Tax could beef up teacher salaries, tech

A parcel tax aimed at enticing new teachers to stay in San Francisco’s public schools also includes a bevy of funds for school technology, charter schools, “think tanks” and grants that would encourage schools to explore new ways to help students succeed.

Voters will have their say June 3 on Proposition A, a $198 tax on commercial and residential parcels that would raise an estimated $28.8 million annually for the San Francisco Unified School District. It requires two-thirds approval.

Roughly 71 percent of the tax revenues would boost teacher salaries, bonuses and other incentives, according to Dennis Kelly, head of the United Educators of San Francisco.

The remainder would be used by district leaders for a variety of projects, including a 13 percent set-aside for new computers and the staff to keep them running, according to Superintendent Carlos Garcia.

“Right now, we might have one person to maintain 2,000 computers,” Garcia said.

The district would also use its share to provide grants to schools that develop new strategies for helping low-performing students thrive, and to research districtwide innovation, according to Garcia.

“[Prop. A] would help us create a ‘think tank’ to study what we need to do differently,” Garcia said.

Another $1 million would go to the district’s nine charter schools. If it passes, Prop. A would be the first public-school parcel tax to fund charter schools, according to Nick Driver, general manager for the California Charter School Association.

“San Francisco sees this as new money coming in to the system, and charter schools are part of the system — they’re serving San Francisco kids,” Driver said.

The lion’s share of the tax would increase teacher salaries, particularly for new teachers, while providing bonuses to educators willing to work in low-performing schools or hard-to-staff subjects, such as science and mathematics.

Right now, San Francisco’s low pay makes it a training ground for teachers who move on as they gain experience, leaders said. With Prop. A, a starting teacher’s salary would rise from $47,478 to $52,250.

“It’s pretty frustrating for my husband and me to live in a city with such a high cost of living,” said Andrea Peterson, a second-grade teacher at Argonne Elementary School who has taught in the district for three years. “We don’t want to move, but it’s becoming harder and harder.”

In addition, the tax would provide teachers with $2,500 bonuses after four and eight years, another $2,000 for teaching at a challenging school and $1,000 for teaching in a “hard-to-fill subject area.”

“You can’t just say that this is a bounty for working in the worst places,” Kelly said. “This is extra pay for the extra work teachers perform in these schools.”

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

How Prop. A would be divided

Revenues would be allocated to improve salaries, support professional development, fund technology needs and boost charter-school funding.

» 41%: Teacher salary increases

» 20.8%: Teacher bonuses, coaching for low-performing teachers

» 9.5%: Ongoing teacher education

» 13.1%: Technology, computers and IT staff

» 7.4%: Salary increases for other employees

» 3.5%: Charter schools

» 2.6%: Innovation, research and development

» 1.8%: Support and materials for teacher education

» 0.3%: Oversight

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