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San Francisco neighborhood schools lose in final ballot count

A ballot initiative that would have encouraged San Francisco Unified School District to move to a system of neighborhood schools lost by a razor-thin margin after Thursday’s final ballot count, but supporters vowed to continue their fight next year, when four school board members are up for re-election.

“It will be a wedge issue in the coming school board election, we will make sure of it,” said Chris Miller, chair of San Francisco Students First, the group that put the measure on the ballot. “It will be our goal to make sure that every incumbent running next year is not re-elected.”

Proposition H was the only contest that remained too close to call until all votes were counted Thursday. The final tally was 91,629 to 91,514.

“We think that just reinforces that the people of San Francisco want to give the current student assignment system a chance,” said Ken Tray, political director for United Educators of San Francisco, which led the opposition to the ballot measure.

SFUSD sends students to schools anywhere in The City based on parental choice while using certain tiebreakers. In 2010, the school board revised the tiebreakers to include whether a family lives in a school’s immediate area, but that carries less weight than other factors, including whether a student comes from an area where test scores are low.

The teachers union and school board had argued that it would be expensive and disruptive to revamp the system again, and they noted that only a quarter of parents rank their closest school as a first choice.

Board of Education member Rachel Norton — who, like her colleagues, opposed Proposition H — acknowledged the strong feelings on both sides of the issue. She said the board could tinker with the system and would take parents’ opinions into account.

Omar Khalif, director of pro-Prop. H group Families for Neighborhood Schools, said the 91,000 people who voted for the measure represented a base of supporters for a slate of neighborhood schools candidates in 2012. Historically, candidates have won school board seats with as little as 8 percent of the vote.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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