Saturday, April 6, 2013

SFUSD Lottery - Lessons Learned

How to Play the San Francisco School District's Enrollment Lottery - Lessons Learned


When we moved back to the United States and started looking for housing in San Francisco, I had done a little research on the school district assignment process and I'd heard of the terms attendance areas, CTIP, and tie breakers but I didn't fully understand most of it.  We bid on two other properties in the city neither of which were in a CTIP area and were outbid on both properties.  When we did bid and finally buy our home I told you in my first post that I had begun inputting the address of prospective properties before we bid on them to know their status and this property had a CTIP address.  At that time I thought, well, that's a plus.  I didn't realize how much of an advantage that an address was going to give me in this lottery.  I knew it would help.  I didn't think it was game changing.  It was only after living here for a few days (I kid you not),  my neighbors (with kids) began saying, well you are going to be glad you bought here and relating their own SFUSD lottery stories. These are my thoughts on the lottery and some tips and guidelines I'd give to those coming after me.  Some of these insights are as recent as yesterday, like this first thing...when my husband and I were rereading for probably the 20th time the Frequently Asked Questions on the SFUSD webpage and saw and fully understood the phrase: hierarchical order.  I will be using my own words as much as I can because I myself find the terminology used to describe this process very confusing and misleading.  I'm not saying that it is meant to intentionally be confusing and misleading I'm just saying that it was for me.

First read the rules for school assignment
Each applicant for a school will be stack ranked into pools based on SFUSD's published criteria (siblings, CTIP, preK plus attendance area, attendance area et cetera).
Applicants are placed into pools in a hierarchical order.
Each school will draw from each ranked pool sequentially until all available spaces are filled at that school.
Depending on the number of requests a school receives and your ranking, no one from your pool may be drawn.

For example, if a school has 40 spaces available and 10 siblings and 30 CTIP ranked kids apply to that school you cannot win a lottery ticket for that school if you are in a pool of  lower rank than CTIP (as I understand it).  This does not mean you cannot get a placement at that school eventually, but this will be from a swap or from further rounds in the lottery or some mysterious space time continuum Quantum Leap hiccup.

Second, determine your ranking and understand your odds in each school lottery you enter and manage your expectations 

Each applicant's odds for receiving their highest ranked request are not the same because each applicant is stack ranked.  This means one pool gets in first - siblings.  Another pool will go second, another gets in third, if your pool is ranked fourth or fifth chances increase that available openings will be filled before your pool even gets a chance.  Some pools (like Attendance area only applicants) effectively never even get a shot for certain schools (like Rooftop and Clarendon).

Again, certain schools have an extremely high number of requests for their open spots and unless you are in a highly ranked applicant pool you have little to no chance of getting an open seat at that school.  Know your hand and play your hand.

Third, decide if you want to improve your ranking lawfully if you can before your turn at the lottery
If you are interested in your attendance area school for an incoming Kindergartener and that school has a pre-K within your attendance area... send your kid there.  That boosts you into a higher ranked pool and improves your chances for an assignment at that school.

If you would truly consider moving OUT of the city altogether if you can't get into a public school you can live with... Consider moving out of your non-CTIP address in an attendance area with a highly requested school and move to a CTIP area or an attendance area for a less requested school with the intention of living there.  If you don't like it or your lottery playing experience proves unsuccessful you can move out of the city and play the school selection game of another city's school district by moving into a certain neighborhood in that city (if that's how they determine their school assignments).

Fourth, this is outside the San Francisco Lottery but relevant because it falls into hedging your bets
Apply to charter schools. If you can afford them or could afford them with some financial aid, apply to private schools and parochial schools.

Fifth, due diligence
You will want to tour schools.  Create a strategy for doing so.  If you tour in the same year you apply you have to tour them within a 5 month window (Sept-Jan), if that's not acceptable (or is just plain insane to you) do what works.  Start forming an opinion of what sort of criteria you have for ranking your school choices (Man, that would've been helpful earlier rather than later).

The swap and limbo-land--two good reasons to list all the schools possible for you (whether it is 7 or 22)
Swaps happen once assignments are made for all applicants and the computer registers that a mutually beneficial trade between applicants is possible.  Swaps can more a lower ranked applicant into a highly requested school.  It happens.  I'm not sure what the odds are but it happens.

Finally, submit your application and fast and pray (I'm only half-kidding)
When March comes and your letter arrives before you open it, pray or perform your preferred superstitious action, spit over your shoulder, wear a lucky hat... then tell yourself this is a really difficult public policy and I agree with it (or I disagree with it) and my family will be ok because I will not accept a result that will not be ok for my family.  Then read it.  Don't forget to breathe.  If you are happy with your assignment, great, if not I'd say decide in advance what your walk away point is. Fight a good fight. Play the hand your dealt. If you find yourself at your walk away point. Fold with no regrets.

Now whether I think this public policy is good public policy is a subject for another blog post. The School Assignment Process of San Francisco -- Is it what the Framers Intended?

Also, I wanted to apologize for basically not posting at all compared to the other bloggers.  I knew that it would be a stretch for me to find the time to blog with four kids under four and I was correct.  I could have tried harder and prioritized this blog more than I did.  I didn't for a lot of good excuses, I promise.

To be continued...

86 comments:

  1. thanks for this post. i agree with everything you said but particularly the "mysterious space time continuum Quantum Leap hiccup". another thing worth mentioning is how little the order of schools that you list is worth- almost nothing.
    the process is ludicrous.

