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A Dream Deferred:

How San Francisco schools leave behind the most vulnerable students

Great Jobs, Out of Reach

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San Francisco’s booming economy and high-paying jobs draw people from across the world. But those jobs are far out of reach for Latino and African American students who grow up here.

San Francisco’s job market is the best in the country. Unless you grew up and went to school here, and happen to be African American or Latino.

Forbes named San Francisco the “No. 1 City for Jobs in America” for three years running.

Since 2010, jobs grew 23.8% overall, and 62% in the information sector.29 San Francisco ranks second in the country among cities with the highest-earning jobs.30 Unemployment is extremely low at only 3%.

However, it’s not a great job market for everybody. Nearly 8% of African Americans over the age of 16 in San Francisco are unemployed.31 African Americans hold only 2% of the city’s tech jobs –– and occupy 56% of its jail cells.32 They represent 36% of San Francisco’s homeless population, in a city with the second highest rate of homelessness in the country.33, 34

In fact, San Francisco is among the worst major cities for African Americans to look for a job (tied for 48th place out of 50 major American cities in a study by New Geography of best places for African Americans to succeed).35

Among the crucial reasons: education.

Parent Profile

Lewis Stringer

When Lewis and Alana Stringer were getting ready to send their daughter, Dahlia, to kindergarten, they thought they’d send her to a public school. Both had attended public schools and felt they received a good education…

Most tech jobs require college degrees, and San Francisco has attracted a lot of people who have them from across the country and the world. But many children of color growing up in the city are not getting anything close to the education that would prepare them for those jobs. (See Figure 11 below.)

There is a focus on college readiness in high school, but the reality is that students fall off the path to college and good jobs far before graduation. In SFUSD in 2016-17, only 19% of African American students are on grade level in English and 13% in math.36

When students are so far behind, it becomes almost impossible to catch up. In San Francisco, 16% of African American and 15% of Latino students don’t make it to high school graduation,37 and not all who do graduate eligible for college. Right now, only one out of three African American high school graduates in SFUSD is eligible to attend a state college or university.

And the challenge goes beyond hot tech jobs. More education equals more income across the board (see Figure 12 below). Almost all of the jobs created since the recession have gone to people with education beyond high school.38

Taken together, this information raises deep questions about who we are as a city. The huge divides in wealth and education are making it harder and harder for working-class African American and Latino communities to survive here. That should trouble the conscience of every single San Franciscan.

But we don’t have to wait or wonder what it will take to improve educational choices. The knowledge is there. We can change our reality. Let’s join together.

Figure 11

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Figure 12

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29Kotkin, J., & Shires, M. (2016, May 10). The Best Cities For Jobs 2016. Forbes. Retrieved from sites/joelkotkin/2016/05/10/the-best-cities-for-jobs-2016/#3b017f486e40

30Martin, E., Loudenback, T., & Morrell, A. (2016, March 07). The 20 best places to live in America if you want to make a lot of money. Retrieved from

31Bureau of Labor Statistics Data. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2017, from

32Rodriguez, S. (2015, April 9). As Tech Giants Push For Diversity, Blacks And Latinos Are Fleeing Once-Diverse San Francisco. Retrieved from

33Homeless Point-In-Time Count & Survey Comprehensive Report 2015 [PDF]. (n.d.). Applied Survey Research.

34Sze, K. (2016, June 29). Data shows SF has 2nd highest homeless population in US. Retrieved from http://abc7news.

35/sup>Kotkin , J. (2015, January 16). The Cities Where African-Americans Are Doing The Best Economically. Retrieved from

36California Department of Education. (2017, September 27). California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress 2016-17 Results. Retrieved on September 27, 2017, from

37California Department of Education, Data Reporting Office. (2017, August 5). Cohort Outcome Data for the Class of 2015-
16: District Results for San Francisco Unified. Retrieved on September 15, 2017, from CohortRates/GradRates.aspx?Agg=D&Topic=Graduates&TheYear=2015-16&cds=38684780000000&RC=District&Sub-Group=Ethnic/Racial

38Carnevale., A.P; Tamara, J., and Gulish, A. (2016), America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots. George-town University Center for Education and the Workforce. Retrieved on October 7, 2017, from cew-reports/americas-divided-recovery

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