truly amazing how our political lexicon equates political power and action with fully abled locomotion.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 10, 2011 @ 7:02 pm

I think alioto pier would make a great mayor!
Har!

Posted by meatlock on Oct. 10, 2011 @ 7:55 pm
Posted by horta on Oct. 10, 2011 @ 8:06 pm