Parents Urge SFUSD to Slow Down School Cuts

Brenda Reyes

Dozens of parents and teachers braved Friday’s rainstorm to ask San Francisco Unified School District officials for more details about planned budget cuts at Monroe Elementary.

Parents claimed the cuts would eliminate 12 staff positions and an $800,000 grant for the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) system that the school has received for nine years. The funds are used to enhance math, science and foreign language skills.

“Parents are going to have to volunteer with no certification to teach. [It] seems like that’s the direction we’re heading,” said Heidi Kooy, whose daughter attends first grade at Monroe.

Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh denied the cuts would mean the complete abolishment of STAR services at Monroe. However, he made it clear that class-size increases and staff lay-offs were inevitable as part of statewide budget cutbacks.

Leigh tentatively agreed to meet again with Monroe families and school Principal Jennifer Steiner on March 18.

Parents and teachers said they want a better understanding of the budget deficit and of alternatives before the final budget proposal is adopted. If the cuts are needed, the parents want the district to gradually remove the programs that have given the school its unique artistic and academic characteristics.

Parents asked if the cuts affected all schools equally or if they were targeting low-income neighborhoods.

Assistant Superintendent Veronica Chavez told the parents she could not definitively answer their questions. “The superintendent knows and tries his best so budgets don’t affect the classroom,” she said.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia, wasn’t present because he was in San Jose to receive California Association for Bilingual Education Vision Award.

Breaking Chains
Speaking in Spanish with her 10-month-old baby in her arms, Veronica Lacayo expressed the frustration of several of the parents who count on public education to brighten the hopes for their children.

“Monroe is the best public school because it promotes art and music in spite of your race and native language,” she said. “[It’s] breaking chains.”

Ten-year-old Vicky Umanzor, who dreams of becoming a match teacher, and the only Monroe student in attendance said, “We’re fighting for the school’s right to have teachers.”

Another parent said her son dramatically improved his reading skills and test scores due to the school’s reading recovery program.