Free Muni for youth a rare progressive victory


The left isn't winning all that much these days, but Sup. David Campos had a huge victory with the passage of a plan to offer free Muni to some 40,000 low-income kids. The challenges aren't over -- it's still not clear, for example, how the actual clipper cards will be distributed -- but this is a big step forward.

And it didn't come easily. Campos worked with a coalition of low-income advocates that refused to give up despite two years of setbacks.

"We were relentless, even when we lost," Campos told me.

It's no secret that I've supported this plan all along (I actually like free Muni for all youth). And I think we'll get there. In the meantime, for low-income middle-school and high-school kids, most of whom don't get school bus rides any more, this is a big deal. The price of taking Muni to school ($1 a day for youth fares) is a significant amount of money, particularly for families with several kids who are struggling to make rent and eat. Yeah, there are cheaper youth passes -- but you have to go to a Muni office in the middle of the day and bring proof of your kid's age and it's a pain in the ass for working parents.

So now it's up to the MTA to figure out how to make it easy for families, some of them with limited English proficiency and virtually no time to wait in lines at Muni offices, to take advantage of the program. "We're going to spend a lot of time doing outreach," Campos said. "We're working with Muni and with community-based organizations. We're going to make this as easy as possible."

The obvious solution, in my mind, is to distribute the passes at public schools. The school district already has income information on the kids, through the free and reduced-price lunch program; in theory, all anyone would have to do is take that list, adjust it a bit (because the eligibility for lunches and Muni passes is a little different) and hand out the passes at middle-school and high-school campuses. (You'd miss low-income kids who go to parochial schools, and a few others, but SFUSD wouldn't be the only provider, just the first.)

And it's education-related, since most of these kids take Muni to and from school -- or should.

Problem is, there are legal rules about the use of the lunch data (although there must be a way to get around it) and SFUSD doesn't seem terribly interested. (More work, more hassles for an already overworked and underfunded district.) But you could station one Muni worker at each school to hand out the passes, right? Or Muni could use some of the outreach money to pay for the SFUSD staff time.

At any rate, those are details. The main point is that Campos and his allies managed to beat back the opposition and make this actually happen. Good job.

(Oh, and the same day, Sup. Jane Kim managed to get $1.7 million for the schools to help with graduation rates -- without raiding the Rainy Day Fund. Two progressive wins and it's only the 5th of December.)


on the other hand, they come cap-in-hand claiming that they need more funding.

I don't know about you but maybe if they made more effort to preserve their funding sources, they wouldn't need to endlessly hit the rest of us up for cash.

Bad idea. And of course if SF didn't still have school bussing - a policy now disgraced in most of the nation - then this entire issue would be moot anyway.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

Guest, we don't have "school busing" in San Francisco anymore, if you mean forced integration of the schools. Parents now have a choice -- they can pick from as many as 7 elementary and middle schools, anywhere in town, and there's a lottery for who goes where. The fact that you might not get the school closest to you doesn't mean you're being "bused;" in fact, there aren't that many school buses left, and the district is cutting bus routes every year. The majority of parents in the district -- or at least, a large number of them -- choose at least one school that is a bus ride or a car ride away from home. Not because they have to, but because they choose to.

If you live in Bayview and you want the Japanese immersion program at Clarendon, you have that option -- you just have to figure out how to get your kid halfway across town. Free Muni isn't an option for K-5 (in most cases, unless a parent goes along) but it's a great deal for 6-12.


Posted by tim on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

all. It only requires a system where schools are allocated on the basis of some grand big government design predicated on imposing "diversity" on children rather than allowing a free choice and the convenience of attending a local school.

Almost every child in SF is within walking distance of a school, so the only reason that such journeys become necessary at all is because of the allocation system - virtual bussing without the yellow buses.

You said in another post today that there aren't any kids left in SF. I know you didn't mean that literally but the #1 reason why parents I know move out of SF is the race-based allocation system.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

The Larch...

The Larch...

The Pterocarya fraxinifolia...

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

Seems like you're having no more success with that than anyone else.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

Translation - Non Profit Inc will control yet another city subsidy to dole out as they see fit and, in return, to collect a "fee" to fund their bottom line too.

Here's what I remember happened to subsidized bus coupons when I was a teenager - the poor kids sold them to the wealthier kids who, despite being rich, knew a bargain when they saw one and snapped them up for for a cost of less than half the regular student fare. Everyone won! I expect we'll see some of these nice free passes popping up in the underground markets soon enough.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

The non profits are the big, bad boogie man. Never mind that without them there would be no services. Lucretia and Marc, poor little rich kids born with silver spoons in your mouths...oh, how my heart bleeds for you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

Social services should be provided by the government, not by unaccountable private corporations, as they were before the rise of the nonprofit complex in force in the early 1990s.

The reason why the government and its corporate patrons force the nonprofit complex on us is to intercept and deflect demands for change.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

When one low seven figure win every year or two is a huge victory, we're pretty fucked.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

Free MUNI passes for po' folk and Ross Mirkarimi as sheriff indicate the future is bright!

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

He's still apoplectic about the Twitter tax break - snirk.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:03 pm

"When one low seven figure win every year or two is a huge victory, we're pretty fucked"

Remember... Big things have small beginnings, and a win is a win. Enjoy it.

Also, you may have a point about the non-profits.

Posted by Snoozers on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

Kudos to David Campos and everyone else who made this happen!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

I want even more free stuff, dammit. I have my rights!

Posted by Chromefields on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 9:36 am

I'm consoled by the fact that our MUNI system is clean, timely and safe and that we had this $1.7M laying around to just give away to people.

You want free MUNI? How about earning it the old fashioned way: work. Maybe start a program where once a month these kids go out and pick up trash, or scrub graffiti, or help at a shelter for an hour or two?

nah, lets just hand out cash instead
quite a victory!!

Posted by guest on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 10:11 am

the low-income children to start working for free transit to and from school? Kindergarten, 3rd Grade?

For once, our elected (that's right, elected) officials have spent a modest amount of money to help out a group that needs help. Isn't that what neighbors are supposed to do for each other?

You know what's a waste of money? The excessive SFPD expenditures required whenever war criminal Obama visits San Francisco solely to raise money from the ultra-rich supporters whose interests he protects. Or the money spent by the SFPD as they harassed and then used para-military tactics to defeat an unarmed OccupySF while they peacefully asserted their rights to free speech and to redress grievances. Or the settlements paid by the city to the families of the people killed unnecessarily and illegally by trigger happy cops.

It's a strange phenomenon: people blaming those worse off than themselves for society's problems. If you won't voluntarily switch places with someone else, you are wrong to attack them. Today, it's poor schoolchilden and the homeless; tomorrow, it may be immigrants trying to eek out a living in a country with more economic opportunity than their own.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

bleating that they need more funding.

Posted by Anonymous on Dec. 06, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

I see nothing wrong with a 15, 16, 17, or 18 year old spending an hour or two working for something of value. Call me crazy.

I don't know what to make of your rant regarding Obama and over aggressive cops. Quite the non-sequitur. But then again, most of your posts are looney and dont' address the points others have made

happy Friday

Posted by guest on Dec. 07, 2012 @ 10:46 am