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    1. Uh, the order of schools matters because if you don't rank your choices in order of true preference, you won't be assigned one of your favorite schools. Period. The whole point of the assignment system is that you cannot be penalized in any way for the order in which you prefer schools in the district. You just have to understand that if you don't list very many schools, you are telling the district that no school or a random assignment is better than a school ranked under your lowest-ranked one.

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    2. yes, it matters, but not much. you are still placed into the individual school's lottery with people who ranked it 15 or 39 when you ranked it 1st. so someone who ranked it 39 may win the lottery even though you ranked it 1. so it carries less weight than it should.

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    3. But that's the purpose of the swap cycle - it takes ranking into account and tries to trade assignments between students who would mutually benefit, based on the ranked order of their preferences.

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  2. should a minority be ashamed of affirmative action? should a landlord be ashamed that he doesn't keep up his property as well as when it is rented than when he lives in it? which child's parents should be ashamed that their parents got them into a school that they prefer, the ones who innocently get a school or the ones that get a school through an understanding of how the system works?

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  3. "This algorithm switch trick" is what allows the district to say that students will be assigned to their highest ranked request as long as there is space at the school.

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    1. Yes, that is correct. It's just math, people--there aren't enough spaces to meet demand.

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  4. Muppet, there are a lot of inaccuracies here but I don't feel like going through and nitpicking the little things. One thing I want to quibble about, though: You can say you live in a 'low-score testing area' as the SFUSD enrollment guide calls it or if you want to be technical say 'CTIP1.' The '1' means that your census tract falls in the lowest quintile for test scores.

    If you all want to grind an ax with the SFUSD, here is where a bit more transparency would be nice. When the new assignment system was announced, the district noted that CTIP1 designation is a fluid thing--that is, it should be reassessed every year as to which census tracts had the lowest test scores. Well, there doesn't seem to be any kind of yearly updating going on, or at least the SFUSD isn't bothering to divulge that information.

    More info would be nice from the SFUSD as far as that goes, but let's be real here--would that affect many of you? How many of you would move just because you can get a CTIP1 tiebreaker? Maybe a few, but in the grand scheme of things, most of us would be hard-pressed to justify that economically.

    There's something called the Student Assignment Yearly Report that's available on the SFUSD web site. Again, a good thing to take SFUSD to task for is that they need to hurry up and get the 2012-13 assignment process report done. But you can get the gist of how many requests for a given school came from CTIP1 areas--this probably does not change much from one year to the next.

    In general, you ought to read this report if you want to understand the hows and whys the assignment system is working pretty well. Reality #1 is, SFUSD can't add capacity to any of the schools right now, much less build new schools. Reality #2 is that you have to put all those kids in the Southeast somewhere--there are far more applicants from there than there are seats in that part of the city. Reality #3 is that given #1 and #2, the SFUSD can't manage a geographically skewed demand problem without some organized way of allowing some people to jump the queue. Would it be better for families in the Southeast to crowd their kids into all the schools in all the adjacent attendance areas?

    Also, SFUSD knows that there are piles and piles of independent schools out there, mostly in geographical proximity to families who have the resources to make choices. So whether you feel you have the budget for that school or not, that technically means your neighborhood has far more spots available for your child than, say, one in the Bayview.

    And actually, some centrally located attendance areas (I'm looking at you, Clarendon) actually have far more *public* spots available than kids living in that AA. That's because Clarendon GE and JBBP, Alice Fong Yu, and Rooftop are all in that attendance area.

    Anyway, the upshot is this: We need a CTIP1 tiebreaker. Most of the kids in those areas stick with their AA schools, but there are far too many and they don't have the myriad options available to them that richer kids do. The real problem right now is the bulge of siblings--the 'echo' effect of a willy-nilly, random-choice lottery system that the SFUSD chucked in favor of a better one. It's gonna take a couple more years for that bulge to work through the system. You can't just wish it away, and silly propositions aren't going to solve the problem either.

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    1. Alice Fung Yu, Rooftop, Clarendon JBBP, and all other K-8 and immersion programs are city-wide which means that they have no attendance areas. The priorities are siblings, CTIP, and all others.
      I think SFUSD is doing a great job. Yet, in the end, people will be disappointed because it is a lottery and it's not a fair nor transparent process.
      From all the posts on this blog, it does seem that people who stick with it until the 10 day count do get a school that they want. Ultimately, it's an endurance test.

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    2. If it is simply an endurance test and people are guaranteed to get what they want, then there should be no issues. No "losers". Everyone is a winner in the end and no one should be complaining about the assignment process. Why is it that people think that in the end it always works out. PART of the reason private schools are in such demand is that getting a reasonable assignment in SFUSD is NOT guaranteed.

      So ultimately, it is not just an "endurance test". Ultimately it is a lottery where there are winners and losers. Unfortunately, there are way to many losers given how things are currently setup.

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    3. @11.54am I am curious if you actually know someone (or maybe this even happened to you) who waited through the 3-day count and the few weeks into school and still didn't receive an assignment they could live with.

      Everyone I know who stuck with the SFUSD assignment process did end up with a school they liked. And often, but not always, they received a spot at their number 1 choice.

      I have heard people complaining about how "they were forced to go private, because SFUSD gave them nothing". But mostly when I ask those people how far through the process they went, they only tried Round 1. And Round 1 definitely is very over-subscribed.

