School chief opposes anti-violence spending 

A proposal to use more than $1.6 million of funds approved by voters to improve San Francisco’s schools for "violence prevention" purposes is being opposed by The City’s school chief, who said she’d rather see the money go toward more math and reading coaches, new computers and an improved data system for the district.

The money would come from Proposition H funds, which was approved by voters in March 2004 to provide The City’s public schools with educational extras.

The fund grows incrementally each year: in 2005-06, the schools received $6.7 million in Prop. H funds; this year, the schools were allocated $13.3 million. Next school year, the district is slated to receive $20 million. Under the funding ordinance, half of the district’s annual allocation is earmarked SLAM — sports, libraries, arts and music — and the other half is left up to the district’s discretion for "general uses."

San Francisco’s school board on Tuesday reviewed a spending proposal for the funds for the 2007-08 school year created by a community advisory committee. Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan told the school board Tuesday that while she agreed with the committee’s recommendations for the $10 million in SLAM funds, she was concerned about the "differences in ideas" in some of the funding priorities for the other $10 million.

Chan’s main concern with the advisory committee’s recommendation was giving each public high school and middle school $50,000 to use for violence-prevention activities that would be determined by each school site.

Instead, Chan said she would rather see $750,000 of the funding go to support 10 math and reading coaches — in addition to the 10 coaches approved by the committee — and have nearly $1 million invested in new computers for teachers and students. In addition, she asked that $600,000 be allocated to pay for a districtwide computer system that would be used to track student achievement data.

Chan said more funds needed to go into academic support because the district is now under federal watch under No Child Left Behind, due to low test scores for some groups of students, including African-Americans. Chan also told the school board that she believed the "best form of violence prevention is engaging and motivating classroom instruction."

A member of the community advisory committee, Kathleen White, a City College of San Francisco faculty member and coordinator for the college’s Teacher Preparation Center, told the school board that over the years the group keeps getting requests for violence-prevention funds to support everything from anti-bullying programs to counselors.

The community advisory committee and Chan also differed on the amount of Prop. H funds that should be provided to support translation services within the district. The district spends about $400,000 to support four translators: two who speak Chinese and two who speak Spanish. The community advisory committee recommended spending an additional $600,000 for translation services, while Chan designated $125,000 in her spending proposal.

The board is scheduled to vote on the spending recommendations for next year at its Tuesday meeting.

E-mail Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@examiner.com.

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