Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hot topic: Hardship appeals

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic:
Can we do a topic to find out if anyone filed a Family Hardship Appeal for K? If so, would they consider sharing their reasons? I went to SFUSD today and was told they received a high number of family hardship appeals this year. Seems location of schools is causing a stir. I was curious as to people's thoughts and reasons for their hardships.

71 comments:

  1. Not to be discouraging, but last year a single mom with cancer was denied a hardship appeal even though her child was assigned to a school across town with no aftercare.

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  2. That still amazes me, if you look at last year's waitpool data there were approved 27 appeals. Some of them might have been medical but still, to not approve a single parent with cancer!

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  3. I'm not absolutely positive, but I think some of those "hardship" appeals are teachers who have to file an appeal to get their kids assigned to the school where they teach if they don't get in via the lottery. From what I hear these appeals are just a formality and their kids always get a spot at the same school (if they want it).

    Obviously it would be more efficient to assign them in advance, let the world know that x spots have been taken by siblings and the children of teachers, but this is the SFUSD we're talking about.

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  4. I have heard of several families who had hardship appeals approved for completely bunk reasons. One family had an appeal approved because they only have one car. Honestly, I have no clue why they needed a hardship. Husband is architect, wife works part time in the nonprofit industry. Both have prestigious degrees and are professionals. It was bizarre.

    Other families received appeals for similarly crazy reasons. Meanwhile there was the story of the single-mom-with-cancer who was denied. Does the district even read these things? That's one reason I am glad I'm not a public school parent. There's no credibility.

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  5. true, but there's no credibility or accountability in the private school process either ;-) we're screwed all around, really

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  6. Teachers don't go through the hardship process, they are in a different category. And the reason they don't assign those seats before Round One is because teachers don't get priority for their kids until Round Two.

    I really very seriously doubt someone got a hardship appeal for having one car. Don't believe everything you hear. People may not tell you what they really put in their hardship appeals. (Perhaps they don't want you to know about an actual hardship they have, or about any dishonesty on the hardship application.)

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  7. I know this family actually very well, and I do know for a fact that they exaggerated their hardship. They did so because they "really believe in public schools" and "didn't feel comfortable going back to work" with the second child still a baby. It's one reason I'm not really friends with this family any more.

    It seems to me extremely likely that MANY families lie on their applications. I know other families who lied about Spanish at home -- claiming Spanish when all they had is a Spanish speaking nanny.

    Yes, I know of some actual hardships too. But get real -- do all those kids at Claire Lillienthal REALLY have such bad asthma that they need to be close to CPMC? A joke at our expense.

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  8. This is slightly off topic, but has anyone heard an update regarding the release of Round 2 Wait Pool data? I seem to recall that it was supposed to be posted on the SFUSD Website today.

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  9. I think Monday, April 6th. Then you have until the 10th to change your waitpool if you want (which you might want to do if you see there are 100 other families in the same pool for a handful of spots).

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  10. Thanks, 12:02! :)

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. 10:36 - this one?

    http://thesfkfiles.blogspot.com/2009/03/round-i-letters.html?showComment=1237139040000#c5937910436490745539

    hm - got assigned john muir and filed a hardship appeal, wound up at grattan. interesting.

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  13. I've been hearing about so many people who lie on their public school applications. It is completely unfair and uncalled for. I can't believe that it's so easy to get away with this. I think that people who lie should be investigated and their spots taken away and given to the honest families who didn't get what they wanted. People lie about everything - their income, parents' education level, the fact that the child attended preschool, and languages spoken in the house. I'm thinking about calling "7 on your side" or something like that who might be able to help investigating this. What do you think?

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  14. I filed a hardship appeal because I need to start work at 9am in San Jose. The school assigned to me is 30 minutes away (opposite direction of my commute) with a starting time of 8:40! So I really need a school with a 7:50 starting time. I don't know what my chances are but I thought what the heck, I'll give it a try.

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  15. I'm in TOTAL support of bringing this "lying on the application" issue to the public to increase awareness. The information on the application should be supported by original documents, including tax returns, food stamp / housing assistance paperworks. Also, the district should do unannounced home visits to verify the accuracy of the reported addresses (don't know how they'd fund that but..) It's so unfair for those of us who are honest and get nothing good while those who lied took everything.

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  16. The joke in our 'hood is that a neighbor got Clarendon because she put Tagalog as the home language. Her new boyfriend is Filipino but only speaks Tagalog to his own grandparents.

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  17. I believe that parents that lie about residency, income, and education should lose the school slot. It is not fair to the families that have played by the rules.