      I also wanted to add that for the 2011-12 school year, when the 3-day count process had finished, Sherman (one of the sought-after schools) still had 3 open spaces in Kindergarten. So anyone who had waited until that point would have at least had that option.

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    4. Yes, I should be more explicit in saying this is what how I THINK the process works. I don't KNOW. I did not invent the algorithm nor do I claim any greater access to the internal workings of this process. But from what I've read and the accounts coming back to me from parents this is how I understand this.

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    5. I really agree. There are "losers" in the lottery, but many of those losers define losing by not getting the school they want in round one, or even round 2. And that's fair - they've probably already assessed that it's too much strain to go through the summer w/out a school they like. That said, things get much, much better later, when the spots really honestly do open up. We were offered spots three times (various kids) at schools we hadn't gotten into in the initial rounds (like three) from two publics and one charter. But at that point, for various reasons, we stayed where we were. Mostly we felt settled, were working with multiple kids, and didn't want to go for it. But we could have, and people do. You just need a strong stomach.

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    6. @ 2:34 pm. We personally went through all 3 rounds in hope it would all "work out". It didn't. We didn't receive anything we felt we could live with or wanted to live with. Were we being too picky? I didn't think so but i do realize that is a matter of opinion. I appreciate that everyone seems to know people whom ended up at their #1 choice simply by waiting it out. I simply want to point out that this is clearly the exception and not the rule. If this were the RULE, then no one would be opposed to sticking it out over the summer. Everyone could go to bed knowing that it WILL "work out" in the end. No worries.

      In addition, we weren't forced to go private. It was definitely a choice. After three rounds with SFUSD, we were faced with the option of 1) moving 2) having my child attend what most people would consider is an under performing school or 3) spend money we have but were not necessarily planning on spending at a private school. We chose #3.

      My child is extremely happy, we are happy and we move on life. I do get angry when people like to paint all families that chose private school (over the other options they have) as racist. The bottom line is that choosing between even an AVERAGE performing school and the private school we ulitimately chose wasn't even an option we had. Lets not sugar coat the fact that there are a lot of poor performing schools in SFUSD.

      When all is said and done, despite our family choosing to attend a private school, we would love nothing more than to see this process work out better for more families coming after us.

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    7. Hi 4;18, 2;43 here. I'm really glad your child is somewhere that makes you happy. I think what often happens in later rounds at sfusd is not necessarily that you get your first choice, but that other choices come to seem more acceptable. So I'm not talking about finally getting Rooftop, or Clarendon, but rather a mid-range school. Also, for us, our offers came after three rounds - rather into the school year, one of the times by three weeks. My youngest's mid tier school had 8 open spots in his kinder class of 22 at the start of the year, and there was room in the other two classes as well. Not sure if our school would have been acceptable to all ( clearly wasn't) but it's worked out well.

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  5. Hi, very good advice. Sorry if I missed it, but what school is your child going to attend? Donna

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    1. Hi Donna, we got our first choice, Clarendon GE. We are ecstatic to have gotten in. I have my list of schools in my other post.

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  6. Great summary. I would add that I would suggest talking to lots of people to find out where their kids go to school, to help you figure out your criteria and also in hopes of turning up a gem you might not have heard of. But I would be wary of anyone who speaks poorly about a school based on old information (i.e. choosing not to send their kids there some years ago) because a number of the schools have gone through some big changes. Someone at work recoiled in horror when I told her I was putting McKinley on our list, but I think she was just operating with old information (more than ten years old), it sounds like parents there now are really really happy!

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  7. I think if you look at Muppet's advice at the highest level, i.e., the underlined portions, she makes good points. I think the best thing you can do is get out into your community and the wider SF parent community (we aren't THAT big; it's only 15% of the City's population that has school-aged kids!) and ask about schools. There are many, many public elementary schools at which your child will get a solid foundation. And the poster at 9:50 made a great point: ask WHEN the person looked at the school!

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  8. Let's not forget that once the schoolyear starts the waiting lists dry up pretty quickly. Patience is a virtue. And in the larger scheme of things a week or even a month or two isn't going to matter much when elementary school is 6 years long.

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  9. Rooftop parent here. It appears to me that every year we have some no-shows on day one. New kids will enter kindergarten throughout the first weeks. Higher grades too. My first grader had a boy added in his class about 10 days after school started. Not ideal at all, I agree. It must be agonizing. But I always hear how Rooftop is impossible to get into....and yet we have open spots every year.

    At this point not everyone has registered their kinders at Rooftop yet. I think about 45 students have been registered? That includes siblings. Will 21 more students get registered during these last few days? I doubt it. I think that we always 'lose' students because they got accepted at a private school and ultimately decide on private. They list a couple of the more desirable schools but maybe their hearts are already set on a private school. And by desirable I don't mean that they are better, don't get me wrong.

    Good news is that it leaves more spaces for people who are hoping for round 2 or later in the game. Wishing all of you best of luck in finding a greatschool for your kids.

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  10. I have kids in Garfield and am surprised I haven't heard many people talking about it. Garfield is also starting a Chinese Immersion program and it is amazing. Hope more people get to experience Garfield.

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  11. It seems like everyone I know who got into their first choice lives in a gentrified part of a CTIP area, but is affluent enough to have one parent who can do drop-off and pick-up across town, or who can afford to move.

    Doesn't this system just create a loophole for families who can afford to be flexible? Don't some of the top schools start before 8:00? Realistically, how would a family across town with two working parents and no car be able to take advantage of this?

