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Despite my ongoing struggle to overcome the remnants of the flu, I managed to get through an event last night with the United Educators of San Francisco. I have become very comfortable with a new format, in which I don’t give a speech but instead engage in conversation with the interlocutor. Last night, my partner was Susan Solomon, the union president. I learned from her about the difficulty that teachers have affording a place to live in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. A one-bedroom apartment typically costs about $3,500 a month, she said. Most teachers have long commutes, and many move to districts where living costs are affordable.
Teachers in San Francisco seem hopeful, as they enter contract negotiations, because the elected school board has their back. The board banned TFA because it did not want a continuing influx of inexperienced, unprepared teachers to instruct the highest-needs students. The district has few charters and doesn’t want more. What it wants is more funding from the state. Even though California is one of the richest states in the nation, its per-pupil spending is about at the national median, or somewhat below. Last year when I checked, I found that California’s per-pupil funding on par with South Carolina.
As you walk through this affluent, booming city, it’s hard to understand why its schools are underfunded. Its teacher salaries are “high” compared to poor states, but the cost of living is sky-high.
I especially enjoyed meeting school board member Alison Collins, who worked closely with Julian Vasquez Heilig and Roxana Marachi, both NPE board members, to support the NAACP call for a charter moratorium in 2016. She is a dynamo.
The weather in San Francisco was picture-perfect. Sunny, in the 60s. Perfect for everything. One morning we took the trip to Alcatraz, “the Rock.” The weather and the boat trip were delightful. I found the historic prison very depressing. Men trapped for years in squalid little cells. The pervasive sense of hopelessness, rage, and despair lingered in the air.