Budgeting for education in The City no small task

We have a big project due in a few months. Our budget — to the tune of some $800 million dollars — has to be submitted to state officials.

Putting this together is a thoughtful process, filled with conversations with parents, staff, students and school board commissioners. It requires poring over our myriad data — everything from test scores to attendance rates to parent survey results — and coming up with a budget that reflects our needs.

Here are a few key things to know about the process of putting together a budget each year for 134 schools and the central support services that help keep them going:

Where does the money come from?

Most of the money for public schools comes from the state. Fortunately, a couple years ago, California made a big change for the better in how it funds school districts. The Local Control Funding Formula is a way of distributing money that provides a basic foundation for all students and extra support for students who need it most.

It starts with a standard dollar amount per pupil, and then adds more money for students who are still learning English, living in low-income households and participating in foster care programs.

Two school districts with the same number of students may receive different budget allocations.

For example, a district with a large number of students learning English will receive more dollars than a district with a low number of English learners.

A plan for every dollar

We actively work with parents, educators, students and the community to establish our Local Control and Accountability Plan, a document submitted to the state that reflects our annual priorities. It shows how LCFF monies will be spent.

Taking each students needs into account

Our central office gathers a ton of data about our students to see if they are achieving academic and social-emotional learning goals. We track overall achievement and growth in language arts and mathematics, how fast English learners are becoming fluent, attendance, the amount of time students spend learning and information about how students and parents feel about the school’s overall climate.

With all this data, schools receive direct help and services in the form of dedicated central office staff members who are centrally funded.

For example, a school experiencing a high rate of truancy might get a staff member who focuses on that issue, while another school seeing a high rate of suspensions would receive a coach who helps teachers implement strategies to increase positive relationships among students. This approach is called Multi-Tiered System of Supports.

Budgeting specifics

In addition to the MTSS central support for school sites, allocations of specialists like social workers and literacy coaches, each school site receives funding based on the specific characteristics of the students who attend that school.

School Site Councils, comprised of staff, family and sometimes even student representatives, meet to plan how they will use their site budget to best serve the needs of their specific students.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, all school councils will be gathering for our annual school planning retreat to begin this process.

Are we spending wisely?

The San Francisco Unified School District’s audit report has been clean for several years in a row, and we have Aa2 rating from Moody’s Investors Service. We continue to explore even more robust ways to analyze our return on investment.

For more information on our numbers, visit www.sfusd.edu/budget.

Richard Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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