    I think Berkeley's school district has a team of investigators that do unannounced early morning visits to homes where there is some suspicion of fraud related to the enrollment process. SFUSD should implement the same. I know families that have lied and have gotten into AFY and West Portal - the do not live in SF. WE are subsidizing their children's education.

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  18. Maybe a little guerilla campaign that reads: "You live elsewhere like Burlingame or San Bruno, but you say you live in our city of San Francisco. Well, don't do it! Don't be like Ed Jew! You'll end up in prison!"

    OK, so that bit about extorting the Quickly franchise led to his demise, but highlight the lack of residency issue!

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  19. Found this from the UK:
    6 pieces of ID to prove residency.

    Each applicant for a place at Clare House must now provide a copy of the child's birth certificate plus their passport, a recent council tax bill, a Child Benefit or Working Families Tax Credit book, a utility bill and, if they have moved home in the past 12 months, proof of the closure of the gas or electricity account at their former address.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-414312/Tough-ID-checks-brought-trap-parents-lie-win-school-places.html

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  20. And from our own SF Chronicle 2 years ago:

    S.F. school district cracks down on residence cheaters
    Jill Tucker, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 6, 2007

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/06/BAG7TOQVT.DTL&hw=investigates+parents+residency+school+district&sn=013&sc=548

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  21. 11:15 - thanks for the link. I'm glad that somebody was doing something. But more needs to be done.

    People lie not just about where they live. For example, children with mothers who didn't finish high school get priority. I've heard there is a joke going around that half of the mothers at Clarendon didn't even finish high school. It takes about 5 minutes to Google somebody and find out where they went to college. It's pretty obvious, that if they went to college, then they finished high school. You don't really need to hire a private investigator to do that.

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  22. Mother's education level used to be a factor but has not been a factor for a few years.

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  23. Then what are the factors? Why do they ask on the application parents' education levels and where does the child go to preschool? For statistical purposes?

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  24. the British requirement for closure of former utility bill is a good one.... for people who are cheating, if they are really still living at a former address, they cannot close it out.

    if the District just simplified the lottery and really just only put SES as the factor -- you must show proof that you are in Sec 8 housing, or tax return, etc.

    Language, etc, that should not be included in lottery. If you are ELL, you get to check it off so that when you are assigned, the District make sure there are enough resources at the school you want.

    the bilingual programs (CB/SB/TB) are also in the lottery pool also so a ELL family with that background could pick those
    choices also.

    the other information could all be for statistical purposes but it should be given when the child is enrolled for instance. when it is on same app, one can't help but feel that it is somehow being considered.

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  25. Wow, I hadn't really thought that parents of small children would LIE to try and get a better spot. What are these parents teaching their children? I was honest and am 0/7, filed a family hardship and 2nd application. Hearing this sends me over the edge. If I end up staying in a school that doesn't work for my family, I will be fighting with SFUSD to follow up on kids home stats - address, location, etc.

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  26. " think some of those "hardship" appeals are teachers who have to file an appeal to get their kids assigned to the school where they teach if they don't get in via the lottery."

    Err, but those teachers get priority anyway (I think even before sibs) under the current system.

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  27. It's not too late for SFUSD to act on this lying issue (assuming that they actually care and want to do something about it)!!!

    Inform parents before school starts that they need to show documents on the verifiable information on the application, ie letters indicating section 8/public housing letters/cal works, tax return to show qualification for free/reduced lunch. It's not that hard. For confidentiality reasons, SFUSD should not make copies of these documents. Simplying making people show these documents would already deter many people from attempting to lie.

    The current system is so easy to cheat that cheaters are thinking that it'd be stupid of them not to try.

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  28. "think some of those "hardship" appeals are teachers who have to file an appeal to get their kids assigned to the school where they teach if they don't get in via the lottery."

    Err, but those teachers get priority anyway (I think even before sibs) under the current system."


    Teachers do get priority but also have to file an appeal as part of the process. I have a friend who is a teacher and explained this to me last year. I don't think those numbers are given under the hardship category. But they are moving spots AFTER the first round.

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  29. I've known two families that got caught lying about residence in Berkeley (they really lived in Oakland) and Marin (they lived outside neighborhood of school where attending) because the schools check. House visits and language testing would be time-consuming and costly, though random checks like the way they do the fare inspections on Muni could deter some cheating. Backup docs like doctor certifications and employer letters should be required for hardship appeals since that does not take much more time to scan that the birth certificates and utility bills they already require.

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  30. I believe medical and hardship appeals do require documentation.