    To be fair, reading this, it seems like if there is a way to use money to game this system (by relocating), then the best schools are more likely to be attended by children from wealthier families. Is this the case?

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    1. Is this because your circles only include a community of people who gentrify areas? Or do you have a lot of friends who are low-income/working class living in CTIP1 areas?

      I know plenty of families who are families or color and/or working class families who have used their CTIP1 advantage to go to schools they think serve their kids better. They have just decided to invest their time and gas money, or are sending their kids on buses.

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    2. My point was to find out if more that if economic flexibility (and especially the ability to relocate either to qualify as CTIP or to eventually enroll in a top public with an early start time) ended up making CTIP more useful to more affluent families. If this is the case, then it would seem like this is not an entirely neutral system that gives every family the same choices or opportunities.

      But I'm glad to hear that people you personally know take advantage of this. It must mean that the system is working!

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    3. Or at least that the system is doing something. Not the same thing as working, sadly.

      Whether the known costs social and otherwise are worth the putative benefits would require an independent audit. Which of coure will never be done and could not be done without SFUSD participation; they do not sunshine even anonymized data on their assignment system.

      So long as CTIP status is based on generalities like what side of what street you live on, and not specific household situation, it's wide open to gaming. And is being gamed.

      Qualifying and vetting would-be advantage takers would not be particularly difficult, nor even necessarily that expensive... but the district's inability to use even contemporary technology is poor.

      Oh well. QED friends who blithely rented in CTIP1 Mission addresses with no idea of the ramifications are now stuck living in too-small spaces with new kids, because they can't afford to move in the current rent bubble, but need to stick it out for five years to spend their gold ticket.

      A high class problem but still. Really? This is working?

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    4. I would have to agree this is true. I live near Alamo Square which is part of the Western Addition and so CTIP1. Everyone I know around here gets their first choice, usually Lilienthal, Clarendon, and Sherman. My daughter will enter kindergarten in 2014 so I'm in the research stage now. However I have lived here since 2004 so my location was chosen long before my daughter existed or the new lottery system was even created. I don't yet know anyone who moved here just for the designation but I bet it will start happening.

      These are all reasonably well off families, not wealthy though, two working parents. It would be tough without a car to do this but I think some of the schools have a bus that pickups nearby.

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    5. Before you get too hopeful. We're a Western Addition family living right next to the projects. Been here since 2001. We got our seventh choice -- no on CL, Sherman, and Clarendon. All three were on our list.

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  12. This is the problem with the current system, and not only that, what it does is deprive the schools on the East Side of their local middle and upper middle class, people they need to do a turnaround as happened with McKinley, so that you get the schools with isolated communities. The well off in the Tenderloin condos, Western Addition Apartments near projects, Bayview, Excelsior, Glen Park, Potrero Hill, SOMA, Mission, can play the algorithm and many who aren't even in CTIP1 know how to play the system.

    In my view, if you are let into a school for which there are local families to the school not getting in, you should have to be low income and free or reduced lunch. This would assure that more people get their neighborhood schools and those who do go West are truly disadvantaged, and the upper class of the CTIP1 areas have the obligation to help to improve their local school.

    Also, they should reopen Cabrillo. If more people want to go West than can, open more schools there to increase integration and make more people happy. This will encourage more families in public schools in SF. They should also open a French Immersion public school, it would get a lot of families who would otherwise go private and be very diverse. Many black and Latino and Vietnamese families would love to learn French, not to mention Arabic families.

    These are the facts, and they are undisputed.

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    1. I generally agree with what you're saying, but I think that folks should have better choices in CTIP1 areas if they are low to moderate income. Many working class families in the Bayview have moderate incomes. They still bring diversity (economic and ethnic) to other schools and those that have closer to moderate income are more likely to be able to send their kids to school further from home. There has been such an out-migration of middle class families, especially African American families, that I imagine giving these families no school choice would give them another reason to have to leave the city. Our communities still want and need educational choices considering the achievement gap is huge between different racial groups.

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    2. I would love a French bilingual program, similar to JBBP. Is that even a realistic possibility? Wasn't the idea floated before with little interest? Also, wish there was a Spanish program on the west side instead of just Cantonese/Mandarin Programs.

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    1. A lot of the middle class and upper middle class African Americans have left he city and lot of those still here prefer to send their kids to private schools, especially if they think the district will not do much to help their kids thrive.

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    2. Its also a great way to create ghettos

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  14. As for French Immersion, the idea has been floated several times and there are enough interested families to easily fill a school. Most of the parents who want their kids to learn French are strong believers in public schools and wouldn't have sent their kids to private school in France, don't believe in it, but they end up having to choose between two competing ideals. I know someone who proposed it and they were told it would serve upper income students so there was no interest in setting that up, that it could encourage more kids in the district which could make it harder for us to ultimately become a basic aid district which some in SFUSD hope for, to gain more control. There are some in administration and one on the board who wants it to happen, but they get voted down. Truth is, it would draw in a good mix. In San Francisco, the way to create a diverse school is to get whites, nearly half of whom go private, to go to a school, but if you put one in Noe Valley or somewhere like that, the Haight, you could easily get 40% white, 20% Black, 20% Hispanic, 20% Asian, that would be a pretty diverse school. Many Vietnamese, African Americans, Arabic Americans and Latinos as it's another Latin language. Someone proposed it and had signatures from over 50 interested parents, half of whom were not white, for one grade, and it was ignored.

