Monday, November 28, 2005

David Bacon on 'divide and conquer' and scapegoating immigrant communities in the aftermath of the new orleans disaster

As usual, people's journalist David Bacon provides a useful analysis of the politics behind immigration reform legislation, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and 'divide and conquer' media messages. In his conclusion he helps point us in a more constructive direction of multiracial justice and economic sustainability.

DIVIDED WE FALL - By David Bacon
From Colorlines Magazine - [you will have to wait for the full article in the Feb 06 issue]

If Congress' current proposals for immigration reform pass this year or next, will they help the immigrant workers now doing reconstruction on the Gulf Coast? What about the residents hoping to return home - what might these proposals mean for racial divisions already fanned by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and syndicated newspaper columnist Ruben Navarette in the wake of the flood?

Both Nagin and Navarette play on growing insecurity on each side of the migration divide. "How do I ensure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?" the Mayor asked in early November. Navarette praised immigrants for "not sitting around and waiting for government to come to the rescue. They're probably living two or three families to a house ... that's how it used to be in this country before the advent of the welfare state." African American politicians, he said, just want to "keep the city mostly Black."

It's not a theoretical problem. The Gulf Coast disaster is having a profound and permanent effect on the area's workers and communities. The racial fault lines of immigration politics threaten to pit Latinos against Blacks, and migrant laborers against community residents hoping to return to their homes. Community organizations, labor and civil rights advocates can all find common ground in a reconstruction plan that puts the needs of people first.

But flood-ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana could also become a window into a different future, in which poor communities with little economic power fight each other over jobs. Even before Hurricane Katrina hit, the unemployment rate among Gulf residents was among the nation's highest. ...In New Orleans, Blacks, concentrated in public-sector jobs and already reeling from the storm and flood, were hit again by massive layoffs. With no sure job waiting for them, few families had the resources to simply go back and take a chance on finding new employment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in October that 500,000 of the 800,000 people evacuated had yet to return home.
In the hurricane-affected areas, fears generated by competition are already apparent. Politicians like Nagin, using racial fears to win votes, and columnists like Navarette, seeking to incite racial hysteria among readers, both see gains to be made from increased division. Yet as immigration changes the demographics of the South, its communities have a good record of reaching across racial lines.

"Every immigrant rights bill in Mississippi has been introduced by African American legislators," Chandler says. In the state's poultry and meatpacking plants, longtime Black workers and a new wave of immigrants have found themselves on the same side in union organizing efforts. Hurricane relief is a key test of those bonds, and the desire to achieve common ground.

This year the Congressional Black Caucus made two important contributions to this effort. The CBC-sponsored HR 4197 addresses hurricane recovery and poverty, authorizing funds for housing and new Section 8 vouchers, for increased health care, and for extended unemployment and temporary assistance to needy families. It provides money to help returning residents rebuild their homes or seek new ones,
and for schools to help relocated students. The bill reinstates Davis Bacon wage requirements, creates apprenticeship programs to develop good jobs, and requires the President to present a plan for eradicating poverty.

For Pitts, this moves in the right direction. "You have to assure there's a floor under wages," he suggests, "Both immigrants and African Americans need this. To ensure people can return, the government has to recognize the need for two kinds of income-wages from decent jobs, and money to cover the cost of relocation.

Immigrants need a living wage too, as well as the right to organize and the ability to move freely, so they're not tied to an employer or contractor." The CBC also supported another bill this spring, by Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. The Save America Comprehensive Immigration Act of 2005, HR 2092, provides a way for currently undocumented workers to gain permanent resident status, and enforces migrants' rights in the workplace. Unlike every other immigration proposal in Congress, it has no guest worker program, and doesn't call for greater enforcement of employer sanctions. It will take the fees paid by people applying for legal status, and use them to provide job creation and training programs in communities with high levels of unemployment. For community and labor activists who see Kennedy/McCain and similar proposals as dangerous, Jackson Lee's bill provides at least a partial program for progressive immigration reform.

The key to finding common ground is fighting for jobs for everyone. Whether Black, white, Asian or Latino, native-born or immigrant-no one can live without work. Yet this basis for an alliance of mutual interest has largely fallen off the liberal agenda. Even unions, the bastion of support for the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, a 1970s proposal that the federal government provide jobs to eradicate unemployment, pay only lip service to the idea today. In the Democratic Party, free market ideologues ridicule the idea that the government should guarantee employment, as it did in the New Deal programs of the 1930s. Instead, both parties propose to pile guest worker programs, and increased enforcement of employer sanctions, on top of job competition. This is an explosive mixture in which no one has the right to a job, and everyone shares only increased insecurity.

Unemployment and racism in the U.S. economic system pit communities of color against each other, and against working-class white communities. Competition produces lower labor costs and higher
profits. It's no accident that the guestworker programs in Congress are pushed by the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which includes 38 of the country's largest industrial and business associations.

Racial division is a powerful political weapon as well, helping to maintain a conservative Republican majority in Congress and the White House. By the same token, for working communities, overcoming racial division creates new possibilities for winning political power.

In the early 1980s a Black-Latino alliance defeated the Chicago political machine and elected Harold Washington mayor. In the spring of 2005 the same strategy elected Antonio Villaraigosa mayor of Los Angeles, where division between Blacks and Latinos was used to keep conservatives in power for decades. The rebuilding of Biloxi, Gulfport and New Orleans can forge a similar political coalition on the Gulf Coast too. But to accomplish that, working class communities will have to reject the use of immigration as a new dividing line to keep them apart.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Buy Nothing Day, and Indigenous People's 'Unthanksgiving Day' to everyone!

SF Turkey Day Championship Goes to Lincoln High School
Congratulations to San Francisco's Lincoln High School Football team for their exciting 21 to 20 victory, but also to the inspiring 20 point 2nd half effort from the Balboa High School Buccaneers as well in the Annual SF Turkey Bowl at Kezar Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. What a game this year! Though I missed the game this year, we are fortunate that there has been good local coverage of public school athletics in the SF press.
See the SF Examiner's article on the game.

San Francisco Solidarity with Indigenous People on Thanksgiving Day

Over the years, as a progressive tradition of solidarity I have always tried to attend the annual Alcatraz Sunrise Gathering to support Indigenous Peoples Thanksgiving Day and to confront the myths of history, give thanks for our lives and honor the spirit of continued resistance.
The alcatraz event is a tradition that streches back 30 years to Thanksgiving 1975 when the American Indian Movement and others came together to support the struggle of Native people for self-determination.
Every Thanksgiving morning thousands gather at PIER 41 - at SF's FISHERMAN'S WHARF - to catch ferries from 5 - 6:30 am. This year MC's and special guests included:
Lenny Foster, Floyd Westerman, Traditional Pomo Dancers, Danzantes Aztecas, Humaya Dancers, and the All Nation Drummers.
The Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island is always followed by a pot-luck feast, open to the public, free of charge, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oakland Inter-Tribal Friendship House, 523 International Boulevard, Oakland. The organizers always include music, special guest speakers and great food and solidarity. They always need volunteers as well for cooking. If you can help, please call (510) 444-5808.
For more history on the American Indian Movement and the history of the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz from December 1969 through early 1971 check out the film Alcatraz is not an Island . From the website -

The takeover of Alcatraz was one of the most successful American Indian protest
actions of the 20th century, fueling the rise of modern Native American activism. In fact, many of the 74 Indian occupations of federal facilities that followed Alcatraz were either planned by or included people who had been involved in seizing the island.

