Saturday, May 30, 2009

Budget Tsunami 1: a-g

While hundreds of people were massing for a protest at City Hall on Tuesday evening over the Proposition 8 ruling, dozens of high school students were staging a rally at San Francisco Unified School District Headquarters demanding "a-g" classes be available to all students.

Thoroughly mystified by the term "a-g," I discovered that it stood for University of California class requirements in seven categories: a) History/Social Science; b) English; c) Mathematics; d) Lab Science; e) Language Other than English; f) Visual and Performing Arts; g) College Prep Elective. It seems that a number of high schools in San Francisco aren't offering these classes to their students, thereby taking them out of the university track.

The student protestors were charming, though I pitied them on two levels: first, that they were stuck in high school; and second, the California budget collapse is about to hit the school system harder than anybody can imagine. They'll be lucky if they are offered a-c classes, let alone d-g, particularly in San Francisco where people of means send their kids to private schools and don't give a fig about the poorer kids around them.


Nancy Ewart said...

"a-g" is g-d in today's California but has been for some time. One of the things that I have been doing is tutoring students at SFSU at basic reading and writing. I guess because I talk a lot in class and ask a lot of questions that the kids think I know something (little do they know!). Anyway, for every semester I've been out there, a number of kids stop me after class and ask for help. I've ended up leading study groups where there are up to 10 kids who want to do well but don't have the skills because of their inadequate high school education. I'm proud to report that "MY" kids have seem their grades rise from D's and low C's to A's and B's. But it's a tragedy that a kid can go through high school and not know how to put together a simple sentence, much less write a college level essay. I don't blame the teachers because I think they are overwhelmed, underpaid and understaffed but the real ones that suffer are the working class kids that should be our hope but are increasingly priced out of the American dream.

Ced said...


I would be one of the people who put their kids in private schools. It looks like that's what's going to happen to my son, who is applying to kindergarten. Why? Because it's a lottery system which favors the poorer kids, and we lost. We got assigned to none of our choices, but to a failing school, which scores a 2 on a 10 scale of statewide achievement. I'm not exactly happy to put my kid in private school, but I don't have much of a choice.

Private school is not the first choice, but the consequence of a city which does not care about the kids. And it's not the parents of private schools kids which are to blame, but in general, a city which has too few kids (you know, all these gay guys...) I think 12% of the population is under 15. Actually, people of means leave for the suburbs, where there are good public schools. Hello Mill Valley: all schools are a 10 there.

AphotoAday said...

You know, about 25% of the budget crisis can be attributed to Gov. S messing around with the new car tax -- it's cost California billions in lost revenue.

JRD said...

Hey, SFMike,

I need my daily dose of Angela Gheorghiu, too.

Opéra Chanteuse

Civic Center said...

Dear Ced: What does a "failing school" have to do with kindergarten? The experience might be all the richer for a five-year-old. It's certainly worth a try rather than overly sheltering a city bred child. Do think about trying it for one year and then doing the lottery again. I've met a few public school kids from San Francisco who have grown up, and they are quite wonderful and sophisticated in ways that most young people are not.

@JRD: Opera stuff coming soon.

Matthew Hubbard said...

I teach at the community college level, and I would expect the big problem in a-g is f, followed by g then d. The schools might be getting rid of some languages, but history, English, math and at least Spanish aren't going away any time soon.

Not having kids, I don't have to struggle with where to send them for schooling. As a product of public schools all the way into graduate school, I have a natural bias, but some public schools have become a serious mess.

Unknown said...

People care greatly about quality public education in Albany, CA. And relatively speaking, don't have the deep pockets of the similarly-high scoring school districts. The current budget cuts are a disaster at every level -- from ESL classes to janitors to high school electives needed for college-bound students to vocational training. I'm pretty well immersed in how the money is spent in this district and I can tell you there's no waste to be found.

The fad of cutting taxes to the bone is short-sighted madness. Not only for schools. The analogy might be something like getting all your healthcare at the emergency room.

And with all due respect, maybe some pubic servants are a bit over-compensated. Seems like the cuts hit moderate-to-lower paid staff more. I've just read that out-going police chief Fong will receive a pension amounting to well over $200,000 a year. Maybe that's too much. Maybe the very highly paid UC officials receive too much.

Ced said...

Mike: elementary schools can be failing! And we decided not to perform any social experiment on our kid. It might be all the richer, but it might not, and we just won't take the chance. We will apply for the lottery again.

Ask me about it next time I see you, because I could write a few paragraphs here on the topic.

Regarding over-compensated public servants: in general, they make less than in industry. Police chief Fong has 2,000 officers reporting to her and a budget over $200 million. An administrator who manages to run something that big would get nice pensions in the private sector.