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  15. It's probably unfair, but sfusd is probably wary of setting up a program like the Korean program at CL, which is viewed by many as tokenism.

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  16. Same with Italian. However, they should be doing everything they can to get more people into SFUSD. It will cause integration. Most people who go private or move are white, hence the term white flight, so whatever they can do to keep people here is a good thing. Lots of French people will move in from the suburbs if they can get a free French Immersiion School. It's win-win. We can probably get a lot of the most affluent Vietnamese to relocate here from San Jose as well. I know the Korean program caused a number of Korean americans to relocate here from Los Angeles.

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  17. At 3:58 and 6:18, interesting points. The Korean program at CL is so oversubscribed that siblings sometimes cannot even get in. The CL school community is crumbling because of tension between the Korean and General classes. If SFUSD wanted to support the Korean Program and increase overall capacity (in the CL General program which is also highly requested), they should find a separate school facility and move the Korean Program there, then maybe they could have 2 or more k-8 classes. I think the requests show this would fill. Then CL could have 3 general education classes per grade level, which would also fill quickly. Look at the increase in capacity of programs people actually want!

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    1. Good idea to spin off the Korean program into a separate building and add capacity at CL. And sounds like there may be a building available at 24th and Balboa (the old Cabrillo school)...

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    2. What are the specific issues causing tension? Is it just space issues? I know someone who sends her child to the GE program there and she's never mentioned any issues, but then, it never came up since it wouldn't be on an outsider's radar. I liked the school when I toured so any insight appreciated.

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    3. I am not the original poster, but my child attend Claire Lilienthal. It seems to me the two programs have been at odds for the past 2-3 years but the lid really blew off this year when the KIP patents started a new group to fundraise to support only the KIP program. To many nonKIP parents it was a real break in the unity of the PTO where the KIP parents expect to get all the benefits the PTO pays for (art, PE, etc) while they work at raising funds to provide Korean only programs to benefit only their children. A real downer for what had been such a successful school community. Spinning off is a workable solution, they already have their own PTO.

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    4. Doesn't this tension between the immersion and non-immersion communities exist pretty much at all schools with both?

      How does the two programs being at odds at CL affect the entire school quality? Are schools that were considered "trophy" schools in the past still worthy of the title? Or have times changed?

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    5. The underlying issue is that SFUSD does not fully fund the Korean immersion program past 3rd grade, and not at all for 6th-8th grade. So Claire Lilienthal PTA is perpetually scrambling to fund regular classroom teachers in the Korean program. This has led to some odd situations: a very large combined 4th-5th grade Korean class with an extra half-time support teacher (what happens during the other half of the time?) and a Korean elective for 6th-8th grade in math, because the Gen Ed program needed additional math staffing. I'm not sure about the language benefit there.

      This year, it seems that SFUSD funded only 1 full-time Korean teacher for grades 4-5, and provided no funding for grades 6-8. A group of KIP parents then formed a foundation with goal of stabilizing outside funding for the regular classroom teachers in the Korean program, since none as forthcoming from the district.

      Can we blame the KIP parents for prioritizing fundraising for their regular classroom teacher over enrichment like arts, music, outdoor education (field trips)? Or the PTA for being reluctant to spend a large percentage of their budget to support a program that enrolls a minority of its students?

      The real issue is inadequate funding by SFUSD for Korean immersion. It's bad enough that the PTA has to raise money for art, music, and PE. To have to raise money for your child's regular classroom teacher is surreal.

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    6. Definitely surreal. Thanks for the explanation.

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    7. Total outsider here, but doesn't SFGeekMom describe a situation where a separate Korean K-8 school, like AFY, that is fully funded and supported by the school district would be the best case scenario? The Korean parents are upset about lack of funding (ha! Who isn't?) but it seems a bit dodgy to start a fundraising group and exclude all the other students at the school, especially after SFGeekMom states the PTA had been supporting the Korean Program. No wonder there is a rift. What a shame, I have always heard great things about that school.

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    8. I agree. Especially since all the classrooms get more crowded by 4th grade without PTA or PTO help.

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    9. And the Korean program is small, so why would sfusd fund more than one teacher for 4/5 in the first place? (given that they reduce teachers everywhere else too)

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    10. My impression is that the new foundation was intended to raise funds for KIP classroom teachers in ways the PTA may not be allowed to, not to function as a PTA. The focus seems to be on corporate funding, foundations, etc rather than individual donors. The foundation letter specifically urges the parents to continue their current involvement with the PTA. The letter can be read at
      http://clairelilienthal.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=155&Itemid=163 .

      I don't quite get the financial side of this, but apparently PTAs have restrictions on fundraising, including their ability to build up a financial reserve/endowment. Here's a quote from a school in another CA school district on the difference:

      "Foundation and PTA are governed differently with respect to how they raise and spend money. PTA, as a national organization, is bound by strict by-laws which dictate how fundraising is achieved and how funds are implemented into programs. Foundation, on the other hand, operates as a 501c3 non-profit organization and can pursue as much fundraising as is necessary to achieve its stated goals. This means we can operate with greater discretion over monies raised and are not subject to state-mandated processes." (Source: http://powayusd.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/pusdmces/foundation/foundation_v_pta.htm)

      I imagine that if the goal were to create a kind of endowment to provide long term support for KIP classroom teachers, in the absence of additional funding from SFUSD in the foreseeable future, a foundation would make more sense. Apparently many schools have both PTAs and foundations now.

