President of United Educators of San Francisco
As someone who has taught in the Mission District for 29 years, what recent changes have public schools in the area undergone as a result of gentrification?
In my school – Moscone Elementary (I call it ‘my’ because I was there for 27 years, a long time!) interestingly enough the student population has always been the working class immigrant population; however, what we saw in the last few years, was a gradual out-flux of parents who were leaving the schools because they were forced to double or triple up in crowded housing spaces in the Mission. When families could get resources together they would move to the East bay.
We have also seen an increase in the number of poor and homeless children coming to our schools. There were some kids who were coming to school without having used the restroom because their living spaces were so crowded!
Having watched ‘Schooled’ and having a protest history of activism, can you suggest ways in which parents teachers and students can control public education?
First of all, every parent is every child’s first teacher. Every school that has a sense of community has to be welcoming to the parents. Parents no matter their work schedules need to assert their right to be involved in their kid’s education.
Our teacher unions are working with parents and community groups in San Francisco but across the country there is a new coalition called ‘Alliance to Reclaim our Schools.’ It was formed in large part by teachers and parents in Chicago and in places like St Louis where charters were pushing and public schools were closing. It was formed on the notions that schools need be kept public, charters need to be kept out and resources need to be garnered for community schools. This alliance started a year ago and now they’ve started having National Days of Action under the same banner- ‘Fighting for the Schools our Children Deserve.’ There was a day of action last February with about 50 cities with student and parents who staged walk-ins. A walk-in is when the community gets together in front of their schools before the school day and has a little rally to say “This is why we love our schools and this is what we want for our children.” Everyone then goes together into the schools as opposed to walking out. There will be another day of action on October 6th and we hope to involve as many as 20 schools from San Francisco. The notion that these walk-ins are nationwide is important because policy makers in Washington and across the country will eventually pay attention if we make enough noise.
Here in California we also have to pass Prop 55!