California Assemblyman Leland Yee campaigned for his post by attacking San Francisco public schools -- a strategy destined to wreak its worst damage on the district's 60,000 schoolchildren. Yee exploited problems his political gain -- from controversy about the school assignment process to a high school student's tragic suicide. He disseminated false information intended to frighten parents into believing their children would be yanked out of current schools and reassigned "across town." He designed a divisive proposal to split the school district into two districts -- one mostly white, Asian and middle-class; the other largely African-American, Latino and economically disadvantaged.

PASA Press Releases

Hot Off The Presses
May 7, 2002 Yee’s Proposed SFUSD Split Would Segregate Districts

Other Media

Leland Yee in the News
May 14, 2006 SF Chronicle Nevin for state Senate
July 25, 2003 SF Chronicle Term limits have contributed to disarray in state assembly
July 21, 2003 SF Chronicle Lost Legislators
July 2, 2003 SF Chronicle Lost in cyberspace
May 14, 2003 SF Bay Guardian Yee's dumb school plan
April 21, 2003 Modesto Bee Bill to halt use of children as medical translators is deeply flawed
June 5, 2002 SF Bay Guardian Hall Monitor
June 4, 2002 SF Chronicle Divide and demagogue
May 8, 2002 S.F. Bay Guardian Yee's class warfare
June 7, 2000 SF Weekly Thrift and Consequences: How a supervisor with just $42,500 in income services $1 million in mortgages

Yee campaign strategy’s fallout aims at children

State assembly candidate Leland Yee perhaps doesn’t mean to harm schoolchildren. But that’s the likely outcome of his misleading crusade to blame current San Francisco school district leadership for financial mismanagement that occurred before their time.

In fact, much of the mismanagement occurred during Yee’s own two terms on the school board (1989-’96). "Get that supe a mirror," urged San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders after one of "headline-hungry" Yee’s assaults on the school district.

From 1988 to 2000, the school district mismanaged school bond money under superintendents Bill Rojas (1992-’99) and Ramon Cortines (1986-’92). (The practices continued between Rojas’ spring 1999 departure and the fall 2000 arrival of new Superintendent Arlene Ackerman.) Yee was president of the school board in 1995 and later chaired the board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee, overseeing the Facilities Department, Ground Zero for the most notorious problems.

Though community activists have long called for investigations, it took Ackerman’s arrival and a shift in school board leadership in January 2001 to switch on the spotlight. Longtime school board Rojas critics Jill Wynns and Dan Kelly supported Ackerman in summoning the FBI and the City Attorney’s Office to investigate dubious practices, and in cleaning house of problem personnel.

From his current Board of Supervisors position, Rojas loyalist Yee has taken an aggressive, accusatory stance with current district leadership. Yee has also reportedly advocated a state takeover of the district despite its responsible new leadership and respectable academic achievement. His attempts to shift blame onto current leadership may help scuttle future school bond issues that are needed to pay for vital projects.

If that happens, it’s San Francisco’s 60,000 public schoolchildren who will suffer.

Yee gave Rojas a sympathetic forum to defend himself and blame his successors in May 2001, when Yee turned a meeting of the supervisors’ Neighborhood Services and Parks Committee into a surreal school-district-bashing session. Rojas, at Yee’s invitation, made a rambling statement attributing the district’s problems to Ackerman’s firing of longtime facilities chief Tim Tronson, who is now under investigation by the FBI.

In another move that would have harmed schoolchildren, Yee in late 2001 proposed a resolution that could have frozen almost all district projects pending completion of one item, a new school at the Sunset District’s former Parkside School. Badly needed renovations benefiting current students would have languished in favor of a single project affecting no current students. Neighbors advocating the Parkside project said that they never intended to delay other projects, and advocacy groups such as the 2nd District PTA, Parents for Public Schools and Coleman Advocates for Children opposed the resolution. Yee’s fellow supervisors defeated a gutted version of his resolution 8-3 in January 2002.

Yee’s aggressive stance toward current school district leadership attempts to shift attention away from his own eight years on the school board. But his actions attack a leadership that is working hard to rebuild the district, rehabilitate its infrastructure and restore its credibility with the public. And it’s 60,000 San Francisco schoolchildren who suffer the fallout from Yee’s attacks.

Attacking the watchdogs

Kelly and Wynns got wise to Rojas and his free-spending ways before he left the district. They tried to stop the types of practices that the FBI and the city attorney now are investigating. The two even came before The Chronicle editorial board in 1999 to take on Rojas for buying a $7.8 million building the school district didn't need. Now, after all those joyless fights, Kelly and Wynns get hauled before the headline-hungry Supervisor Leland Yee, himself a former school board member, to explain the school district's money woes. (His rationale: the city gives the district $3 million annually.) Yee even had the cheek to suggest that they do some soul-searching.

Get that supe a mirror.

-- Debra J. Saunders
San Francisco Chronicle 5/17/01

Yee made his first political gaffe as school officials discovered he'd used a friend's address to get two of his four children into highly regarded Hoover Middle School.

Yee gave conflicting explanations for the address changes.

-- Venise Wagner
San Francisco (Hearst) Examiner, 10/30/96

He’s shocked - shocked!