      Perhaps someone with PTA experience could weigh in on this?

      I'll go out on a limb and speculate that part of what drove the establishment of a separate foundation was seeing SFUSD's commitment to Mandarin immersion, including the smaller class sizes in grades 4-5, for example, at Jose Ortega, and the development of a Mandarin middle school track, and contrasting with CL's experience. That may have hammered home the message that KIP needs to look outside SFUSD for long-term support.

      In any case, given the lack of SFUSD support, the possibility of a separate Korean K-8 school is nil. I think that most schools with active parent communities like CL's go through periods where there's conflict and rifts, and it works itself out in the end.

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    11. Thanks SFGeekmom for that explanation. I think it would be really interesting to get more insight into the whole foundation versus PTA thing. I think maybe Alamo has a foundation too. Don Krause could probably weigh in on how that works. And taking a look around elsewhere, it looks like places like Gateway must have a foundation or at least a development team, as they're seeking money energetically outside of their school community. BTW - Gateway itself is interesting. Seems to be drawing more people interested in smaller class sizes for middle school. Don't think Gateway started out with that being the defining characteristic of the place, but could be wrong.

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    12. Is anyone else finding this whole discussion really disturbing? The state of funding is for each group to duke it out for themselves? I mean parents at a top school are getting money to help only their children at that school. I would be angry if a small subset of parents at my daughters school was getting money to have lower class sizes for only themselves. What about the other large 4th and 5th grade classes at that same school? Why is it those parents fault the district isn't supporting a language program? How is the administration at that school or the district even allowing this?

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    13. Interesting point. Other school districts handle this differently - for example in Piedmont, the PTA can't even raise funds specifically for its own school - if there's a fundraiser, some portion of funds raised have to go into a pot that gets distributed throughout the district. Here, it seems you could raise funds for your own kids' special interests if you wanted to.

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    14. I have heard about other school districts doing this too and it sounds wonderful. Even if half of your fundraising goes to your school and the other half goes into a larger pot, I think it could really benefit the entire school district.

      Folks can talk smack all they want about private school parents only helping the kids at their private schools, but it seems like the parents in public schools are doing the same thing. Maybe they don't pay tuition, but they fundraise and have annual drives. I always get a little annoyed by the parents that pat themselves on the back for helping the "poor kids" at their school. Seriously? We thank you for better resourcing the school your child and many other children attend, but you too have some personal interest in making this happen.

      And while people want to criticize the Korean Immersion Program at Claire Lilienthal, it sounds like they are just doing to the rest of the school what Claire Lilienthal is doing to the whole district, looking out for their class/school's best interest.

      I am glad parents are so involved in their schools, but the self-congratulatory, i'm-better-than-private-school-parents or i'm-better-than-those-other-public-school-parents attitude that is very prevalent on this blog is pretty hypocritical and goes nowhere.

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    15. Re: Gateway. Their mission is to send all their kids on to college--and they draw from the full gamut, including kids from very challenged background who will be the first generation to attend college--so they have a very strong commitment to support and meet the needs of every student. They can really only accomplish this as a small school so while small class size may not be the defining characteristic, it's very much a necessary part of the design of the school. This is reflected in both the HS and the MS, where there are 100 kids per grade and class size is capped at 25 (in HS some classes are much smaller.)

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    16. 10:02, do you think Gateway's appeal is going to broaden to a larger base? Very curious as Western Addition suddenly becoming the hot bed of charter activity - Gateway Middle and High, KIPP, and CACS.....

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    17. 9:55. I couldn't agree more. This whole thing is a big grey area and every family/situation/school is too unique/specific to make broad generalizations or unequivocal "this is better" judgements.

      People like to put families into boxes based on their school choice, but I think the reality is that plenty of "private school"-types of families go to public school and some "public school"-types of families go to private schools.

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    18. 10:11: as far as I can tell, Gateway is already appealing to a fairly large base, with far more applicants than they can accept (the last 2 years, the MS had 300+ applicants for 100 spots and I think it's around the same for the HS.) Their students run the gamut from those needing a lot of support to high achieving kids who flourish in a smaller school setting.

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    19. At 9:55, I agree! We should be thanking private school parents because they are paying taxes into the system and not taking any benefits out of it. In the end, we all have the right to do what's best for our own child's education.

      The whole CL Korean thing is just odd, why isn't SFUSD supporting this program better? It has been around longer than some language programs that seem to be better supported (like Jose Ortega, as SFGeekMom pointed out). It is very highly requested. Did they piss someone off at SFUSD like they are pissing off all the parents at CL? It's a problem that such a negative vibe has been created.

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    20. Why should we be thanking anyone for paying taxes that go toward funding education, as well as other things? Should elderly people be thanking you for paying Social Security?. It gives the impression that taxes are optional, as too many of the wealthy consider it to be, instead of a crucial part of funding a stable society. I just resent that tired argument.

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    21. It also makes no sense in that it's in everyone's interest to have a well educated populace. Not only to fil jobs and fuel the economy, but for basic safety and human health. More crime, more poverty - all that and more would come without funding education. Our lives aren't in any way bettered by not fully funding education - selfishly it makes no sense.

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    22. Well, sure, nobody should be thanked for paying taxes, but pretending that paying private dollars into your school's PTA fund makes you significantly "better" than private school parents is ridiculous too. It's not lost on me that people squeal with outrage when someone suggests that PTA funds be centralized city- or even statewide and redistributed equally.

