School district deficit explodes 

The budget deficit for San Francisco public schools grew $30 million in recent weeks, and district officials are blaming the governor.
Initially, San Francisco Unified School District officials thought the budget shortfall would be $83 million during the next two years. But after analyzing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget proposal, they now say the SFUSD is $113 million in the hole — a figure that’s 25 percent of the operating budget.

“This is one of the most devastating years for education,” SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. “This is worse than the Great Depression and worse than Prop. 13 [which curbed revenue for education, among other things].”

School officials already were planning to send out preliminary pink slips March 15, along with possibly cutting back on summer school classes, as first reported by The Examiner, and considering capping salary increases.

Now, it appears the cuts will go deeper.

Other money-saving options, such as closing schools on certain days, may be considered, Blythe said. The district will hold meetings throughout the spring before making any final decisions about budget cuts.

Education leaders blame the governor, saying he pulled a “bait-and-switch” when he claimed during his State of the State address that he would preserve education funding. But last week, San Francisco school officials traveled to Sacramento only to learn that the governor’s budget proposal included a permanent cut to basic funding that they thought was only a one-time reduction for this school year.

“We are all pretty much in shock,” school district board member Rachel Norton said.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia attended a teachers union meeting Wednesday night to explain the imminent cuts. Garcia said he intends to share his thoughts on what should be cut from the budget at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday. Union leaders called on Garcia to be open and transparent about the basis of his proposed cuts.

Until now, San Francisco has been able to dodge serious reductions and layoffs as it dipped into voter-approved rainy-day funds during the past two years.

“That is our concern — where the cuts will come down,” said Matthew Hardy, spokesman for United Educators of San Francisco. “It’s our hope that he would look outside the classroom to make cuts first. Laying off teachers and increasing class sizes is the worst possible outcome for students.”

 

Bigger mess than anticipated

San Francisco Unified School District officials say the budget deficit increased $30 million in recent weeks.

$400 million SFUSD operating budget
$113 million New SFUSD budget shortfall
$83 million Previous SFUSD budget shortfall
49th California’s rank in the nation for education funding

Source: SFUSD

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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Erin Sherbert

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