News coverage from Yee’s school board tenure reveals that he was repeatedly blindsided by district problems, both as school board president and as chair of the school board’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. He vowed every time to get to the bottom of problems, but apparently without results. Today Yee portrays himself as the fearless watchdog asking the aggressive questions. Yet he was unable to stop the kind of activities currently under investigation by the FBI, most of which took place on his watch. Now he tries to throw the blame back onto current district and board leadership. A scan of past news stories reveals the dishonesty of that tactic.

Lawsuit Says S.F. Schools Shun Own Workers

The San Francisco school district has given out $7 million in new architecture contracts to private companies while its own employees sit idle, according to a lawsuit.

(School Board President Yee) said that as far as he knew, the district's architects and engineers weren't sitting around with nothing to do. "If that is the case, then I'd be one individual that would right now look at the entire department and find work for them to do," Yee said.

-- Erin McCormick
San Francisco (Hearst) Examiner 10/20/95

[Note from PASA: Then: School board President Yee was taken by surprise by charges that the district was contracting work to outsiders while employees sat idle. He vowed to get to the bottom of things, without noticeable results. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

S.F. School Repair Funds Skewed
Report describes problems in office overseeing bond money

Authorities overseeing a $90 million bond measure to repair San Francisco public schools showered money on some buildings while skimping on others, according to a report that blames sloppy management for keeping Board of Education members in the dark about the spending decisions.

... (S)aid school board member Leland Yee, chairman of the board's Buildings and Grounds committee(:} ... "To this day, we don't know all of the schools that were slighted. We need a full accounting.''

-- Nanette Asimov
San Francisco Chronicle 11/15/95

[Note from PASA: Then: School Board Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Yee was taken by surprise by accusations of sloppy management. He vowed to get to the bottom of things, without noticeable results. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

Audit Criticizes School Spending

The San Francisco School District's attempts to fix its aging schools have been marred by piecemeal work, communication problems and high management costs, according to an audit of how $180 million in school repair bond money was spent.

"It was never defined for the (school) board how the dollars were being spent," said School Board President Leland Yee, who ordered the audit.

-- Erin McCormick
Hearst Examiner 11/16/95

[Note from PASA: Then: School board President Yee was taken by surprise by charges of management problems. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

Contractor Accused of Improper Disposal of Lead Paint
Probe begins of possible hazard at 2 S.F. schools

San Francisco police and the district attorney's office are investigating allegations that a contractor hired by the school board to paint two city schools poured old lead-based paint down a drain at one school and dropped flecks of the toxic material on the grounds of another.

(School board member) Yee said he intends to find out whether other work has been fully checked. ``What is the oversight mechanism for other projects?'' he said. ``That's the most serious question.''

-- Nanette Asimov
San Francisco Chronicle 2/24/96

[Note from PASA: Then: School board member Yee was taken by surprise by charges of environmentally unsafe maintenance practices. He vowed to get to the bottom of things, without noticeable results. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

Questions on Rojas' Spending
S.F. school funds used on entertaining

San Francisco schools Superintendent Bill Rojas has improperly donated public money to a political campaign and spent district funds generously to entertain consultants in upscale restaurants and on a dining yacht, school records show.

"That's a major concern," said board member Leland Yee... Yee called for a review of Rojas' spending.

-- Nanette Asimov and David Dietz
San Francisco Chronicle 3/22/96

[Note from PASA: Then: School board member Yee was taken by surprise by charges of questionable spending by Superintendent Bill Rojas. He vowed to get to the bottom of things, without noticeable results. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

DA Investigates Rojas' Ballot Measure Donation
School board member asks for full audit

San Francisco's district attorney began an inquiry yesterday into an apparently illegal political donation by schools Superintendent Bill Rojas, while Board of Education member Leland Yee said he will ask for a full audit of Rojas' spending.

... Meanwhile Yee, a Rojas supporter, said a desire for camaraderie among top school officials has resulted in few controls on the superintendent's spending. ``We're so hungry to move this district forward that there's a tendency not to want discord among board members or the superintendent,'' he said.

As a result, ``I'll also ask for a review of the oversight mechanism of the superintendent's expenditures,'' Yee said.

-- Nanette Asimov and David Dietz
San Francisco Chronicle 3/23/96

[Note from PASA: Then: School board member Yee was taken by surprise by charges of questionable spending by Superintendent Bill Rojas. He vowed to get to the bottom of things, without noticeable results. Now: He blames today's district leadership for the problems.]

Misuse of San Francisco School Funds?

The San Francisco Unified School District has spent a half-million dollars over the last 10 years for a full-time sewing machine repair person, even though sewing programs had all but ended, The Examiner has learned.

Former school board member Leland Yee, now a member of the Board of Supervisors who has called for a further investigation of The City's public school administrators, said, "Their credibility is gone. This incident is symptomatic of the ongoing financial oversight problems of the school district."

- Julian Guthrie
San Francisco (Hearst) Examiner 7/9/00

[Note from PASA: Despite his profession of outrage, Yee was on the school board during much of the 10-year career of the bogus sewing machine repairwoman.]

Page last updated Monday November 02, 2009

Click here to return to the PASA Homepage.