Lack of books strains students

Thousands of San Francisco public school students do not have necessary textbooks as they enter the second month of the school year because of lack of oversight by the district.

The San Francisco Unified School District, which has 113 schools and roughly 55,000 students, is still lacking nearly 3,500 textbooks. The dearth of instructional materials is affecting core topics such as math, English, history and science, according to a report given to the Board of Education.

Of the 62 elementary schools, eight middle schools and 14 high schools surveyed, the majority reported that they are without necessary supplies. High schools are suffering greater than other schools, according to the report.

Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice Richard Carranza said the shortfall is “high” on the district’s radar, but the lack of a central oversight of textbooks contributes to the drastic number.

“There’s no central method to account for these books,” he said. “It’s counted literally school by school, book by book. This year
was a perfect storm of missing materials.”

The school district also blames a delay in a state decision in adopting textbooks in order to save money and the seven-year publishing cycles by textbook-publishing companies.

Megan Caluza, however, is left teaching a special-education class without textbooks to read from.

Caluza, who works at El Dorado Elementary School in the Visitacion Valley neighborhood, said when she does not have enough books for her students, they do “buddy reading.”

“These children have had to adapt for years,” Caluza said of the lack of textbooks. “When I’m
short on workbooks, I photocopy the day’s lesson.”

The district, which has $7.4 million marked for books and supplies and an additional $453,000 for a textbook department, faces a deadline of Oct. 16 to supply the necessary materials for students in core subjects, according to the state education code.

After two months of the school year, a lack of supplies would be a violation of the Williams Act. The act, which stemmed from a lawsuit
that included 100 San Francisco County students, requires districts to provide equal access to instructional materials.

The district has in the past faced shortages of textbooks, but Board of Education commission members say this year is one of the worst.

“This is unacceptable,” Commissioner Jill Wynns said. “If we know a class is going to be new next school year, why are we waiting to order books?”

In addition to textbooks, Wynns said the list from the district highlighted other equipment needed for core classes, including beakers, goggles and funnels for science.

Sans scripts

The school district is short thousands of books for its pupils. A sampling of which schools are missing the needed texts:

School    Course    Students enrolled    Books short
GRADES K-8    
El Dorado    Science    58    20
Social studies    58    20
New Traditions    Social studies    28    11

GRADES 9-12    
Balboa    Health    193    130
Galileo    Physiology    277    95
Independence    American government    13    10
Marshall    Modern world    218    61
Mission    Advanced algebra    344    200
Pre-calculus    180    130
S.F. International    Algebra I    118    118
English 10    82    82
Wallenberg    English 11    155    79
Ida B. Wells    English 9    98    60
 Spanish    65    37

Source: San Francisco Unified School District