schools.jpgA group of parents and supporters of a measure on the November ballot that would encourage the San Francisco Unified School District to change its student assignment system will hold a rally outside tonight’s school board meeting.

Proposition H, which is nonbinding, would give the highest priority in the assignment process to students who live closest to each school.

Members of Families for Neighborhood Schools, a parent group that supports the measure, plan to rally outside the 5:30 p.m. board of education meeting in protest of what group spokesman Johnny Wang said are misleading statements by the city’s teachers union, United Educators of San Francisco.

Wang said the union has sent out mailers and other information to residents that state that the measure would drive up costs for the school district. He denied that would be the case.

“It’s a policy statement, a direction we want the school board to go,” he said. “They claim that we’re going to force their hand, but we cannot legislate any type of measure.”

Ken Tray, political director for UESF, stood by the union’s position that the measure could cost the district, saying it’s “a badly written, vague policy statement” that could be interpreted as calling for a new student assignment policy to be implemented this year.

“If that, in fact, is what they mean, it would lead to an enormous rise in costs,” Tray said.
“The devil is in the details, so no one knows what would happen.”

School board president Hydra Mendoza said the board “has been pretty clear it’s not supportive” of Prop H.

“I think part of the challenge is, we spent two years developing a policy with the community, and this wasn’t part of the discussion,” Mendoza said.

She also questioned the usefulness of the measure.

“A ballot measure for suggestions? That’s not how you work with the school district,” Mendoza said. “You don’t put a ballot measure on for people to give you advice.”

Wang said the measure is supported by many low-income parents who “can’t afford to take (their children) to other schools” outside their neighborhoods.

Tray countered that along with the school board, the majority of parent groups and several San Francisco supervisors oppose Prop H.

Wang said with this evening’s rally, “We’re just trying to get the word out about who we really are.”

He said the low-income families are “who we’re trying to speak for, and we don’t have the money like the teachers’ union.”

The rally is scheduled to take place prior to the 5:30 p.m. school board meeting at 555 Franklin St. Parents plan to speak during the meeting’s public comment period, Wang said.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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