The San Francisco school board Tuesday adopted a new system for assigning students to schools, a hybrid plan that immediately came under fire for failing to pick a side in a long-running battle between neighborhood schools and diverse schools.
The new system was years in the making, as district officials attempted to sort out a way to balance the demands of parents and lawyers on both sides of the debate given the de facto segregation across city neighborhoods.
What emerged was a compromise. It gives children living in census tracts where students post the lowest test scores - typically low-income and minority communities - priority to attend high-demand schools. Those in the school's attendance areas would be next in line, followed by other students who want to attend those schools.
District officials said they hope that in the long run the new plan would help diversity, while giving parents and their children both school choice across the district and preferential status to neighborhood schools.
As controversial as the district's school assignment system has been over the years - including a history of lawsuits, a consent decree, years of debate and dozens of community meetings - the board's final decision Tuesday night was unanimous.
Yet even before Tuesday, a group of parents wanting access to the school down the street joined forces to buck the new system, saying they would bring the issue to the ballot if the board didn't adopt a neighborhood schools plan.
"The school district should be focused on education, not commuting," said parent Omar Khalif, in a statement for the newly formed group, Students First.
At the same time, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area chastised the board for considering a plan that would contribute to a system of separate and unequal schools.
"A student assignment policy which fails to reverse and remedy racial isolation is not only out of step with the Board's legal obligation to desegregate, but the Board's stated goals for the redesign process," said staff attorney Kendra Fox-Davis, in a letter to the board Monday.
In a separate issue, the school board voted Tuesday night to close Newcomer High School despite an outpouring of support from teachers, students and parents. Newcomer, which offers a one-year transitional program for nearly 170 new immigrant high school students, will close at the end of this school year.
District officials said the Newcomer students would be better served at four to six comprehensive high schools and not be required to transfer after a year as they are at Newcomer.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
SFGate: S.F. adopts new school-assignment system
This from today's Chronicle: