by San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee
If we want our families to stay and grow in San Francisco, and if we want employers to stay and grow here, we must strive for the best public schools, anywhere. I say the best public schools “anywhere” because we’re not just competing with other cities in California. For the jobs of the future, our students will have to compete with the rest of the world.
But to all those parents and aspiring parents in our City, I say, we hear you. We are working with the School Board, Superintendent and with you to craft a long term vision, so that the investments we make today will directly lead to a world class public school system, starting with universal pre-school and continuing through college.
Like all parents, I once had to decide where to send my children to school. I chose to send my daughters to the San Francisco Unified School District, and I’m thrilled that every year, more and more families are doing the same.
By partnering with the School District and with our flourishing private sector, we will do even more to prepare our young people for their future. We are in the midst of a renaissance in our public schools. We have one of the top performing urban school districts in California, and by many measures, in the nation.
San Francisco will specifically engage in an inventory of what is currently working and not working for our underserved children of color. Making sure our public schools have access to the most innovative learning environments is critical for preparing our youth for college and the jobs of the 21st Century economy.
Like I say, the best investment that our City can make is in our youth – our future innovators and leaders. That’s why we are investing in our public schools. With last year’s record investment, this year we will surpass even that – providing $66 million for our public schools and $27 million more for universal pre-school.
And this November, we asked our San Francisco voters to renew the Children’s Fund and the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF). Through PEEF and the Children’s Fund, and public-private and community based partnerships, we can work to meet the educational needs of our highly impacted children, including African Americans and Latinos. This will allow us to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars for the most underserved young people.
We are also strengthening our public-private-philanthropic partnerships that will allow us to advance opportunities for youth, especially for boys and girls of color. We need to get them excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) education.
This year, local companies like Salesforce.com have stepped up to the plate by donating $5 million to my Middle Grades Leadership Initiative. As the City’s largest investment to our public schools, the donation will provide all middle schoolers with the skills and tools they need to succeed in our 21st Century economy and workforce.
You know, I often visit businesses, both large and small, in our City and the number one thing I hear is “Mayor, whatever you do, please make education your number one priority.” That’s because these businesses are creating thousands of jobs, and they would like nothing more than to hire people from right here in San Francisco.
I’m also excited that Circle the Schools is connecting tech companies to public schools across our City. Through this program, tech companies can get involved in any way they choose – whether it’s donating books, career tours, mentorships or setting up classrooms, providing snacks and more – depending on the school’s needs. It is a public-private partnership between sf.citi, the San Francisco Education Fund and the San Francisco Unified School District. And this program is part of a larger initiative called One City, which connects are talented technology industry with all our City’s diverse neighborhoods.
Tech companies like Zendesk, Zynga and Twitter have also been supportive to our public schools. Through engaging STEAM curriculum, our boys and girls will be exposed to tech professionals and experience what it takes to have a career in the gaming and tech industry.
We have done a lot, but we can do more. Making sure students and educators are at the cutting edge of technology and the maker movement is one way we can build a pathway for our City’s next innovators and entrepreneurs of the future.
In partnership with SFUSD, the City will continue to explore ways to expand young people’s access to consistent mentorship and life skills training, as well as growing our cradle to career opportunities. With programs like YouthJobs+ and TechSF which help to place youth in paid job opportunities and internships, and with the support of our San Francisco technology companies and foundations, and a lot of great teachers, we are helping our young people focus on STEAM because we know that’s what the jobs of tomorrow will require.
However, real challenges exist to keep our children safe, strong and educated. When it comes to education and services for our young people, we’re not done. Real and persistent achievement and opportunity gaps remain for many of our children of color. And we need to make sure all of our diverse communities are educated, thrive and succeed. Our diversity drives our innovation economy and makes us stronger. And, it’s that diversity that we must support and foster so that the youth we are educating today, become the leaders of our workforce tomorrow.