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SF teachers rally for Prop. 55 to extend school funding

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Educators, parents and students from Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 rally in support of Proposition 55 on Thursday morning.(Courtesy United Educators of San Francisco)

San Francisco educators, parents and students rallied at more than a dozen public schools Thursday morning, calling for voters across California to approve a ballot measure to extend state funding for schools.

The United Educators of San Francisco, which represents teachers and instructional aides, is concerned that the San Francisco Unified School District will fall back into recession-era conditions from around 2007 — teacher layoffs, crowded classrooms and program cuts — unless Proposition 55 is approved in November.

Prop. 55 is an extension of Proposition 30, an income tax on the wealthiest Californians, which has provided some $6 billion a year for public schools since voters approved it in 2012. Prop. 30 will begin to expire in 2018 unless voters extend it until 2030.

The tax applies to the some 1.5 percent of Californians who earn more than $250,000 a year.

When school started at Bret Harte Elementary School in the Bayview on Thursday, UESF Vice President Susan Solomon, union members and community activists were outside to drum up support for the state initiative. Similar rallies were held at Longfellow, Buena Vista and Cleveland elementary schools, among others.

“We have to have Prop. 55,” Solomon said in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner. “There are not really options unless we want to go back to the days of the recession.”

Solomon said the measure is also important because the SFUSD has already struggled to maintain its teaching staff. With the housing crisis in full flux, some teachers are unable to afford rent in The City on their salaries.

“If the funding isn’t extended, and the district can’t find a way to give educators a raise or a substantive raise to keep them in San Francisco, I’m afraid,” Solomon said, noting that the district could lose even more teachers.

At the end of the month, the school district is expected to meet with the teachers union to begin contract negotiations over salaried employees. The second phase of contract negotiations, for non-salaried employees, will begin in January.

The negotiations factor in a three year projection of the funding available to the district to pay educators, Solomon said. Even though Prop. 30 would not expire until 2019, the drop-off would be taken into consideration during negotiations this year.

Unions from across the country rallied Thursday to call attention to education cuts.

In San Francisco, UESF was joined by Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, members of the Service Employees International Union 1021 and others.

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