The occupation also brought Indian rights issues to the attention of the federal government and American public, changing forever the way Native people viewed themselves, their culture and their inherent right to self-determination. The occupation also succeeded in getting the federal government to end its policy of termination and adopt an official policy of Indian self-determination. From 1970 to 1971, Congress passed 52 legislative proposals on behalf of American Indians to support tribal self-rule. ...

After visiting the occupiers on Alcatraz Island, the American Indian Movement (AIM) began a series of national protest actions by seizing federal facilities. Comprised of mostly younger, more progressive and better educated urban Indians, AIM was initially formed to protect urban Indians from civil rights abuses. Inspired by the Alcatraz occupation, AIM became an important multi-tribal protest organization during the '70s. Its first protest action was on Thanksgiving Day 1970, when AIM members painted Plymouth Rock red and seized the Mayflower II replica in Plymouth, Massachusetts to challenge a celebration of colonial expansion. From the takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969 to the Longest Walk in 1978, the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement (ARPM) used social protest to demand that the government honor treaty obligations by providing resources, education, housing and healthcare to alleviate poverty. The ARPM aimed to build Indian colleges and create Indian studies programs, museums and cultural centers with federal funds to redress centuries of cultural repression.

At San Francisco State, where I teach, we also honor the memory of Richard Oakes, a SF State student leader who was instrumental in leading the Alcatraz takeover. Along with other students from SF State and campuses like UCLA, Oakes represented a generation of youth and oppressed groups fighting for power and self-determination for their peoples. The spirit of Alcatraz lives on through us and the annual Sunrise gatherings. Please join us next year.
For more info on the Film Alcatraz is Not an Island

Click here to join qualitySFschoolsforallstudents
Click to join qualitySFschoolsforallstudents

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Educators for Tookie Williams; Books Not Bars Actions Nov 30 & Dec. 5th


The clock is ticking for California death row prisonerStanley Tookie Williams who is scheduled to be executed on December 13. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is calling on educators nationwide tosign on to a letter urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger togrant clemency to death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams.
To download a copy of the Educators for Tookie letter, visit No Death

The collective voice of educators can send a powerful message calling for clemency. Please sign on to this letter today, since Governor Schwarzeneggercan make his decision any day.
This effort is being led by Professors Philip Gasper and William Keach who have previously nominated Stan for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prizein Literature, respectively.
Please see their call to action below.
To sign the letter, send the following information to
Name, Title, Name of institution (for identification purposes only)
Home, address, City, state and zip and E-mail address
For further information about Stan's case, visit or
To download a pdf of the call to action, visit No Death
To Our Fellow Educators:
We are reaching out to you to add your voice to the tens of thousandsof others urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemencyto death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams, due to be executed onDecember 13.
At just 17-years old, in 1971, Mr. Williams co-founded the Crips streetgang. In 1981, he was convicted of four murders and sentenced to death,though he has always maintained his innocence of these crimes. While inprison, Mr. Williams underwent a spiritual transformation. He renounced ganglife and issued a public apology for his role in promoting gang violence. Hedecided that he would dedicate the rest of his life to helping children makebetter decisions than those he made during his youth. His life story is portrayed in the television movie, "Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story" starring actor Jamie Foxx as Mr. Williams. From his cell on death row, Mr. Williams has accomplished the following:
* He has written nine children's books about the dangers of gang life thathave touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people all over theworld.
* He developed the Protocol for Street Peace, which has been used by rivalgangs around the country and the world to broker gang truces.
* He speaks to school children of all ages, teachers, juvenile offenders,gang members, school principals and many others about ending gang violenceand the importance of staying in school.

Mr. Williams is an educator in his own right and we believe that his work isinvaluable to the cause of helping kids stay out of gangs and promotingpeace in communities across the country.
That is why we have nominated Mr.Williams for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. We not only value Mr. Williams work, we value his life. We are asking you to join us in calling for clemency for Stanley Tookie Williams.
Please sign onto the attached letter and become an Educator for Tookie.
Info: or (773) 955-4841.
For further information about Mr. Williams' case, visit .
Thank you for caring about Mr. Williams' life and the lives of youngchildren who find themselves struggling to find their own way.
Sincerely, Philip GasperProfessor of PhilosophyChair, Department of Philosophy & ReligionNotre Dame de Namur UniversityBelmont, CA 94002
William KeachProfessor of EnglishBrown University70 Brown St.Providence RI 02912
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
As educators from around California, the United States and the world, we are writing to you to add our voices to the tens of thousands of others urging you to grant clemency to Stanley Tookie Williams, due to be executed by the State of California on December 13.
Mr. Williams, a former gang leader from Los Angeles, has been on San Quentin's death row for twenty-four years. During his years in prison, however, Mr. Williams has undergone a remarkable transformation. After several years in solitary confinement, he publicly renounced his gang connections and apologized for the pain and harm that his past actions had caused. Since that time, Mr. Williams has dedicated himself to combating the influence of street gangs and offering an alternative to at-risk youth. As a result of his extraordinary work, Mr. Williams has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five times since 2001.
From the confines of his tiny nine-by-four-foot cell, Williams has written nine books for children, attempting to de-romanticize gangs, crime and prison. One of them, Life in Prison, has received two national book honors, including an award from the American Library Association. It has been used in schools, libraries, juvenile correctional facilities and prisons throughout the United States and, indeed, around the world. Mr. Williams has also recorded anti-gang public service announcements for radio that have aired on stations across the United States. More than 70,000 people have sent emails to Mr. Williams' web site, expressing appreciation for his work, with many saying they have opted not to join gangs or have withdrawn from gang membership as a result of reading his books or hearing his voice.
Last year, gang members in Newark, New Jersey who had learned about Mr. Williams by seeing Redemption-the TV movie about his life, starring Jamie Foxx-negotiated a truce based on the "Tookie Protocol for Peace: A Local Street Peace Initiative," posted on his web site. Before signing the peace treaty, the gangs had been responsible for 34 murders in the first four months of 2004 alone. After signing the treaty in May, gang-related killing in Newark stopped, and the truce has held ever since.The Observer newspaper in London reported in November 2004 that Mr. Williams' anti-gang initiatives have now been extended to Britain.

In London, where there is a significant street gang problem, the hip-hop music industry is featuring him in an anti-gang advertising campaign in magazines, and his recently published autobiography (Blue Rage, Black Redemption) is being sold in music stores alongside hip-hop CDs. Mr. Williams' work has been positively cited by several authors, including the psychologist Linda Goldman in Raising Our Children to be Resilient: A Guide to Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today's World, the criminologist Lewis Yablonsky in his book Gangsters, and social activist and former- California State Senator Tom Hayden in Street Wars: Gangs and the Future of Violence. According to Yablonsky, emeritus Professor of Criminology at California State University, Northridge, "Williams is the only person I know of-gangster or criminologist-who has come up with any kind of articulate insight into black-on-black violence."
Mr. Williams has always maintained that he is innocent of the murders for which he was originally convicted. There was no physical evidence linking him to these crimes, and it is disputable whether he received a fair trial.What is clear, however, is that over the past few years Mr. Williams has probably saved hundreds of lives. If his death sentence is commuted and he is permitted to continue his work, he can save hundreds more. If he is executed, a unique and irreplaceable voice for peace will have been lost. Governors are given the power to grant clemency so that they may show mercy in truly exceptional cases. It is hard to think of a case that could be more exceptional than that of Mr. Williams. He has become an inspiring example to thousands of at-risk young people in California, in the rest of the United States, and in many other countries around the world.
We urge you to halt his execution.

