What the Governor’s New Bills Mean for SFUSD
By Dr. Vincent Matthews
As educators, we are here to help our students realize their potential and their dreams. In SFUSD we are committed to creating a public school experience where each and every student will graduate from high school ready for college and career, and equipped with the skills, capacities and dispositions outlined in our graduate profile.
Providing a true 21st century education requires resources but Californians significantly divested in public school funding decades ago. I’m encouraged by the recent suite of bills that Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law –– it will increase student support, bolster broadband access to help bridge the digital divide, and expand educational opportunities to help boost academic achievement and attainment.
Each of these pieces of legislation will complement and amplify the work already being done in SFUSD.
Ethnic Studies as graduation requirement
One of the bills signed by Gov. Newsom -- AB 101 -- requires that all high school students take an Ethnic Studies course before graduating. This is already a requirement in place at SFUSD. I’m proud that SFUSD has long been a leader in teaching Ethnic Studies in high schools with the first classes being offered over a decade ago. We believe in teaching history accurately with multiple representations. Teaching Ethnic Studies is just one example of how SFUSD is preparing students to thrive in the 21st century.
Expanding broadband access
Without access to a device and WiFi at home and at school, inequity only grows. I’m pleased that Gov. Newsom signed multiple pieces of legislation to improve access to broadband across the state, particularly for those in underserved communities, in order to help bridge the digital divide. Fifty-five percent of the SFUSD student population is economically disadvantaged. Equitable access to technology is an essential part of eliminating the opportunity gap, and is critical to preparing students for full participation in the 21st century.
Mental health supports
Gov. Newsom also signed legislation to improve mental and behavioral health support in schools not only as students return to in-person instruction after the pandemic but also for the long-term benefit of future generations.
We absolutely agree that supporting the emotional and physical well-being of students is essential. Our resources demonstrate this commitment: SFUSD’s School Social Worker to student ratio is one of the lowest among California public school districts, thanks in large part to funding from the voter-approved San Francisco Public Education Enrichment Fund. SFUSD employs 15% of California’s public school Social Workers, but makes up less than 1% of California public school students. SFUSD school social workers and nurses were among the first in the state to implement a distance learning service delivery system, and the Centers for Disease Control has featured SFUSD’s leading role in school-based wellness efforts.