Here’s a fact: Of any major city in America, San Francisco has the lowest percentage of kids under the age of 18. What’s more, about a quarter of those kids go to private school. But these numbers don't deter Phil Halperin in his quest to get people to care about the quality of a public school education in San Francisco.
Halperin is the co-founder and executive director of California Education Partners, an education reform nonprofit, and founder of the Silver Giving Foundation, which supports education-focused organizations serving California children. He is also a product of the public school system himself.
“I had severe learning differences,” Halperin says. “I was dyslexic, I was dysgraphic. I had undiagnosed ADHD. And the only reason I’ve been successful in life is the number of teachers who took the time and the patience to nurse me along through my K-12 education. So when it came time to think about where I could make a difference in the world, there wasn't any other choice besides public education.”
On this episode of School’s In, Halperin, a Stanford alum and chair of the advisory council at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), joins GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to discuss how ordinary citizens can make a difference in education – including an innovative approach he’s currently pursuing in San Francisco that would make significant changes in the way the school board operates.
Halperin has co-chaired seven ballot campaigns that have collectively raised more than $7.3 billion for the public schools in San Francisco. Despite the relatively small percentage of kids in the public school system in San Francisco, Halperin says, “people get that all kids deserve a good shake.”
San Francisco needs to be able to pay its teachers enough to ensure retention, he says, noting that the pandemic has burned out a lot of educators. It “has destroyed them and sucked their soul, and a lot of them are going to leave the profession, so we need another generation,” he says. “And that generation needs to look like the kids they're serving.”
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