Campaign to End the Death Penalty
773-955-4841 office ® 773 955 4842 fax

Books Not Bars - has been pressuring the Governor and State to end the racism and injustice in the juvenile prison system. Gear up for nov 30th actions!

Dear Friends,
We're getting down to the wire in November: will the Governor do the right thing? So far this month, over 500,000 people watched news coverage of our statewide vigils, and over 20,000 people watched our funny new online cartoon. And in the last week, over 2,500 people e-mailed the Governor urging him to close the youth prisons! And that's not all! Read below for important actions and updates, and how you can help in this crucial time.


1) Watch (and forward) our hilarious online cartoon!
Can the Governator's multiple movie personalities help him solve California's problems? Find out in "Action Heroes in Office." Arnold promised he'd fix California's infamous, abusive youth prisons by November 30. The deadline is fast approaching. What can he do?
click here to help

2) Sacramento Day of Action on November 30th!
On November 30th, the Governor and corrections officials will reveal their plan to fix the CYA. We're going up to Sacramento to tell the Governor that any plan that doesn't close Chad and the other abusive CYA prisons is bound to fail.
We'll be arriving with high hopes and fun props; you won't want to miss this event! For more information, contact David at 510-428-3939 x243 or
click here to help.

3) Come Out For An Important Public Hearing on December 5th!
On December 5th, the Senate Budget Subcommittee for Corrections will likely hold a hearing to find out why corrections officials have failed to bring an end to the abuse and waste of CYA. Come show these officials that youth, families, and community members are watching and won't wait any longer! For more information, contact David at 510-428-3939 x243 or .

FUNNY FLASH FILM: Over 20,000 People Watch It!
Last week, we made history by releasing our first ever online "flash" cartoon about California's broken juvenile justice system. This hilarious parody has been forwarded all over the internet and over 20,000 people have watched it so far! Check out “Action Heroes in Office” today and help us spread the word!
Click here to help

STATEWIDE VIGILS: Over Half a Million People Hear Our Message!
Our statewide vigils on November 16th were a huge success! Over 500 people attended, and we received coverage on 11 newscasts with over 500,000 viewers. Read the highlights from each city!
About 250 people marched from juvenile court to the state building, where we gathered for the vigil. Dozens of onlookers were so inspired by the chanting and songs, they spontaneously joined us in our march. Families for Books Not Bars member Barbara Jackson led in an inspiring program, featuring Reverend Dr. Elouise Oliver, Nancy Nadel of the Oakland City Council, and civil rights attorney John Bass. Huge thanks to AYPAL, the Center for Young Women's Development, Candace Wicks, Siaira Harris, Malaika Parker and all those who helped make the vigil an enormous success!
The sanctuary at the Agape Spiritual Center was a powerful setting for a vigil filled with song, prayer, and hope. Brian Walton of the Guiding Light Prison Ministry made this event happen -- thank you! Special thanks also go to Reverend Dr. Michael Beckwith, Javier Stauring from the Los Angeles Office of Restorative Justice, Youth Justice Coalition, Labor Communities Strategies Center, and the Bus Riders Union.
Families for Books Not Bars member Laura Talkington organized an inspiring vigil in Fresno, where a young man recently released from Chad spoke about his experiences. Many thanks to the Reverend Floyd Harris from the California Chapter of the National Action Network, and all those who took part in this meaningful event!
In San Jose, youth, families, and community members gathered around five special candles, made in honor of the five youth who have lost their lives in CYA. Special recognition goes to Blanca Bosquez, Connie Flora, Violet Mejia and Civil Rights for Children for helping to plan the event -- thank you!
Many thanks are in order for Blanca Gabriele, youth advocate with Sobriety Brings A Change for coordinating a powerful vigil at the Sol Art and Culture Collective! We also want to appreciate Estella Sanchez, Samuel Iniquez and the folks from Escuelas Si, Pintas No! for making the vigil a great success.
For more info

Monday, November 21, 2005

SFOP's Avenues of Hope Organizing for San Francisco Youth and Families - great post by Kim Knox

The San Francisco Organizing Project - SFOP's Sunday afternoon ['accountability session'] rally at Mission High School with 3000 community folks staring down politicians like me, Nancy Pelosi, Mark Leno, Aaron Peskin, Gavin Newsom and Norman Yee [Tom Ammiano, Sophie Maxwell and Ross Mirkarimi and Mark Sanchez and Sarah Lipson were also in the audience] was a breath of fresh air in SF schools and City politics.
SFOP's base and organizers deserve a lot of credit for building their voice and power by successfully bringing together one of the most diverse - multi-ethnic, multilingual, neighborhood and parish-based - political events of the year which linked issues of housing and economic justice with community safety and educational justice.
Their leaders talked about a broader vision of social justice - their AVENUES OF HOPE CAMPAIGN - that will help people unite to defeat the conservatism in Sacramento and the White House and advance SFOP's strategies of community organizing and policy change. It was very inspiring too to see so many young folks [older folks too] from June Jordan High School of Equity and Aim High Academy, 2 amazingly successful small schools in SF, and Principal Dr. Raymond Isola from Sanchez Elementary School in the Misison District as well.

Here's educational justice activist Kim Knox's article on the 11/20/05 SFOP rally from the Left in SF website: [one of the SFOP leaders she accidentally omits is Natalie Gee who challenged Assemblyman Mark Leno on universal health care and job training for working families and youth. Natalie is also active the Board of SFOP and a leader of the Chinese Progressive Association who will be going to the 4th World Social Forum in Hong Kong in a few weeks to join with other grassroots organizers in the US and throughout the world fighting against globalization]
The San Francisco Organizing Project, a coalition of churches and schools, had an organizing conference on “Avenues of Hope: Offering a Future to the Youth and Families of San Francisco.”
The program’s organizers estimated 3,000 people at the conference. The presenters were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Assemblymember Mark Leno, BOS President Aaron Peskin, BOE President Eric Mar and BOE Vice President Norman Yee.
Co-Chair Eleanor Williams of Providence Baptist Church explained that the proposal was created by 3,000 surveys received by SFOP from their members. They found that the biggest concerns that members had were education and jobs for youth. SFOP then did research to create nine proposals.
Co-Chair and Deacon Nate Bacon of St. Peter’s stated some of the information that they found-only 50% of African-American and Latinon students that enter in the 9th grade graduate from SFUSD in the 12th grade. Even though San Francisco has the lowest percentage (versus its population) of children of any urban area in California, it has the largest number of jailed youth. Bacon said, “We need to create avenues of hope where families can survive and thrive in the City of Saint Francisco.” Later Bacon also quoted a local minister who stated, “Nothing stops a bullet better than a job.”
At that point, several youth gave testimonies on the impact of education and lack of jobs on their lives. Marcus Garrett explained that he started hanging out with dealers and in the streets at 14-till he was sent to Sacramento at 16 by his mother. Another young speaker spoke about how when he got out of Juvenile Hall at 16, his parole officer wouldn’t give him approval to go back to a traditional high school. At 18, his parole officer refused to give him approval to enter the Job Corps program. But he announced that he has three sons and his wife has just been accepted to USF. He also reports that he is working with construction-and helping his friends get jobs in constructin.
Joe Trigueros and Brittany Donaldson then asked Mayor Gavin Newsom four questions-

1) Would the Mayor support programs that would allow all youth in the
juvenile justice system to have access to job training and education programs,
2) Would the Mayor agree to sponsor an employment summit with key
businesses to create summer jobs for youth in 2006,
3) Would the Mayor agree to implement CityBuild (a construction jobs
program that the Mayor is planning to implement in January 2006) and replicate
it for jobs in digital media, biotech and clean technology,
4) Would the Mayor agree to provide an annual public report card that
documents progress of local hiring?