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  31. I heard that the district approved hardship appeals with weird reasons last year. I know someone who was accepted to West Portal with such an appeal but they don't want to tell the reason. The mother just told me that they are not reading it.
    I also believe that we need to raise public awareness regarding this issue. We are dealing with education.. I think we first need to educate the families so they should know that cheating or lies are not approved!

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  32. "The mother just told me that they are not reading it."

    What do you mean? That the district isn't really reading appeals? That the mother wasn't going to read her appeal letter to you?

    I'd just like to caution that it's easy to get a distorted view that rampant abuse is going on here based on a few anecdotes, without knowing all the underlying facts. Of course I'm not saying that lying/cheating/etc. is OK -- just that it may not be as prevalent as we imagine after reading a few outrageous stories on a blog.

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  33. Is it district staff who make the decisions about hardship appeals? I thought it was some kind of committee made up of neighborhood people.

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  34. "The mother just told me that they are not reading it."

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  35. Yes, 7:07 that is interesting. I know her too, and happen to know that her home is closer to JM than Grattan, so I really don't understand how they got the hardship appeal through on the basis of having only one car. If that is what their appeal was based on, but it's hard to imagine what reason they gave to be changed to a school farther from their home than the one to which they were assigned. Dad's work? Needing to be near the hospital? Beats me.

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  36. To 2:06 It was already the early days and the child started the year at a private. Then they had the appeal and was accepted. The mother sounded like that the district or whatever is not paying much attention what kind of appeal it is. They are accepting all, she said.. I don't have the details.. She was not willing to share it with me.

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  37. 11:15. You don't have to finish high school to go to college.

    People take GEDs, state exams, and go to community college instead of getting a high-school diploma. As such, not completing hs isn't always a clear sign of a person's education level.

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  38. "She was not willing to share it with me."

    I don't blame her, given the fact that if she had, the details would be all over this blog by now...

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  39. 9:42pm - are you talking to 11:15 or 11:35? Yes, there are different ways to get a high school equivalent. Are you trying to say that it's ok to mark "did not finish high school" on the application if you got a GEd equivalent somewhere else? What the 11:35 poster is trying to say is that it is easy to find out whether a person went to college or not. If it is known that a person went to college, then that person not only has completed a high school equivalent, but also college. In any case, the question about parents' education should not be on the application, unless it is used for statistics only. And, if so, it should be clearly indicated and marked that it is not required to fill it in. If it is required, then SFUSD must be using it somehow in their assignment system.

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  40. 11:13, parental education level is not being used. It used to be used, but not now. They are collecting for statistical purposes now only. Agreed that they should mark this distinction more clearly.

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  41. Interesting article in the NYT this morning on parents leaving private school for public - and how quite a few are willing to be dishonest to get into the "right" school zone, while even more are moving:

    http://tinyurl.com/clayw5

    You've got to figure that San Francisco would see much the same if our assignment system was similar.

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  42. Waitpool data is posted !!!

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  43. 11:13... no, I don't think it's right to obscure one's education or income status.

    Nonetheless, you do NOT need a high-school equivalency of any sort to go to college if you leave high school and go to community college first.

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  44. Looking at the waitpool data and it seems somewhat dubious and possibly rife with data entry errors. We waitpooled for a school in which we should have been categorized under the Round 1 Choice column and it shows as 0. Also I can't believe that there is no waitpool for Clarendon's 1st grade class.

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  45. It sounds like the person who is said to have gotten a hardship appeal approved had enrolled her child in a private school at the beginning of the year. In that case, what she characterized as an "appeal" was probably actually an interdistrict transfer. As has been mentioned many times, students new to the district are placed after the waitpools are dissolved on a space-available basis. Maybe she lucked out and got a coveted spot just because it happened to be available.

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  46. 10:25am I totally agree with you. SFUSD is full of mistakes. Those numbers are a poor indicator of what will happen in round II and further in the summer.

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  47. None of the people I mentioned were in that situation, so clearly the ones I mentioned are different from the ones who thought they knew them.

    Mine got into public school before the school year and never went private. They got in by lying on their applications, I'm really sorry.

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  48. Just reviewed the wait pool data and noticed that either we got our wait pool request or we weren't accurately recorded. I'm guessing there is a data issue as Clarendon is our wait pool school.

    Is the enrollment office closed next week?

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  49. Like 10:25, I also know that the family that I posted about is not suffering from any condition or situation that could be construed as a medical or "unique" hardship. I have no idea how they got their appeal approved, but I know they were never enrolled in a private school, and it was not a transfer. (and I'm not sure we aren't talking about the same family, all these pronouns and anonymous postings become difficult to follow.)

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  50. 9:12: are you in the 1st grade lottery?

