I often get asked questions about how our schools are funded. In California and in San Francisco, this is a complicated topic involving decisions by policymakers at the state, federal and local levels, as well as voters.
One way voters weigh in is by considering ballot measures that impact resources for our schools. This Election Day, San Franciscans will vote on several education-related measures: Proposition J, which addresses a legal loophole to continue providing funds to SFUSD and Proposition 15, which would increase revenue for public education and other services.
About Proposition J
Mayor London Breed placed Proposition J on the ballot to replace Proposition G, which was passed by San Francisco voters in 2018.
Prop. G was a $298 per parcel tax that adjusts with inflation each year and is now at $320 per parcel. The large majority of these funds are being used to further raise teacher salaries; specifically, an across the board 7% raise for every teacher in the SFUSD. San Francisco Charter Schools also receive funds directly from Prop. G.
In addition to teacher salary increases, proceeds from Prop. G are used to:
— Improve and maintain academic programs in reading, writing, math, science and technology
— Raise the salaries of other critical educators, especially para-educators
— Support recruitment and induction of teachers
— Support professional development for all staff
— Provide innovative programs at schools with the greatest challenges
Prop. J replaces Prop. G with a $288 per parcel tax with the same adjustments for inflation and an exemption for people age 65 and older.
How teacher pay impacts our schools
An annual survey conducted by Stanford University and SFUSD revealed that 64% of teachers spend more than 30% of their income towards rent. Of those teachers, 14.7% spend more than 50% of their income towards rent. Skyrocketing rents and the cost of housing have made it difficult for San Francisco educators to make ends meet.
When teachers leave San Francisco, it leads to high turnover in our classrooms. Over the last few years, turnover has been approximately 12%. This means that the SFUSD has had to hire an average of 400 new teachers every year. Teacher turnover can have a detrimental impact on SFUSD schools, particularly those serving students who have the greatest need for stability and consistency. Compounding the problem is a nationwide and statewide teacher shortage. In addition, teachers with science, math and special education credentials are particularly difficult to recruit and retain.
SFUSD created an independent oversight committee to ensure all funds are spent appropriately. The committee submits annual reports to the mayor and board of supervisors. You can learn more about the committee and see the reports here.
About Proposition 15
Californians will vote on state Proposition 15, also known as the Schools and Communities First Initiative. Prop. 15 is a citizen-initiated ballot measure that would create a “split roll” property tax system and spend the resulting revenue increase on public education and other public services. It would amend the constitution of California to adjust the original 1978 California Proposition 13, and enable commercial properties to be taxed at their fair market value, as opposed to the value at the time when they were purchased.
Prop. 15 would not affect property taxes for homeowners. It would apply only to commercial properties whose owners have more than $3 million in holdings, so it would exempt small businesses and individuals who own their own property from this tax increase. Upon full implementation, this initiative would raise between $8.5 billion and $12 billion in property tax revenue per year for education and other public services.
Thank you for learning more and voting if you can. And remember, if you’re voting by mail, please vote early.
Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.