The Mayor stated that he applaud SFOP of bringing this issues out to the community. He stated that he had already hired a new person to head Juvenile Justice, a point person for the new program for CityBuild along with Jesse Blout to work on these type of programs. He also promised to give SFOP a one year to five year program to show the progress of various programs. Newsom also stated that he had been to the Gates Foundation in San Francisco to get a honest assessment of why they reluctantly withdrew a $10 million grant from SFUSD. He didn’t give a list of what the Gates Foundation thought that SFUSD could do better.
Frank Arana asked Assemblymember Mark Leno two questions-

1) Would he promise to again sponsor legislation to provide universal
health care program to all youth up to age of 25 in California and
2) Would he promise to sponsor legislation on job training.

Leno agreed very quickly to both-and pointed out that even though the Governor vetoed Leno’s last legislation for universal health care for all children, the Governor recently sent a message that he was now (after the election) willing to support it. Leno also stated that he would continue to push for legislation that would allow San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to pass a local vehicle tax that would bring $70 million into the coffers.
Marcus Garrett then asked President Peskin if he was willing to support legislation that would reduce youth violence and would he support the Small Schools Initiative? Peskin was the only one who repeated SFOP’s theme by stating “The Board of Superivsors is willing to follow your lead in creating Avenues of Hope.” He pointed out that Mirkarimi and Maxwell had passed legislation to create a Select Committee to Study Guns and Violence in San Francisco. He also pointed out Ammiano’s legislation to get more jobs for youth in San Francisco.
Ayanna Banks first directed her questions to BOE President Eric Mar-

1) Would he support community involvement in the Superintendent selection
process, including townhall meetings and school-based meetings,
2) Would he support taking “small schools by design” off the closure list,
including Aim High, June Jordan and Sanchez?,
3) Create a policy that supports the development of “small schools by
design” and gives them autonomy to be successful?

The crowd was at its loudest and on its feet when Eric simply said, “Yes, Yes, Yes!”
Eric said that he wanted a process where community input was truly heard and not just a tokenism. He agreed to work to get the three small schools off of the closure list. He also stated that he would work with other School Board members to do all that they could to support the Small School Initiative.
Ayanna Banks then directed the same questions to Vice President Norman Yee. Norman stated that he has always been supportive of community input in the superintendent selection. He noted that a citizen advisory board was being created in order to faciliate community invovlement in the selection.
As for the small schools, Norman stated that he is always supportive of “successful schools that are doing well with academics.” He noted that both of the high schools listed-Aim High and June Jordan-were doing well academically and he would be willing to support getting them off the closure list. He didn’t say anything about Sanchez.
At that point, Mayor Newsom was asked to return to the podium. Before Regnaldo Woods from Bethel AME Church asked Newsom if he felt the urgency that SFOP feels about getting programs on education and youth training implemented. Newsom said that he did-and he said,”When SFOP comes back in a year or two from now, we want to make sure that you all will know what progress will be making over the next five years.”
At that point, the program was concluded.
Full Posting from Left in SF

Saturday, November 19, 2005

To Ensure Fair & Equitable California Schools - Step Up Demands for Adequate Funding

With the Governor’s defeat in the Nov 05 Special Election and his popularity in decline and the Rob Reiner California Preschool for All Ballot Initiative headed for the June 2006 ballot, advocates for adequacy of funding for CA schools should be building their base and strategizing for bigger reforms at the state level in the years to come.

The Oakland-based Applied Research Center convened a racial justice summit last Wednesday at the State Building in downtown Oakland. ARC’s Tammy Johnson and Alfredo De Avila deserve an incredible amount of credit in convening an incredible group of sharp policy folks from many areas mixed in with community organizers and policy makers.

In the very frank discussion during the summit’s education working group, most of the 50 or so in attendance pointed to the inequality of funding of schools in low income communities of color [or some problem related to this] as the major issue that they wanted to address in their organizing or advocacy work.

Sacramento State University Professor and activist Duane Campbell points this out too in his Choosing Democracy Blog where he cites the Public Policy Institute of California’s October 29, 2003 report Reality Check: Expectations For California Students Outstrip Resources .

The differences between California and the nation are striking on both dimensions. For example, California has 25 percent fewer teachers per pupil and spends approximately 9 percent less per student than schools in the rest of the United States.

Yet, to meet the state’s performance goals under the API system, approximately 70 percent of students at every school would have to exceed the national median on the Stanford 9 achievement test. “These are exceptionally high standards by any measure,” says PPIC research fellow Heather Rose, who co-authored the study, High Expectations, Modest Means: The Challenge Facing California’s Public Schools. “California expects students to do much better than students in other states, but with fewer means.”

California’s relatively modest school resources have less to do with low state spending generally than with a lower percentage of spending on K-12 education, higher cost of living, and larger population of school age children, according to the study. In 1999-2000, 22 percent of total government spending in California went to public schools compared to 25 percent in the rest of the nation. At the same time, there were 8 percent more pupils per capita in California than in the rest of the country.

[The authors strongly suggested the need for an overhaul of California’s horribly inequitable and structurally racist system of school finance - Eric ]

The report also raises important questions about the effectiveness of California’s system of school finance, where the amount of money provided to schools is based on previous funding levels rather than on independent needs assessments. “The way we finance schools operates on an automatic pilot mentality — doing what was done before — instead of addressing what schools really need or taking into account what specific resources really cost,” says Rose.

Professor Campbell concludes that there has been no improvement in school funding since the 2003 PPIC report.


Many educational justice activists credit the ACLU/Public Advocates Williams vs. California case also as a step forward in addressing funding inequities, but also racism and socio-economic inequality in the state’s schools.
The case was filed on May 17, 2000 [the 46th Anniversary of the landmark Brown V. Board of Education case] behalf of 46 students in 18 schools throughout the state and including 12 year old Samoan immigrant Eli Williams from San Francisco’s Burbank Middle School and later Balboa High School [both SF schools named in the suit].
The grievances ranged from lack of material needs like text books and computers to the inadequacy of teaching staff, unfair testing requirements and decaying facilities that wouldn't pass even minimal prison health inspections.

To emphasize the structural racism in the school finance system in California, the advocates emphasized that students of color in the 18 schools cited by the plaintiffs make up 96 percent of the student body, compared to the state average of 59 percent minority enrollment.