    I have to admit: Clarendon is our true first choice but we put another school down for our waitpool because we thought we'd have a better shot. We were thinking of switching to Clarendon if the waitpool was truly non-existent, but now it's hard to know!

    The EPC is open next week, but the SFUSD servers are down, so who knows if they'll have access to the data!

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  51. 9:12 here. We're going for 2nd Grade. I sent an email to the person at EPC who confirmed that our request was received. The data looks different from what I would expect unless they are increasing class size in grades 1-3.

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  52. To 5:25 PM
    I am almost sure that the child was at a private in the beginning of the year. I was surprised that they could get into a school with such a long waitlist and asked how they could manage. She said it was an appeal. I had no idea about interdistrict transfer. I checked the waitlist data and saw one of the appeals was accepted. Is it possible that they did not tell to the district that they already enrolled at a private school? I am just curious, can you do that?

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  53. 9:12:

    Just to be sure I get it: you're in the 2nd grade lottery and you put down Clarendon GE... you're not on the waitpool list (there is none) and so you think that they must have increased class sizes???

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  54. 9:12 here. Yes, we submitted our Round 2 waiting pool school (Clarendon GE) and are entering 2nd Grade for the next school year. The draft waiting pool list was posted on the SFUSD website on Saturday, 4/4.

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  55. waitpool info... sort of interesting, not as bad as I'd have thought.

    lets just say NO school had 100 in the waitpool.

    AFU CN: 74
    Lily GE: 70
    Lawton: 55
    ClareJB: 47
    Sherm: 44
    Miraloma: 41
    Rooftop: 39
    Grattan: 37
    ClareGE: 35
    Alva SN: 34
    WPortCN: 30


    my school of interst: sunnyside has ONLY 5. Maybe there is hope we can get in there.

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  56. oh and a comment on hardships (sorry I know that's what this thread is about!)

    having _only_ one car, not a hardship.

    having to be in San Jose at 9 and need an early start school? also not a hardship, most schools offer before school as well as after school care. Yes, some don't but most do.

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  57. Re the waitlist - are we going to find out how many spaces are available?

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  58. Um, SFMOM, weren't you the one who didn't get your child's Round I form in on time? And now you're passing judgments on another person's current hardship appeal? I, for one, hope that the person w/ the SJ commute gets his/her appeal approved. I know my child would not be at his best if he had to spend up to 2 hours in care BEFORE school even started, and what a pain that would be to drive in the opposite direction to get your child to school before turning around and heading all the way down to SJ. I can see passing judgment on lying on an appeal application, but unless you're on the committee that looks into these things, I really have to ask who you are to judge.

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  59. Aren't there TWO "sfmoms" on this list?

    Unfortunately there are many people with long commutes, myself included, and glad to have a job too, but agreed the committee will decide. Seems in the past they have been tight with approvals so I judgments aside I wouldn't count on this avenue.

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  60. 2:10pm - unfortunately, in past years EPC was very reluctant to disclose how many open spaces there actually were at a school at any given time. I managed to get that type of info from counselors last year in the early part of the waiting game, but then that level of disclosure was shut down.

    Hope they are more transparent this year. Though I doubt it.

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  61. yeah, i figured I was opneing my self up for a slam by commenting on how having a long commute shouldn't be a hardship, didn't mean to imply I was passing judgement I meant to imply I don't understand how or why they would approve it. I'm not passing judgement, just curious do you think spending an hour in daycare in the morning and three after school vs none in the morning and four after school is really going to make a difference, the child will still be at school from 7:30 to 5 o'clock. Other than that this is a question of conveinence not hardship. In my opinion, I'm sure the EPC has another take on it depending on who you talk to at the EPC.


    anyway is the point of this thread to point out that everyone should submit a hardship appeal? Could it hurt? (NO!) and you just might get it since there doesn't seem to be any reason or rhyme to what's approved?

    Are we that don't submit a hardship appeals doing our children a disservice? Yeah, my commute would be a lot easier if my son went to my neighborhood school. I could then spend more time at the school or with my child. Now do we get into who has the farthest commute and their appeal should be approved first?

    and yup, by missing the deadline for the paperwork, I can't even submit a hardship appeal.

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  62. hey sfmom, good luck with sunnyside. i thought of you when i saw the numbers (because even if 74 in a waitpool is not 100, it's still long, long odds by my lights).

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  63. Waitpool data is not encouraging. For our 8 Waitpool/Round 2 picks, we were careful to only choose schools that had NO waitlist last year (except for 1). This year, 6 of those 8 picks have a waitlist already.