      What we need is tax reform, such that high earners and corporations are paying more for the public good. You know, like the good old days the conservatives moan for.

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    23. Maybe one particular schools PTA fundraising only benefits that one school but it does have a broader effect in inspiring other public schools to up their fundraising and outreach, and know they can turn a school around. The schools do share ideas and that's how everyone benefits. It can definitely be better but it's not a total bubble either.

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    24. I agree with both you. Yes - it would be great to have tax reform. Not sure how soon that might happen, or where we have to get to make that seem palatable to enough people. I also agree that self righteousness coming from any corner is a turn off. I don't think most public parents think that paying private dollars into the PTA makes them better than private parents paying tuition and dollars into an annual appeal/endowment/whatever. I think they're bothered that a private school is by definition an exclusive place -- people are chosen and others are turned away. They also don't like that wealth really does help admission. Their "virtue" comes in giving to a place they're assigned, where there are more people at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, even at trophy schools. That said, self righteousness is still annoying, and feeling "virtue" for this kind of thing comes more from feeling defensive about one's own situation and choices in a uneven playing field. It's hard to be on the side with less.

      I'm in favor of a citywide pool of some PTA funds. Just like at a restaurant, where a certain amount is pooled for those working in the kitchen or bussing or whatever. PTAs or PTOs could give a reasonable proportion of their raised moneys to a citywide pool, which would then be distributed. That would still leave a big portion for the individual school, which seems reasonable given the amount of labor it can take to raise funds from a generally non-wealthy populace (big gifts just don't come in the say way as they do in independent schools.) So incentive would still be there to raise funds. Or it might be interesting to pair schools - one more struggling than other, to help support each other. It would need to be mutually beneficial to be sustainable, but it seems possible.

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    25. I love the idea of pairing school, like have a sister-school program for all sorts of purposes (I.e. pen pals, field trips, fundraising, etc). The school communities would need to buy-in, however, and my fear would be that parents that didn't want to share with a sister school would do what the CL KIP parents are doing, simply setting up a separate group so they don't have to share what they raise.

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  18. SFUSD should want to draw more parents in. For some reason, it doesn't. I think it did for a while, which is why all these programs were built up, but at some point they stuck up their noses and were like, French immersion, people want it, no way. I wonder if the private schools lobbied against it. School board members make very little. I could never prove it, am not even sure, but it's suspicious. I can find no reason they would not reopen Cabrillo as French or Korean immersion, nor that they wouldn't want to have either program. There's no logical reason not to open a French school. Unless it's a politically correct anti-white thing.

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    1. Yeah. I'm with you. It is the private schools fault. Everything is the private schools fault.

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    2. I don't think I understand your comment: "I wonder if the private schools lobbied against it. School board members make very little. I could never prove it, am not even sure, but it's suspicious."

      Are you actually implying that private schools paid school board members bribes? That's sort of what it sounds like but I hope I am misunderstanding your comment because that's quite an allegation.

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    3. Frankly, the OP's whole position makes no sense. The mission of public schools is to educate all students who live in the district and wish to attend public schools - not to "draw parents in" - marketing is not part of their mission. When SFUSD embarked on its multilingual schools initiative, there were two key drivers - popularity of immersion programs, and the fact that half of entering SFUSD students spoke other languages - predominantly Chinese and Spanish.

      The number of Spanish and Chinese speakers in the area (not to mention, in the world) outnumber French speakers probably by an order of magnitude. If we are trying to prepare our students to be global citizens, Spanish and Chinese are obvious choices. French just isn't a terribly useful language in the 21st century. (And lest you think I'm part of the politically correct, anti-White conspiracy movement, I'm actually a French speaker whose child will be attending a French immersion school starting in the Fall - but that's a choice we made for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with what the public schools should do - and if we had gotten into a Spanish immersion in the publics we would have done that in a heartbeat).

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    4. 10:28 are you forgetting that SFUSD currently has programs for Italian, Korean, Japanese and Cantonese ? Fairly certain that those language programs do not have the goal of creating "world citizens". Indeed if that were the goal immersion programs in Arabic, Hindi and Bengali would make far more sense Language Approx. number of speakers
      1. Chinese (Mandarin) 1,213,000,000
      2. Spanish 329,000,000
      3. English 328,000,000
      4. Arabic 221,000,000
      5. Hindi1 182,000,000
      6. Bengali 181,000,000
      7. Portuguese 178,000,000
      8. Russian 144,000,000
      9. Japanese 122,000,000
      10. German. 90,000,000

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    5. The OP said "French immersion" - there is no Italian nor Japanese immersion school in the SFUSD. Immersion is different from language instruction. No need to argue about it here, you can easily find that info online. But thank you for helping me make the point about the randomness of pushing for a French immersion school - French doesn't even make this list. I am happy to have my tax dollars supporting all kinds of language instruction in the public schools - I think the US needs to do a much better job exposing young students to foreign languages and cultures. I am simply taking exception to the notion that SFUSD's failure to start a French immersion school is a sign of either "a politically correct anti-white thing" or that board members are taking bribes from private school lobbyists (WTH? I think we're being punked again). Based on the list you've just published, it's obvious why Mandarin and Spanish are the most-offered immersion options in San Francisco, and Cantonese is more widely-spoken than Mandarin in SF (http://wdaes-sfusd-ca.schoolloop.com/whyfirst), so that makes sense too. French - sorry, no.