In August 2004, the state reached a $1 billion settlement in the case. The state agreed to immediately spend $188 million to buy books for and make repairs at the lowest-performing schools. The settlement also created a system for students and teachers to lodge complaints about substandard conditions, and imposed a 30-day deadline for resolving them.

But many say the reality of the Williams case settlement is far from its promise.

Sacramento Bee columnist Peter Schrag describs the Williams settlement in critical terms: "It moves things forward, but by inches, not by yards."
Schrag has been covering the Williams lawsuit since it was filed, and has also written a book, "Final Test: The Battle for Adequacy in America's Schools," on these lawsuits nationally. Read Schrag's essay.


Even mainstream groups like the California School Boards Association are now stepping into the mix in alliance with Children Now, the California League of Women Voters, the California Teachers Association and members of the state’s Education Coalition to coordinate a public dialogue about the concept of adequate funding.

I have been in the CSBA's delegate assembly governance body since 2001. At our early December meeting in San Diego we will be kicking off our statewide campaign.

Seeing the urgent need to move away from a system that simply provides schools a portion of the year’s available revenues rather than determining what funding is required to attain the expected student outcomes, education and child advocates, business leaders, good-government groups and others have joined a campaign to advocate for change.

According to CSBA: “The need for such a campaign became evident last year when settlement of the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the state – Williams v. State of California – failed to produce any meaningful reform that would pull state funding for public education out of the downward spiral that began in the late 1970s. “Public school advocates have filed suit over education funding levels in a majority of states, but so far even those that have won legal victories have not actually increased the amount of money schools have at their disposal to improve educational offerings.”

* California ranks 44th in the nation in per-pupil funding despite
being the sixth largest economy in the world.
* California has among the highest expectations in the nation for its students and public schools, and its more than 6 million schoolchildren come from the most diverse backgrounds and circumstances.

“An investment in students and K-12 public education is an investment in children, the economy, society and democracy. Unfortunately, California’s investment over the past 20 years has been woefully inadequate,” said CSBA Executive Director Scott P. Plotkin. “We’re optimistic that we will be able to move past the divisive politics that have bogged this conversation down in the past and have a rational conversation about our public education goals, activities and resources.”

Click here for more info on CSBA's efforts

Friday, November 18, 2005

Big Challenges Ahead for SF Schools

Left in SF is the best resource for cutting edge political analysis of progressive policy, labor and education, housing and economic justice struggles going on in our City.

For a great posting on the challenges ahead for SF Unified School District - check out local schools activist and Prop H [Preschool Sports Arts Music Librarians and Learning Support] Community Advisory Committee Member Kim Knox's analysis -

Post-Strike Notes [by kim knox]
Now that the Local 790 strike on SFUSD has been averted, there are still some big outstanding items that the BOE has to tackle:

1. Keep talking to the teachers-they are still working on their contract and they have voted to consider a strike on their own.
2. Keep talking to Local 21 and other unions that have members at SFUSD-they don’t have a contract as well.
3. Budget money for raises and professional development. Think of the funds as an investment.
4. School closure-Round 1 of School Enrollment is over on Jan. 23. You need to either determine (with public input) the five to six schools that will be cut or move the date for Round 1 of School Enrollment.
5. Superintendent Search. Ackerman has shown up for the last two meetings and a hour in the meeting, she has Gwen Chan sit in her seat-while Arlene sits next to the student delegates. After 20 minutes or so, suddenly Arlene disappears.
You have a boat w ithout a captain. Get community input on what vision they have for THEIR school district-and what they want in THEIR superintendent.
6. Over million extra dollars was put into the Central Office in last year’s budget. Find out where Harrington thought that there could be fat-and then pursue taking it out-and giving it back to the classroom.

There are many issues facing SFUSD-even without the strike. We all need to work hard to address those issues.
Click here for the full posting.

Kim Knox is the editor and author of several environmental education books and was elected to the Green County Council in 2004. She also founded the SF Envrionmental Summit for Youth and the Environment Bowl for High School Students.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parents, Teachers and Students are the Heroes in Averting the SF Schools Strike of 2005

Despite the mainstream coverage of the Mayor's involvement and SEIU 790 and Teachers Union involvement in settling the labor dispute with the SF Unified School District, I think the real heroes are the hundreds and thousands of parents, teachers and students that flooded the board with emails and phone calls, and spoke out at school board meeting after meeting about the need for a fair contract for the 1200 SEIU 790 members who work as custodians, secretaries and cafeteria workers in our district.
Parent groups like Coleman Advocates, Parent Advocates for Youth, Parents for Public Schools, the SFUSD Parent Advisory Council and others played a significant role, as did Youth Making a Change and hundreds of students from schools like SOTA, Balboa, Mission and Lowell that wrote letters to the Board, superintendent and other district officials.
Teachers and Paras from United Educators of SF and other labor groups were constantly active at board meetings and behind the scenes in supporting the SEIU 790 workers. The labor solidarity of the teachers and other unions supporting SEIU 790 was unprecedented in our school district.
Thanks also to PPS, Green Party leader Kim Knox, Parent Advisory Council leader Rick Reynolds, sfschools listserve and K.C. Jones' blog for providing timely up to date info for parents and community members as well.

Another unmentioned hero also was my colleague Commissioner Sarah Lipson. On Tuesday night, in the midst of a full moon and during the heat of the discussion of an ill-conceived proposal from the Superintendent to shift 2 January and March professional development days to Thursday and Friday, thus locking out Paras and classified staff from their jobs, many in the audience [students, parents, teachers, and community members] lined up one after the other to denouce the proposal as 'sneaky' and disrespectful to staff. Lipson made a 10:30 pm motion to kill the proposal and then later to delay it until our negotiating team could have a last chance at reaching an agreement with SEIU 790 leadership. Luckily the motion passed with Commissioner Mark Sanchez, Norman Yee and my support.

If the motion had failed, I believe the negotiations would have broken down and we would be dealing with a strike right now. The delay allowed me to become involved in the labor negotiations that resumed after midnight at City Hall. And, with the help of SF Controller Ed Harrington, Mayor Newsom's Chief of Staff Steve Kawa and others, we were able to hammer out an agreement by 4am. We collectively had prevented the strike from proceeding.

I woke up this morning in an incredible mood not just because of the weird SF warm sunny weather, but because our schools would be open and running and that we had all worked collectively to ensure a fair contract for the 1200 SEIU members and avoided a potentially devastating and costly strike in our schools.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Strike Avoided in San Francisco Schools!

Good news!
At 3:30am the SF Board of Education and SEIU 790 leadership reached a tentative agreement on our contract dispute.
This means there will be no strike!
Thanks to all Board members who met past midnight in an especially difficult night of meetings; and to Jill Wynns and Norman Yee who worked with me and our Director of Labor Relations Tom Ruiz and Chief of Policy and Planning Myong Leigh to hammer out the tentative agreement with the SEIU 790 leadship. I also wanted to say that Controller Ed Harrington, Mayor's Chief of Staff Steve Kawa, SF Human Resources Director, and Education Liaison Hydra Mendoza were instrumental in bringing SEIU 790 and the Board together.
Thanks also to SEIU 790 for working with the SF Unified School District also to bring about an end to the labor conflict. It is my understanding that SEIU members now must ratify the contract proposal presented by their leadership. Then the Board of Education must vote on the contract as well probably in the December 13, 2005 Board meeting.I hope this helps San Francisco students, parents, teachers and staff breathe a little easier now...