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  64. Sorry to sound judgmental about your comments about the SJ commute hardship, SFMOM, and good luck w/ Sunnyside! The whole commute thing just really struck a chord with me, b/c my child is best first thing in the morning, AND he has trouble with transitions. We ruled out all 9:30 start time schools (including Clarendon) for that reason, b/c I really think he'd be a basket case if he had to be in supervised care for 2 hours and then start school. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make the call on all these appeals!!

    I considered filing one, figuring, like you said, that it couldn't hurt. But I decided against it, b/c even though I could make the argument with a straight face, I really didn't think it fit in the SFUSD's definition of "hardship."

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  65. Sorry to sound judgmental about your comments about the SJ commute hardship, SFMOM, and good luck w/ Sunnyside! The whole commute thing just really struck a chord with me, b/c my child is best first thing in the morning, AND he has trouble with transitions. We ruled out all 9:30 start time schools (including Clarendon) for that reason, b/c I really think he'd be a basket case if he had to be in supervised care for 2 hours and then start school. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make the call on all these appeals!!

    I considered filing one, figuring, like you said, that it couldn't hurt. But I decided against it, b/c even though I could make the argument with a straight face, I really didn't think it fit in the SFUSD's definition of "hardship."

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  66. 8:12, one thought--I understand if start time is a huge priority for you, as it was (going the other way though) for some of my friends, but it *may* be possible to adjust.....

    Eight years ago we started on our school journey in an early-start school, even though we (um, I) are not morning people. My oldest is happily graduated to a sane-start middle school, but my youngest is still at the early-start school (and then goes to after school for hours, just like sfmom said, the joys of single working mom-hood). Thing is, my youngest turned out to be pretty darn good in the morning. Once up, really up, dressed, out the door, ready to go. And the rest of us suffered, but ultimately we have done okay (and we're almost done). Worst time is when daylight savings returns in the spring, but otherwise, we adjusted. It was worth it for us, because we got the school that was otherwise right (now pretty popular, not as much back then).

    If there were only one school in town, we'd all suck it up, right? That's pretty much how I approached it, not looking back at the other options.

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  67. re: start time.

    even though i'm a morning person, i couldn't wrap my brain around getting the kids ready and at school by 7:50, so before we had it, i thought the 9:30 start time sounded appealing.

    how wrong i was.

    assuming you can even start work that late -- i can, but i'm not sure that's a blessing -- you know what three aimless waking hours can do to a house? a family? a sibling relationship?

    i had visions of my daughter quietly doing homework while my son played and i did chores. oh, the naivete!

    the reality: just enough time to get a few things done but not quite enough to get to the park. overambitious tendency to think, 'hey, we can do it in the morning' (you can't). the kind of snarling fights that pack animals have when they're cooped up beyond their sell-by date. plenty of time for upending toy boxes and two whole rounds of "snack" post-brekkie! by the time i sit down to work after the multiple drop-offs and at-school sideline convos, it's pushing 10:45 a.m. and my east coast clients are fuming.

    and to this i say: oy, the horrors of the late start time!

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  68. Kim, you always make me laugh with your vivid pictures of life at your house. I'm also somewhat mean-spiritedly glad someone else has chaos and sibling fights in the morning! I further note that you wrote this at 7:30 in the morning on spring break week, so you really must be a morning person; I can't even turn on the computer until at least 9:30 and 2 cups of coffee.

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  69. Who would lie to get into a SF public school? My goodness, seems counter productive. However, if language or Section 8 housing gives you priority in the lottery, it should be tested/confirmed, no doubt. There should also be an exemption for Wealthy Europeans who benefit by putting a language other than English on their application. I do believe they bring diversity, but the lottery was constructed to benefit lower income families, not ethnic diversity.

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  70. Hi there - Our family had a family hardship appeal approved last year, but it didn't help us get in during round II. In August we finally did get in. During a playdate just the other day, I learned from a family that had gotten mixed up in the McKinley mess last year - didn't put it down, got it, and decided to decline the offer. Round II they got into the very school that we had put down as our waitpool school - and we had a hardship approved. Ha ha ha!! Anyway, the huge problem with the hardship process is that it isn't done in tandem with the round II process. Hopefully this year that won't be the case.

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  71. To SF Mom with long commute to SJ, did you list ONLY schools with the early start time? just curious. Our kids ended up at a school with no before or after care - talk about hardship. We were told orig that such care was available and then later told it was not available to OUR kids (only very low income kids). Should we have filed a hardship appeal for our first grade transfer request? We can't imagine another year of trying to deal with no before/aftercare when we both work full time. It's nuts. Both of our jobs/careers have been compromised by the fact that we have to drop off/pick up kids at times that we are supposed to be AT work.

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