SFUSD Gets Big Funding Boost, But Still Expects Cuts

The district is back to pre-recession levels but operating costs have increased since then.

San Francisco Unified School District has $26 million more to work with for the upcoming school year, and yet it still has to reduce budget costs.

The San Francisco Board of Education approved an $890 million operating budget for the 2018-2019 school year, which came both with additional state funding and a five percent reduction in services. The reductions are tied to rising staff costs, which advocates say are critical to a living San Francisco wage that doesn’t leave students hanging when their teacher can’t afford to stay any longer.

“We are prioritizing raises for teachers and expanded programs for our highest need students,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews in a statement. “It’s important to note that school districts in California are just back at pre-recession funding levels even though the cost of doing business has increased considerably, especially here in San Francisco.” 

While an exact cost breakdown is not available, that $26 million increase will help pay for increasing salary costs. In November, San Francisco educators negotiated an 11 percent pay raise over three years and a one-time three percent bonus. Healthcare premiums are also expected to rise another two percent.  

SFUSD’s budget situation is not as dire as Oklahoma, where low state funding led to frequent textbook shortages, students shivering in the winter from the lack of a working heater, and a subsequent teacher’s strike. But almost 60 percent of San Francisco teachers say they have trouble affording housing and about 70 percent of them say they have some level of economic anxiety, according to a SFUSD survey.

“When we lose those teachers that our students are connected to, it has grave impact,” said Board President Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell in January. “Keeping teachers in San Francisco is a very high priority of ours.”

So voters in June were swayed by calls to pay teachers a living wage and approved a Proposition G to combat the chronic teacher shortage. A $298 parcel tax will now ensure a salary boost for the next 20 years and provide additional funding for schools.

Bringing in $525 million, California’s funding formula makes up a significant portion of SFUSD’s budget. Though it’s just now recovered from a decade of cuts, more budget cuts are still planned.

Much of the state funds have restricted uses, which means that the five percent reduction will come from its unrestricted general fund. School sites will be untouched by the cutbacks but the departments at the district’s central office will be affected by the order.

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