Monday, November 14, 2005

New Rethinking Schools - features special on Fighting Against Military Recruiters and Militarism in the Schools

My favorite Education publication is Rethinking Schools. The new issue of the magazine is out. Check out the special feature on fighting against military recruiting in the schools.

The publication began in 1986 when a group of Milwaukee-area teachers decided to not only struggle to improve education in their own classrooms and schools, but to help shape reform throughout the public school system in the United States.
In 19 years Rethinking Schools has grown into a nationally prominent publisher of educational materials, with subscribers in all 50 states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and many other countries.

One of the anti-military recruiting policies promoted in the current issue is driven by Portland Teachers -

Draft Resoution to End Military Recruitment Abuse
Fall 2005
As is true throughout much of the United States, in Portland, Ore., military recruiters lie to and mislead high school students. They show up uninvited on campus. They call students at home. They ask personal questions about students' future plans and then assure them that the best way these can be realized is by first joining the military. Want to go to college? Join the military. Want to be a musician? Join the military. Want to kickbox? Join the military.

Not surprisingly, recruiters frequent schools serving working class and low-income communities. [See "The Recruitment Minefield," in the Spring 2005 issue of Rethinking Schools.] The following resolution was drafted by a group of teachers and activists who decided that without a districtwide policy, recruitment abuses were sure to continue or even increase. They hope to build community support for the resolution and to have it introduced at a future school board meeting. For more information, contact Bill Bigelow,

Whereas: No Child Left Behind regulations (Section 9528) require that public secondary schools "shall provide military recruiters the same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post secondary educational institutions or to prospective employers of those students;" and
Whereas: Portland secondary teachers, counselors, parents, and students report that military recruiters have pursued students aggressively, including: arriving at high schools without invitation, approaching students with no supervision by school authorities, contacting students by phone and email even when requested not to do so by parents and students themselves, visiting students' homes, buying students gifts, lying to and misleading students about military life and military regulations (including making promises that recruits will not be sent to Iraq), manipulating or casting aspersions upon students' post-high school hopes, approaching students in their classes, participating in curricular and extracurricular activities at school (even bringing weapons on campus); and
Whereas: Military access is disturbingly uneven from one Portland high school to another and tends to be more intense in schools serving predominantly low- or middle-income neighborhoods (e.g., Roosevelt, Marshall, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin); and
Whereas: It is the responsibility of Portland Public Schools to promote the welfare of students while at school and at school events, and to provide students with complete and accurate information about the choices they will confront upon graduation from high school;

Therefore Be it resolved that pursuant to the NCLB Act, Portland Public School officials will provide military recruiters no greater access to students than that provided to post secondary educational institutions or prospective employers, and will provide student information to U.S. military authorities only after obtaining permission to do so in writing by an individual student, or by a parent or guardian of the student; and
Be it further resolved that any vendors with access to student information through legitimate business dealings with a school and/or a school's students may not give, lend, or sell this information to the military or risk being banned from doing business with Portland Public Schools; and
Be it further resolved that in accordance with Section 9528 of No Child Left Behind, military recruiters shall be granted no special access to students; specifically, recruiters: 1. must secure prior permission before coming onto a high school campus; 2. may engage in recruitment activities no more than once per year; 3. may not participate in any extra-curricular activities, including but not limited to field day events, graduation ceremonies, school assemblies, or sporting events; 4. may not bring weapons, Humvees, or other military equipment onto a high school campus for any purpose whatsoever; 5. may meet with students only by appointment and only in a designated counseling or career center; and 6. may not participate in the design or teaching of any course curriculum; and
Be it further resolved that Portland Public Schools students, staff, and parents shall be informed at least two weeks prior to military recruiters coming on campus—publicized in the same manner as for other institutional recruiters; and
Be it further resolved that if a military recruiter is found to have lied to a student, he or she shall be permanently banned from Portland Public Schools; and
Be it finally resolved that recruiters shall not be allowed on the campus of any Portland elementary or middle school.
Fall 2005

For the table of contents of the current issue - Fall 2005 Rethinking Schools

Contact the American Friends Service Committee for more info on anti-military policies and organizing - AFSC.

Another great resource is the Guide: the No Child Left Behind Act’s Military Recruitment Provision & Opt-Out Practice By: Josh Sonnenfeld, Counter Recruitment Organizer & former RCNV Intern: ...,....

See also the CCCO [Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors] Military out of the schools project - MOSP

For info the SF Unified School District anti-war, student privacy, etc. policies - click here.

FIRE Schoolyard bullies like Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly!

Giving Al Qaeda the green light to attack San Francisco
"And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."
Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly during his radio show on 11/8/05

Most San Franciscan's are used to right wing and conservative commentators like Bill O'Reilly and we expect to be criticized and sometimes 'picked on' by radio and TV hosts. But I didn't expect the level of violence and vindictiveness from O'Reilly's election day remarks against all San Franciscans - Giving Al Queda the Green Light to Attack SF . The only thing that distinguishes O'Reilly from your typical schoolyard bully is that he has a national mass audience through Fox TV and other networks. Despite O'Reilly's subsequent efforts to downplay his remarks, I agree with progressive Supervisor Chris Daly [see below] that concerned folks should contact Fox News and demand that O'Reilly's show be cancelled.

SF Schools parent and blogger extraordinaire KC Jones hit the nail on the head with his comments:
Now I know why I voted for Prop I - O'Reilly is such an idiot:
"'You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, 'Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds," ' O'Reilly said Tuesday on his radio show as San Franciscans were approving the two measures.How dare San Francisco exercise their voting rights! How dare they get out of line! I can almost hear him breaking into another apoplectic round of "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"
Now I know, Prop I was worth it.
For More Visit - SF Schools
Progressive SF Supervisor Chris Daly fired back calling for Fox TV to fire O'Reilly -

The Daly Blog - November 11, 2005
Fire Bill O'Reilly
I love San Francisco. When I heard what Bill O'Reilly had to say about our City on his Tuesday radio broadcast , I couldn't sit still...
And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
I continue to be outraged.
Given how the conservatives have used the tragic events of September 11th and the heroism of New York's fire fighters to forward their political agenda over the past 4 years, it's hard to miss the irony of O'Reilly's target selection.Of course San Franciscans know that Coit Tower, the fire hose nozzle on Telegraph Hill, was built as a monument to San Francisco's fire fighters. I called my friend, San Francisco Fire Fighters Local 798 President John Hanley, this morning to find out what he thought. Hanley was livid. He joined me outside of Station #3 on Post Street, America's busiest firehouse, to call on Fox News and Westwood One to fire Bill O'Reilly.
It's harder still to miss that Bill O'Reilly is full of hate. It's fine to disagree with San Francisco's majority opinion for gun control, against the war and military recruiting, or for gay marriage. But to green-light another terrorist attack on American soil crosses way over the line. We are a diverse city with people from all walks of life. Families with children live here, Mr. O'Reilly. Your comments are chilling, un-American and make you little better than the terrorists.
Fox News and Westwood One have a great responsibility as broadcasters to the American public. Both should take immediate action to terminate their contracts with Mr. O'Reilly.
Fire Bill: vol. 2
Got a call from Todd Chretian early last night. The Prop I author had just appeared on "The Situation with Tucker Carlson." He'd been contacted by an "O'Reilly Factor" producer offering me a one-on-one debate with O'Reilly.
A fair debate with O'Reilly? Anytime. Anywhere.
Of course, there's never been a fair debate on O'Reilly's show. So where does that leave us? Well, KPIX, San Francisco's CBS affiliate has offered to host. I think Coit Tower would be a great venue.
The call to fire Bill O'Reilly has gotten some seconds. There's a couple of threads up on Daily Kos including one encouraging folks to boycott O'Reilly's sponsors. With O'Reilly digging in, this could get even more interesting.
for more Daly Blogs click here!

