High Quality Education


SFOP has been developing leaders in San Francisco congregations, schools and community centers for 25 years. We believe that San Francisco can be a city for all.
Eleanor Williams, Former SFOP Board President

Why this issue is important

  • San Francisco public school in enrollment is steadily decreasing, with the number of enrolled students dropping by 8% since 2000 [1].
  • One in every four (25%) African American students dropped out in 2006, as opposed to only 8% in 2001 [2].
  • In 2006, only 56% of high school graduates had completed courses required for University of California (UC) and/or California State University (CSU) entrance, with a grade of “C” or better [3].


Currently in San Francisco, there is a big gap in the graduation rates of students, with only half of African American and Latino students graduating. Schools serving predominantly low-income African American and Latino students tend to have fewer resources and the least experienced teachers. The San Francisco Unified School District is also losing enrollment and funding as families either move out of the city due to high housing costs, or send their children to private or charter schools.

The SFOP Small Schools by Design Campaign

While SFOP understands that no single reform is going to solve the complex, systemic problems with public education, we know one good way to make tangible improvements immediately for young people who otherwise would fall through the cracks and not graduate: create small, autonomous public schools.

Measurable Results

SFOP parents and community leaders joined with teachers and youth in Small Schools for Equity to launch a campaign in 2000 to create Small Schools by Design in San Francisco. The June Jordan School for Equity and Aim High Academy opened in 2003. June Jordan graduated its first class of seniors last June – and 95% went on to college, compared to a statewide average of 60%. Parent and teacher leaders at these schools continued organizing to ensure that the school board passed an ambitious and comprehensive Small Schools by Design policy in February 2007. SFOP is currently organizing in the San Francisco Community School and Sanchez Elementary School, and working to support the creation of additional small schools in the coming years.

SFOP Education Timeline

In May 2003, parents from the Jamestown Local Organizing Committee held a community action with 150 residents of the Mission to secure commitments from the city to finance access to public school buildings for community summer programs. Jamestown Community Center serves more than 500 children ages 8 to 18 with programs that include science, arts, dance, theater, sports, and tutoring. After learning that Jamestown summer programs were in danger of being cut due to a lack of funding, the parent organizing committee organized support from the local neighborhood, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Treasurer Susan Leal, and Commissioner Mark Sanchez. As a result of the action, 2700 summer program slots for youth were saved and $323,000 was allocated from the Children’s Fund to the San Francisco Unified School District to keep school buildings open during the summer.

In 2004, parent leaders organized again to avoid a similar crisis in late spring when the city was faced with budget cuts. Leaders now have won a policy from the SFUSD that will allow schools that are used by community based summer programs such as Jamestown to remain open without charging fees.

After two years of work by the schools local organizing committee, the first small schools in San Francisco opened in 2003. SFOP and SSE were able to convince the San Francisco Unified School District to include new, small schools as part of its Secondary School Redesign Initiative. Parents, teachers and students from across the city have identified small, autonomous schools as a way to improve the quality of education for all students. The two small schools are setting a precedent for the future of school reform in San Francisco.

SSE is modeled on successful small schools in New York, Boston, Chicago, and Oakland. It will expand each year until it is a 9-12 school, with a maximum enrollment of 320-400 students. The school is based on a philosophy that schools need to be small, personalized, and safe, staffed by experts teachers, and have close connections with the surrounding community. Teachers will be emphasizing a strong curriculum with ties to the real world and community action.

SFOP worked at the state level to create $50 million in funding statewide for after school centers in schools with high populations of lower income students. We then convinced the SF Unified School District to establish 36 homework centers in San Francisco schools. These centers serve 3,600 children per day and provide academic assistance by classroom teachers and a safe environment.

Leaders from Bethel AME and St. Paulus Lutheran churches secured over $1.4 million for the Western Addition Community Resource/Computer Learning Center. $700,000 in state funds will help convert the former Office of Emergency Services Building, located in the Western Addition, to a neighborhood community resource/computer learning center. The community also secured a grant for $743,000 to administer the program. This center will provide services for seniors, as well as provide after school activities, job training, and computer access for seniors as well as students and their parents.

SFOP worked to pass SB 394, the Learn and Earn bill, which allocated $5 million to school-to-career internships for high school students.

SFOP convinced our local representatives and legislators throughout the state through our network of organizations statewide to place a $9.2 billion school facilities bond on the November 1998 ballot, which subsequently passed.

San Francisco Health Plan
2 Id.