Neighborhood Priority or Desegregation Plans? A Spatial Analysis of Voting on San Francisco’s Student Assignment System

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In 2011, San Francisco held an unprecedented citywide vote on its public schools’ student assignment policy. Proposition H provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the public’s desire for “neighborhood schools,” as compared to their interest in maintaining districtwide desegregation efforts. This paper takes the approach of applying geographic information system tools and regression analysis to understand the relationships between neighborhood, race, income, and attitudes toward student assignment systems. By comparing the election results with demographics and school quality data, we identify patterns of support for the narrowly defeated proposition. Support for a shift toward neighborhood-based schools was higher in census tracts with high-performing schools, more school age children, high median income, or a large fraction of foreign-born residents, and lower in tracts with a high percentage of Latinos. The shifting race- and class-based politics of the city foreshadow expected demographic shifts in the US.