The next California State Assemblymember to represent the city will be taking a piece of San Francisco Unified School District with them.
David Campos and Supervisor Matt Haney, both of whom are facing off in the Assembly District 17 runoff election on April 19, each played a role in the school district earlier in their political careers—Campos as general counsel and Haney as a commissioner on the board of education. Both have said they would tackle the inequities seen during their time in SFUSD at the state level.
“They both have been really dedicated to our school district,” said Mark Sanchez, a school board commissioner on and off since 2001, who endorsed Campos. “I do think their understanding is a benefit to public education across the board. In that respect, it doesn’t really matter who wins.”
Campos came to SFUSD in 2004, on assignment from the District Attorney’s Office, to desegregate schools under federal court order. He ended up staying until 2007 investigating corruption. Six district administrators were eventually charged with misusing $15 million in public funds.
At least three pleaded guilty to a handful of related charges and the contracting system was altered to require competitive bidding.
“My introduction to the school system was through this lens of looking at the inequity,” said Campos, who also served as District 9 supervisor from 2008 to 2017. At the same time, “The basic operation of the school system, in terms of its financial budget and business side, were not handled properly. It sort of left me with a perspective of having to pay close attention to how money is spent in local government.”
As supervisor in 2011, he introduced the Free Muni For Youth pilot program, which he said came out of hearing from parents whose children were being issued citations because they couldn’t afford bus rides to school. It was made permanent for all youth regardless of income in 2020 but not enacted until 2021 due to the pandemic.
Haney served on the Board of Education from 2013 until he was elected as District 6 supervisor in 2018. He touts visiting every single public school site, pushing the district away from suspensions, which disproportionately affect Black students, and toward restorative practices through his “Safe and Supportive Schools” resolution, and introducing the effort underway to redo the district’s school assignment system worsening segregation.
“I definitely saw a huge disparity in our schools, which schools that had access to funding,” Haney said. “It gave me a deep and broad sense of the challenges of what we need to improve public schools and make sure public schools provide the opportunity for every child that they deserve.”
Haney also co-authored the resolution to have a panel reexamine school names. The school board approved its recommendations during the pandemic in a heavily-criticized and legally challenged-decision. “What the school board ended up doing was anything but inclusive and deliberate. I didn’t support it,” Haney said.
So how does this translate into their agenda for education issues?
Campos, for one, wants to lift California from the bottom of per-pupil funding to the top 10 during an AD 17 tenure. Haney wants to change the funding formula to provide more funding for schools serving homeless students, foster youth, and other marginalized groups—as well as the funding formula that he says disadvantages City College of San Francisco.
Both Haney and Campos agree that SFUSD should be receiving more of the city’s property tax revenue as in other districts around the state. They also both agree with Assembly Bill 830, which would end the practice of state funding based on average daily attendance, which has been volatile under the pandemic.
Education isn’t listed as a key issue on Haney’s campaign website. However, under the issue of inequality, he lists making college in California tuition-free as well as expanding guaranteed income programs with a goal of ending childhood poverty in five years as a priority.
“Too often, we make decisions that are best for adults, not what’s best for kids,” Haney said. “Our schools don’t get enough money but there’s also huge negative consequences to the uncertainty and instability. The needs of students should be at the center of all our decisions—for me, that’s going to be continuing to listen and uplift the needs of young people.”
Haney said he would also want to serve on the Assembly Education Committee and have the state help districts build more educator housing.
As part of a 10-point plan, Campos called for ending childhood hunger using the state’s budget surplus and boosting funding for public schools with an emphasis on Black and brown students.
“I am where I am today because of the public school system,” said Campos, who came to Los Angeles from Guatemala as a kid. “It takes a lot to educate a child…you have to address the basic needs. Unless you change what you spend and invest more, you’re not gonna have the outcomes you need.”
Ida Mojadad can be reached at [email protected]