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Board member seeks to end City’s school lottery

A member of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education is proposing that the district do away with its school lottery system.

According to school board commissioner Matt Haney, the lottery system, which was intended to reduce segregation in schools, is not working.

Haney said in a statement:

“After years of failed goals and frustrated parents, we’ve got to accept that the lottery system isn’t working … It’s time to move on.”

Haney added:

“The lottery system was created with specific goals and it has accomplished none of them. It hasn’t desegregated our schools. It hasn’t provided equity in choice. And it hasn’t been transparent or accountable to families.”

Haney is set to introduce a resolution at Tuesday’s school board meeting that in addition to ending the lottery system, would develop a “community-based student assignment system” that ensures that students are secured a spot in elementary schools within a defined area.

Furthermore, the resolution calls for families to have access to an elementary school within a reasonable distance and accessible by public transit, access to a diverse and high-quality school and access to a school where a sibling attends. Families would also be able to make the final decision about where their child attends school, with the entire process being transparent.

Haney said:

“We’ve seen school districts across the country successfully use a community-based school assignment system including our neighbors in Berkeley … The reality is that San Francisco is a small, dense city. We can draw lines that cross neighborhoods and actually create diverse community areas that do a better job of desegregating our schools than the current system.”

The current lottery system was put in place in 2008 and works using an algorithm.

In January, families with children starting kindergarten are asked to list their top choices for more than 70 San Francisco schools.

The algorithm then chooses a school for the student, considering factors such as geographic location, test scores in their area and whether a sibling attends schools on their list.

Families are notified in March of the school chosen, with the families then having the option of staying with that school, taking a chance on a second or third round lottery pick, or leaving the school district altogether.

Data from the 2015-2016 school year showed that 30 San Francisco schools have a student population made up of more than 60 percent of one race. A recent study also showed that the city’s neighborhoods are more diverse than the schools located in them, Haney’s office said.

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