State Overrules San Francisco School Board, Approves KIPP Charter Elementary School
The state school board of California has overturned San Francisco’s rejection of a proposed charter school in a low-income neighborhood, allowing the school to open in the fall. The state Board of Education unanimously voted to approve the proposal for a new elementary school by KIPP, a reputable charter school operator with multiple locations in the city and the Bay Area. The new school will cater to the Bayview–Hunters Point area, where the majority of parents who signed the organization’s petition reside. The state also reversed the denial of a proposed KIPP high school in East San Jose.
Beth Sutkus Thompson, the CEO of KIPP Bay Area Schools, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to open these new schools in collaboration with the communities of Bayview–Hunters Point and East San Jose. She noted that there were significant levels of support from parents and community members, as evidenced by the attendance of 25 to 30 supporters from each school at the board meeting in Sacramento.
In November, the San Francisco Board of Education, consisting of seven members, rejected the proposal from KIPP based on the belief that the charter school was unlikely to succeed. The board also cited higher suspension rates at KIPP’s other schools in the city compared to the district average. Despite this, the charter for KIPP San Francisco College Preparatory, one of the highest-scoring high schools in the city, was renewed by the board.
Thompson immediately expressed her intention to appeal the decision, arguing that the findings did not justify denying the charter under California charter law. The state school board’s unanimous decision may have been influenced by the city’s financial strain and the goal of preventing further attrition from district schools. The San Francisco district has not commented on the matter.
There are significant educational disparities in San Francisco, particularly between white and Asian students, who make up half of the student population, and black and Hispanic students. The achievement gaps are glaring, with a much higher percentage of low-income Asian students meeting English standards compared to their low-income Latino and black peers. Similar disparities are observed in math. These issues have led to concerns about the education system’s ability to serve low-income students of color in the city.
The Los Angeles Times reported that black students in San Francisco would fare better academically in almost any other part of California. The persistently low achievement levels among black students have prompted local NAACP leaders to deem it a "state of emergency." Geraldine Anderson, a parent activist, expressed disappointment in the city’s education system, stating that the numbers do not reflect the progressive nature of San Francisco.