On a personal note, in January 2003 after I authored a major anti-war resolution for the SF School District on the eve of the Iraq War [which passed unanimously at our school board] O'Reilly's TV staff were frantically trying to interview me and my co-author School Board Commissioner Mark Sanchez. They pursued us like pit bulls. But fortunately, we both resisted, knowing what a sham of a 'news program' the O'Reilly Factor really is. Too bad Oakland School Board member and former anti-war leader and civil rights lawyer Dan Siegel went on the show, and too bad former SF politicians like Angela Alioto get suckered into appearing on O'Reilly's show since their appearances only serve to legitimize O'Reilly and the right wing propaganda he promotes. And, O'Reilly's show makes the interviewees also look like idiots and suckers as well to their audience. Great fun for the talk show hosts to further 'bully' anyone or any City that they disagree with. Not too different than schoolyard bullies...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Asthma, Schools and Environmental Justice

Marie Hoemke, a former SF School Nurse and activist with the SF Asthma Task Force, has been one of the driving forces of implementing better Asthma policies in the San Francisco Schools - addressing a serious issue of environmental racism in our City. But she hasn't done this alone. She's worked alongside amazing parent and enviornmental justice activists like Maria Luz Torre, Lorrie Jones, Natasha Madaris and Parent Voices, Beth Saiki and Anjali Nath of the American Lung Association, and Kathy Perry of Kaiser and the Chair of the City's Task Force. Hoemke has been at it for over a decade. In the 1990's she worked with teachers, parents and students from George Washington Carver Elementary like school counselor Veronica Lightfoot to begin the district's first school asthma education program in 1996. See the SF Asthma Task Force's Strategic Plan.

For a concise history of the struggle for envirnonmental justice in the SF Schools in the Bayview Hunters Point communities - check out this article from the Action Alliance for Childen's July-August 2000 issue of the Children's Advocate.
Check out also SF Chronicle environmental reporter Jane Kay's excellent coverage of the struggle to change City and School District policies in the aftermath of the deaths of 3 children.

Marie, with Parent Voices, the American Lung Association, Bayview Hunters Point and other parents in the South East neighborhoods of SF and others are keeping the pressure on the School District to deal with asthma and other environmental justice issues in our district.

For a useful tool for school districts - check out - Tools for Schools
Help improve the air in your school through the Tools for Schools action kit.
The Tools for Schools kit shows schools how to carry out a practical plan of action to prevent and resolve indoor air problems—and create a healthier environment for children and staff.
The number of children with asthma increased by 60 percent during the 1980s, and poor indoor air quality can trigger asthmatic episodes. Over half of the schools surveyed found at least one environmental problem which affects indoor air quality, according to a recent government report.
Good indoor air quality contributes to a favorable learning environment for students, productivity for teachers and staff, and a a sense of comfort, health, and well-being for all school occupants. These combine to assist a school in its core mission—educating children.
For more information about Tools for Schools, just call 1-800-LUNG-USA to be connected automatically to your local American Lung Association office.

See also the American Association of Adminstrator's new
Powerful Practices: A Checklist for School Districts Addressing the Needs of Students with Asthma

This checklist, developed by AASA and partner school districts, is intended for school administrators to use to help you identify areas of asthma management your district is already doing well, as well as areas in which you may want to focus more energy.

Asthma Wellness: Keeping Children With Asthma in School and LearningProject Facts
Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than five million school-aged children. It is the reason 10 million school days are missed each year and thereby can have significant negative impacts on academic performance. It is critical for school leaders to be proactive and implement policies and practices that will keep children with asthma in school and learning. This is why AASA—the oldest and largest membership organization for school superintendents—has undertaken an effort to reduce the burden of asthma among children and youth. This ambitious five-year effort is funded by the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For SF School Board Resolutions on Asthma - click here.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

San Francisco Schools Desegregation Order Ends - Racial and Socio-Economic Inequality Continues

Heather Knight's SF Chronicle article gives some sense of what kind of desegregation and student assignment plan San Francisco will be moving towards. But she totally leaves out how 'separate and unequal' the schools have become especially following the impact of the Brian Ho vs. SFUSD early 90's lawsuit which challenged admissions at SF's elite Lowell High School and threatened the continuation of the SF desegregation consent decree.
The best source for info on the racial and socio-economic inequality in SF schools is Consent Decree Monitor Stuart Biegel [UCLA Law Professor] and his website - SFUSD CONSENT DECREE SITE. His Report #22 – Filed August 1, 2005 is a good outline of the ongoing inequality in the SF schools.

SF - New challenges await school assignment plan
Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer - Thursday, November 10, 2005
One day after a federal judge announced the end of the court order overseeing the desegregation system in San Francisco's public schools, it was clear the debate over the way children are assigned to schools is far from over -- and could wind up back in court.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup turned down a lawyers' request Tuesday to extend the 22-year-old "consent degree'' for 18 months past its planned sunset date of Dec. 31, meaning the school district will be out from under court supervision in seven weeks.
In his decision, Alsup wrote that the current system, which uses socioeconomic factors but not race in assigning students to schools, "imposes a burden on families" and "has not and will not produce the benefit of diversity or racial integration."
Members of the San Francisco Board of Education said Wednesday that since using socioeconomic factors had not worked to desegregate all public schools, they planned to devise a system using students' race as a factor in time for assignments for the 2007-08 school year.
"You can't create racial equality if you're not race-conscious," said Board President Eric Mar. "Having race in the student assignment system is a necessity." ...
Full Article

The Chronicle's Bob Egelko's piece from the day before focussed more on the Judge's decision, but similarly didn't give much info on how the rapid resegregation of SF and other Urban School District is creating a more unequal system where race and class are barriers to an equal education.

SAN FRANCISCO Judge puts end to court's role in desegregation of city schools He restores control to district after 22 years of supervision
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer - Wednesday, November 9, 2005
A federal judge ordered a halt Tuesday to 22 years of court supervision over San Francisco schools' desegregation policies, saying the involvement of the legal system may only be increasing segregation.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected requests by the San Francisco Unified School District, the NAACP and a group of Chinese American parents to extend by 18 months a court order, known as a consent decree, that governs school assignments.
The order, first signed in 1983 to settle a suit that accused the district of policies that segregated African American and white children, is due to expire at the end of this year. Alsup's ruling leaves school assignments in the hands of the elected school board and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who plans to retire in June.
"What is best for the children of San Francisco should be left to the professionals in the district, subject to the voices of all in the community," the judge wrote.
He said the schools are now laboring under "court-ordered resegregation" under a revised system, negotiated by opposing community groups and the district in 2001, that prohibited the use of race in school assignments and substituted socioeconomic status. The proposal to extend the consent decree would have locked the current system in place for at least another year, Alsup said. ...
School board President Eric Mar said Alsup was right to criticize the current assignment system. He said the board and the superintendent must devise a plan that balances the needs of the poorest children with those of families on the West Side -- middle class, working class, immigrants and Chinese Americans -- who want their children to attend schools close to home.
"We need to come up with a plan that is consistent with the progressive values of San Francisco but also with the changing demographics of the city," Mar said.

