San Francisco mayoral candidates split on where they send own kids for school 

In San Francisco, where one in three children attends private school, deciding where to educate the kids can be politically fraught — especially if one is running for mayor.

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“It’s a question that’s definitely been floating around our listserv,” said Ellie Rossiter, executive director of Parents for Public Schools-San Francisco. “About half the parents really feel strongly that if you are going to support public schools you have to be a stakeholder.”

Not surprisingly, some mayoral campaigns are trumpeting their candidates’ decisions to send their children to public school.

“It’s really public servants’ responsibility to send their children to public schools and be an advocate for public schools,” said NTanya Lee, campaign chair for John Avalos, whose children attend the public San Francisco Community School.

But other candidates call it a private decision.

“We wanted our kids schooled in a Catholic environment,” said Tony Hall. “It was our decision to send them, and anyone who has a problem with that can shove it.”

While San Francisco Unified School District is separate from the city and county of San Francisco, The City provides substantial financial support to the district. And while the mayor does not have authority over the school district, all the major candidates say education is a major issue in the race.

For instance, candidate Joanna Rees, whose college-age children both went to private schools, calls education her top issue.

“I really struggled to keep my kids in private school,” she said. “I had to borrow a lot of money, and I don’t want other parents to have to go through that.”

Yet Rees said she made the decision to put her son in private school only after he was assigned to a decrepit public elementary school in the 1990s.

“I made that choice because I wanted the best possible option, but I didn’t turn my back on the problem,” she said, noting her subsequent work over the years with nonprofits that support public schools.

Although Bevan Dufty’s 5-year-old attends public school, he admitted his family was luckier than most. His daughter was assigned to Rooftop Elementary, one of SFUSD’s most-desired schools.

“I feel bad,” he said. “I don’t want my experience to be any different from anyone else’s. It puts the responsibility on me that I know what it means to have my daughter attending one of the best public schools.”

Phil Ting, whose oldest child will begin kindergarten next year, said the family had already toured several public elementary schools.

“I think where people send their children to school should not be political — it’s a personal decision,” he said.

On the other hand, improving public schools should help make it easier for parents to choose public schools, he said.

“We want to make it a no-brainer,” Ting said.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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Amy Crawford

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