Monday, April 28, 2008
Guest blogger: Rachel Norton
When I was in high school, one of the teachers I most adored was Ms. Pensky (pictured), my 10th grade biology teacher. She was only a few years into her career, and she had a genuine passion for her subject. She took 20 of us on a weeklong field trip to the Mojave Desert, and taught us how to find the incredible natural beauty and biological diversity in that seemingly barren place. It was such an amazing experience that I went on the trip a second year, when I wasn't even in her class!
My experience is not unique. Studies show that a skilled teacher is the single biggest influencer of student engagement and achievement, and yet in San Francisco we have a real problem recruiting and retaining quality teachers. Consider these facts:
--San Francisco has the 2nd highest cost of living of all U.S. cities, and yet 13 other school districts in California alone pay teachers more than we do;
--One in five of our teachers leaves San Francisco in the first three years of teaching. There are two basic reasons for this ñ newer teachers need the most support and are often assigned to the most challenging schools, a combination which leads to early burnout; and teachers can earn more money and pay less to live in other areas.
On June 3, San Franciscans have an opportunity to address this problem and take a very concrete step towards improving our schools: Voting YES on Proposition A, the Quality Teacher and Education Act.
Proposition A institutes a $198 per parcel tax on property owners (business and residential alike). Many districts are resorting to parcel taxes because of chronically inadequate funding from the state of California. Such taxes give cities more control over their annual school budgets and open up an additional source of revenue. No one likes taxes, but Proposition A's $198 per year comes out to about $16 a month, and is quite modest compared to parcel taxes passed recently in nearby districts:
--Albany, 2005: $225 per parcel
--Lafayette, 2007: $313 per parcel
--Kentfield, 2008: $774 per parcel.
What do we get for the money?
--Competitive salary packages to recruit and retain the best teachers;
--Teachers in 25 schools designated "hard to staff" will receive extra stipends for extra work beyond their school day, in order to induce teachers to transfer to and stay at those more challenging schools;
--Teachers in high-need areas--math, science, special education--will receive stipends;
--Newer teachers and those who need to work on their skills will receive mentoring from experienced teachers;
--Computers and other technology will be updated or replaced.
No one likes additional taxes, but virtually every elected official and community leader in San Francisco agrees that Proposition A is essential. Vote YES on Proposition A June 3! Every Yes vote is essential because this measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass.
For more information, go to: www.voteyesonpropa.com. To learn how you can help pass Prop. A, go to the PPS-SF web site.
Guest blogger Rachel Norton is a parent of two children attending SFUSD schools and is a candidate for school board in November 2008.