Desegregation time line

Events in the San Francisco school desegregation case:
-- 1969: The first lawsuit is filed accusing the San Francisco Unified School District of a policy of segregation. It was dismissed in 1978 after a court ruling in favor of the district.
-- 1978: The NAACP and a group of African American parents sue the district and the state, accusing them of maintaining a segregated school system in San Francisco.
-- 1983: U.S. District Judge William Orrick approves a consent decree prohibiting enrollment at any school of more than 45 percent of a single racial or ethnic group, requiring each school's staff to reflect districtwide student racial and ethnic composition, and taking additional steps to desegregate 19 historically segregated schools.
-- 1993: The decree is modified after court-appointed researchers find that desegregation goals have largely been achieved but that the academic performance gap persists for black and Latino students.
-- 1994: A group of Chinese American parents sues to overturn the decree, saying that it was an unconstitutional act of racial discrimination and also that it is no longer necessary.
-- 1999: Orrick rules that the Chinese American plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their claim that race-based student assignments are no longer constitutional because school enrollment does not reflect any discriminatory practices that existed before 1983.
-- 2001: A revised consent decree, negotiated by both groups of plaintiffs and the district, eliminates use of race in student assignments and substitutes a "diversity index" based on socioeconomic status, language use, family background and other factors. The decree is to expire Dec. 31, 2005.
-- Tuesday: U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who took over the case after Orrick's retirement in 2002, denies a request by all parties to extend the decree for 18 months.
E-mail Bob Egelko at
Full Article

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Coverage of the CA Special Election - journalist David Bacon

One of my heroes is people's Journalist David Bacon - he also produces a weekly radio program Wednesday mornings from 7:30-8am on KPFA 94.1 FM [SF Bay Area] on labor struggles.
Here are a few photos and info on the outcome of the Nov. 8, 2005 CA Special Election from Bacon -

OAKLAND, CA - 7 NOVEMBER 05 - Union members, community activists and political leaders joined forces to defeat Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77. The measures, put on California's special election ballot by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, would have extended probation for teachers, restricted union political fundraising, given the governor more power over the budget, and taken redistricting out of the hands of elected officials. They all went down to defeat.

The day before the election, activists trained volunteers to go door-to-door to talk with voters and heard from former Congressman and Oakland mayoral candidate Ron Dellums. Union members walked precincts and made phone calls at local labor phone banks, with the help of Hollywood director Rob Reiner. And students and teachers at Oakland High School held a rally in the street during lunchtime to condemn the four labor-opposed propositions, as well as Proposition 73, which would have required a minor woman to notify her parents before having an abortion. That measure was also rejected by the state's voters.
Click here for more of David Bacon's work.

CA - Arnold takes a big ass-whooping in the Nov. 8, 2005 CA special election - Props 73-78 all defeated.

When I made it to the SOMA [south of market district] victory party for the SF Alliance for a Better California sometime around 11pm the hundreds in attendance expressed a tremendous accomplishment in battling against tremendous odds, especially for Prop 74 [Punish New Teachers Act] and Prop 75 [Paycheck Deception Act to silence teachers, nurses, firefighters and workers], and Prop 73 [the anti-choice parental notification act].

Veteran labor, anti-war and queer community elder Howard Wallace smiled intensely when he learned that the no on Prop 75 vote had surpassed the yes vote shortly after 10pm.
SF Alliance Director Robert Haaland and local staff and volunteers did a tremendous job with SF Labor Council head Tim Paulson in turning out 1300 volunteers today in one of the largest Get-out-the-vote efforts in SF history.

United Health Care Workers organizer Leon Chow, also the Chair of the Chinese Progressive Association told me that hundreds of immigrant activists worked precincts up and down the hills of SF's Chinatown, along with students and youth to turn out the immigrant vote. The Asian Law Caucus and APA's for an Informed California conducted a community exit poll that will hopefully shed light on the voting patterns of Chinese and immigrant voters in the Special Election.

State Ballot Measures as of Midnight!
( 578 of 578 ) San Francisco precincts reporting as of Nov 9, 2005 at 12:19 am
For the current results -
What a major climax to this incredibly important CA election. Let's continue the momentum to send Arnold back to Hollywood and to turn the tide against the conservative and big business assault on our schools and communities!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

CA Election Day hopes - turnout and turning the tide against the big business/conservative assault

According to recent press reports, San Francisco voters are now turning out in large numbers for this Nov. 8th Special Election. At my polling place this morning under looming clouds at 9am in the Richmond District of SF it looked like a lower turnout. But then the sun came out and I attended a huge spirited community rally at the Plumbers Union Hall on Market Street where hundreds of GOTV [get out the vote] volunteers and community leaders hit streets to defeat the Governor's initiatives.
Nicole Derse, local SF coalition director of the Alliance for a Better California, told me that 800 volunteers worked neighborhoods up and down SF over the weekend. The Alliance represents 2 & 1/2 million Californians. She also said that dedicated student volunteers of the League of Pissed Off Voters worked SF State University campus dorms and classrooms as well. Local labor and housing activist Robert Haaland, the director of the SF Alliance, said also that the outpouring of community support for the campaign has been tremendous. Many in the audience like Supervisor Tom Ammiano predicted that the Governor's initiatives will be defeated by the power of grassroots efforts like the Alliance and Labor Council actions up and down the state.

Despite the unprecedented millions of dollars pumped into the special election by the Governor and his corporate and wealthy allies, it seems the 'people power' of immigrant, people of color, labor, women and repoductive rights, consumer rights and environmentalists will prevail in this election.
More info: Latino's united
Immigrants and youth united
My prediction is that at the end of this Election Day, the Governor will be badly injured - politically - in this first battle for his to struggle to retain the CA Governor's seat in Nov. 2006. Hopefully, the grassroots forces continue to come together and stay united to back a progressive alternative candidate that can defeat the Governor in the Gubernatorial race for next year and, in the long term, also turn the tide against the big business/conservative assault on our democracy and communities.

RE Turnout in SF - see Steve Rubenstein's SF Chronicle article
(11-08) 11:22 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- Even the free cookies being handed out by some poll workers didn't sweeten the mood of San Francisco voters, who largely said today that they think the special election was unnecessary and that they planned to vote down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot measures.
...The special election, which is part of Schwarzenegger's government reform effort, already has generated spending of more than $300 million and is among the most expensive campaigns in California history.
Across the state, about 6.8 million people were expected to vote in the election, which includes propositions on matters including parental notification for minors seeking abortions, redistricting and teacher tenure.
...Voter Jim Ellis agreed. "The propositions were compelling in a negative way," he said. "It was a waste of my money and the taxpayers'."
Said voter Christopher Riess: "This was a power grab, and a very expensive one."
E-mail Steve Rubenstein at