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Budget and Finance Committee urges Department of Children, Youth and Their Families to monitor their programs with school district

By Elizabeth Pfeffer

June 23, 2006

The Department of Children, Youth and Their Families(DCYF) took a turn at tempting the Budget and Finance Committee into their favor Thursday with an explanation of the department's performance history as interpreted in the Mayor's 2006-2007 proposed budget.

To the surprise of DCYF Director Margaret Brodkin, the committee took issue with incomplete information provided by the San Francisco Unified School District, to which the department distributes funds - sparking a lengthy dialogue between supervisors and Brodkin.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin criticized the school district's failure to identify nurse-to-student ratios in wellness centers paid for through DCYF allocations.

"These are highly subjective things - They don't require a vast amount of research to figure out."

Performance measures in the budget are meant to show a history of target goals and actual outcomes in various areas of City departments, a critical tool when evaluating the effectiveness of programs.

"It really raises question which insofar as they either are not providing any data … or the data they provide shows that they are falling far, far short of their targets. It raises a question then, what in the heck are they spending their money on?" Supervisor Peskin said.

In total, the DCYF proposed budget is about $130 million, of which $35 million is alloted to new programs and initiatives.

Under 2004's Proposition H, the Public Engagement Enrichment Fund, the monies appropriated to the school district for creative, library, learning and literacy programs was increased.

The board expressed frustration at the consequence of a history of little reportage on results of the greater than before funding, which they have no option to reduce despite lack of communication.

"Whether it is a result of neglect, and I don't think it's benign, or a deliberate act, I can't tell you how. To me, it feels like extortion that each year now we're being asked to provide due to Prop H requirements... $10 million fiscal year 2005-2006, $20 million fiscal year 2006-2007 … and yet as Supervisor Peskin correctly depicts, all we have here are pages of non applicable," Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said to Brodkin.

Brodkin and Director of Finance & Administration Ken Bukowski agreed that DCYF should take a more active role in ensuring the school district, falling under the financial umbrella of their department, implements a better monitoring mechanism.

"It was our understanding that this was a responsibility of the Controller's Office," said Brodkin, under the impression that the Controller was supposed to act as a third party with DCYF and the school district to collect such data.

However, as a result of the backlash from the budget and finance committee, she has agreed to take on a leadership role in this interaction, and is hopeful that Superintendent Gwen Chan will as well.

The superintendent's office was unavailable for comment.

DCYF salaries the Mayor's liaison to the school district, Hydra Mendoza, and the board suggested she also play a greater role in this undertaking.

Brodkin insists that she is working to build bridges with the school district, taking regular meetings with the superintendent and devising a plan to overhaul DCYF's internal monitoring.

In addition to more wellness centers, she reported that they have increased four childcare programs including universal childcare for homeless children, fully implemented Rec Connect and created minimum compliance standards for its grantees to ensure accountability.

Next year's budget, Brodkin said, will have measurements displaying the outcome of these programs.

The committee did approve the budget analyst's recommendations motion after pointing out their dissatisfaction.




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