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PEEF is vital to SFUSD providing a quality education

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Bessie Carmichael students perform at the SFUSD Youth Arts Festival. With Public Education Enrichment Funds
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I've worked in education a long time, and I've run across some fun acronyms and abbreviations. One that I hear a lot is PEEF. It sounds like a small, whimsical thing.

But it is big. And it is a vital part of our schools. PEEF stands for Public Education Enrichment Fund and it brings joy, health, and all kinds of support to our students every day.

With Proposition C, voters will be asked to renew PEEF in November.

How it came to be

In March 2004, San Francisco voters approved the ballot initiative Proposition H, which established the Public Education Enrichment Fund as law within the City Charter. Among other things, it supports our sports, libraries, the arts and music. It also funds programs such as wellness centers, student support professionals, translation services and peer resources.

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The funds came at a good time: Our state and federal funding was decreasing, and the recession was just around the corner.

No art in school? Not here!

Speaking of the recession, I'll bet a lot of you out there thought the budget crisis forced San Francisco's public schools to cut the arts. Nope.

In fact, we did just the opposite.

Ten years ago, only 40 percent of our kids in grades kindergarten through third grade had a credentialed visual and performing arts teacher. With the PEEF funds, we began receiving in 2005 — and every year since then — we grew that figure to 100 percent.

We also have money for art supplies, and we can employ artists-in-residence now, too. We even have funds to purchase and repair musical instruments.

So, in a world where art is still being cut from thousands of classrooms across the country, we continue to grow arts in our schools.

And it's pretty impressive. I see kids learning choreographed dances on the schoolyard, I see them putting on their own operas, painting, and drumming. Our students are exploring the world of the arts and learning to not only express themselves but also to see the world in a more expansive way.

And not just in the classroom

But you can't learn everything in a classroom. That's why we make San Francisco our campus. Why not? With the help of PEEF funding, students head out to museums, the theater, and live musical performances. I'm sure you see them from time to time, hopping onto Muni with their teachers to spend an afternoon at the de Young Museum or streaming out of a music hall. It's all thanks to this wonderful little word, PEEF, that does such big things for public education in this city.

Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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