[Julie Roberts-Phung is a founding member of the San Francisco Families Union. This is a report back from the SFUSD Ad Hoc Student Assignment System Committee meeting November 29, 2016.]
At a moment when President-Elect Trump is talking about “making America great again” there’s a surprising way that San Francisco is closer to the 1960s than 2016. Our schools are as segregated now as they were in 1968, before the NAACP won a series of desegregation orders. The order was lifted in 2005, and in ten short years we’re back at civil rights era levels of segregation. Weird and a little shocking, for San Francisco, right?
Last night’s Ad Hoc Committee on Student Assignment meeting could be a part of undoing the systemic racism that leads to segregation in our schools. It started out on a frustrating path, but turned in a hopeful direction. What happens next will determine if San Francisco takes the position you would expect of a progressive city, or whether we maintain our little piece of the 1960s in our schools.
The presentation ran models of what diversity would look like under neighborhood schools.
Spoiler alert – neighborhood schools won’t create integrated schools, though our current “choice” system is even more segregating.
As Commissioner Walton pointed out, “choice is fundamentally inequitably distributed.”
The second half of the presentation focused on other approaches districts take to integrate their schools, including a look at Berkeley’s zone model.
A really positive moment came when staff noted that schools and districts which have achieved integration set specific goals and targets.
Will SFUSD do the same?
There was limited parent participation, maybe partly because as one parent testified, the meetings and materials and recordings have not been posted publicaly, despite several requests. However, all the parents who testified called on the district to use the SAS process to integrate schools, which seemed to have a powerful impact!
Commissioners were really responsive to feedback and asked staff to follow-up on getting information online, getting a promise that materials would be up on the website the next day. Commissioner Norton and others articulated that they are not making a proposal that SFUSD move to a neighborhood school assignment system. Commissioner Haney said current levels of segregation are completely unacceptable and that we have a moral imperative to reduce racial isolation. Commissioner Walton turned this sentiment into action by asking staff what it would take to run models of different strategies with a goal of integration, and asking if we could bring in outside partners to help.