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  19. The issue of fundraising for regular classroom teachers is not unique to language immersion programs. I have heard Grattan PTA raises money for a teacher to keep class sizes manageable at grades 4 and 5. It is tragic that our public schools are not better funded.

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  20. It would be great if sfusd has more FLES option, rather than immersion, which is what Clarendon's Italian program is. Heck, McKinley used to have daytime Spanish twice a week only 2 or 3 years ago. That would work for French. But it's an extra, and expense that many if not most schools can't afford. It often comes at the expense of another extra. At Mckinley, that's what happened: they surveyed the school community - we (SSC/PTA) have x # of dollars to spend. What's your priority?

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  21. I think that immersion schools should be based on the number of parents who desire a program, as this would increase public school and community participation. I agree, French is less spoken than Hindi, but I have spoken with many parents who would put their kids in a French Immersion Elementary if it existed. I think Cabrillo would be an obvious choice, and if it's even mildly popular it will fill. My prediction is within a couple years, it will be overflowing and they will be under pressure to open another.

    As for numbers, it should be based on how many parents want it. For instance, Lowell teaches Hebrew because there is a Jewish population there, not based on world speakers. At Lowell Hebrew is more in demand than Hindi or Portuguese or Arabic, or even German which was eliminated and was once popular. We should provide the programs parents want. Our duty is to give people choices they desire. The more students in public schools, the more we will be one community working together, rather than a kind of my kid is getting educated, let's focus on the parks budget.

    It is no coincidence we spend only 7.54% of our budget on schools and have a low number of kids and half of whites in private. It is no coincidence we pay teachers under half what police make vs. 73% in San Diego. Teachers are to teach the poor, while in San Diego those in power regard teachers as being there to teach everyone, or close to everyone. SF doesn't allocate extra money to education because the people making the decisions have their kids in private school, with a few exceptions, or the public trophies. I don't think many decision makers have kids at Cobb or Visitacion Valley or Denman, just sayin'...

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  22. I'm French and would definitely have my kids in public school if there were such a program. I do feel guilty and plan to send them to public for middle and high school and find some program at Alliance. Maybe it's not such an important language as the others because we are environmentally conscious and don't have kids like rabbits, I just have 2, but it is important to have kids who can travel with me home, relate to my family and read and write in French. This is my opinion, if they open one, count me in.

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  23. Definitely list as many schools as you can imagine your child attending and be open minded about it. If you list only 3 and Clarendon is # 1, unless you are CTIP1, you know going in the odds are against you. It's better to have one of your choices off a long list than have the district assign you something you would never consider. Although if someone gets 0 for 20, the burden should rest on the district to run those choices through again before giving that person some random assignment.

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  24. I think a citywide PTA pool is a terrible idea. If I want to donate to my child's school, why must I be forced to donate a portion to other schools? That's what my tax dollars do. I see it as an infringement on my rights. But that's not all. When I donate to my PTA I can participate in the PTA and have oversight with that money. When I donate to other PTAs I have no oversight as to how money is spent. And if that's not all, many schools raise funds to lower class sizes, particularly in schools which have few categorical dollars. Schools with high categorical funding often have much lower class sizes already.

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  25. I concur. Why force people to make donations (gifts) to other schools? Donate to whichever school your child attends or donate to other schools. It is your choice. But a gift is a gift. Is it a gift when you don't get to decide to whom to give it?
    What if I decide to give my gift in volunteer hours? Do I have to volunteer at another school, too? Piedmont is not SF and a precedent doesn't make it right.

    I concur with Don.

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  26. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need higher taxes. Because it is not only private school parents who have a "my kid over other kids" mentality.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed it (though I would have been a little harsher, seems more like a "screw other people's kids as long as mine gets what they need")

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    2. Investing either time or money in your school community is not screwing other people's kids for the sole benefit of your child. Maybe we should all do nothing and depend solely on the measly tax dollars allocated. This argument is a bit petty and blaming parents for larger policy issues that the legislature and school board are not dealing with in a better way.

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    3. You all should go meet some active public school elementary parents. The ones who really give a lot of time and dollars. They are never the ones saying, "my kid" only -- what they're always saying is, it's about ALL the kids. The pendulum swings the other way. Yes, they're generally raising money for one school (their kid's) but the ones who are most involved NEVER talk or act as if it's about only their kid. That goes nowhere and can't possibly work in a school filled with kids who all got assigned there, weren't picked or chosen. Populations at single schools tend to be very mixed - not just in ethnicities or incomes or gay/straight/whatever combinations, but in how they think, what they want, what they value. They haven't all gravitated toward a single school that just "feels right" or feels like the right fit for their kids. It is a BIG mix.

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  27. What happens if you move to SF in the middle of the school year? Can you just pick from a list of schools that have spots available?

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  28. It isn't a matter of "my kids over other kids". People invest their time and money to make an impact at a school. If that's a bad thing in your book then you don't know much about human nature.You seem to be subscribing to a Marxian view of making all things equal. I don't know how higher taxes would equalize donations. That's another off strange thing to say.

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  29. I think if there were a centralized school fund it would be a lot easier to get donations from individuals and corporations who wanted to support public schools but had no basis for affiliating themselves with any one school.

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    1. Actually, there is such a fund!

      http://www.sfedfund.org/

      They also coordinate school volunteers. They have a new head, so perhaps they will be doing some interesting new things.

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