Furloughed Out

at 12:35 AM

I am a San Francisco public school parent at the crossroads. After several years at a wonderful district elementary, our kids will both be in Catholic school next fall.

As much as we love the new school, this decision was hard and painful for our family.

We believe strongly in public education. And we've spent countless hours volunteering, fundraising and campaigning for school board candidates. We've weathered teacher pink slips issued and rescinded, enrichment programs eroded and class sizes boosted. But we've the hit the wall with furlough days. The school day is already short and vacations long, but with furlough closures, my kids are just not in school enough.

Public education cuts are always regressive, but furloughs may be the starkest example. Canceled school days mean teacher salary cuts, childcare gaps for working families and classroom hours stolen from our students.

Here's how bad it can get. My kindergartner's teacher was so demoralized that he wrote this to the classroom families: "Dear Parents, I am unable to attend the evening dance performance on this Tuesday night. After taking a four day salary cut last year and this year, I am no longer willing to put in extra hours."

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I understand his frustration, and I understand the overwhelming pressures on the district and the teachers' union. They're not to blame, Sacramento is.

But even as I understand, my kindergartner needs more school. During this crucial first year of reading, writing and math, she's spent four furlough days watching videos while I worked from home. And more may be coming in the future.

So, let me be clear: My family is not leaving because we think the city's schools aren't good enough for our kids. To the contrary, this district is full of great schools, innovative teachers, wonderful families and kids.

Public school in San Francisco is definitely good enough. There's just not enough of it anymore.

With a Perspective, I'm John Perry.

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John Perry is a former board member of the local non-profit Parents for Public Schools - San Francisco.

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