Board of Education to vote on diverting Proposition H funds

San Francisco's school board will vote tonight on whether to divert nearly $2.3 million of voter-approved school “enrichment” funds to soften the financial blow of a recently negotiated compensation package for teachers.

Proposition H was sold to voters in 2004 as a way to improve public education by allocating city funds — an increasing amount each year — to schools. Voters insisted that one-third of The City's annual allocation be earmarked for free preschool programs, and another one-third be designated for sports, arts, libraries and music in district schools. The district can use the remaining one-third for “general uses.”

A community advisory committee recommended that a portion of that third discretionary pot, $2.28 million, be earmarked for counselors and extra high school support staff for the 2006-07 school year. The district is counting on that money, however, to help pay for a 2 percent retroactive pay increase given to teachers that is expected to cost the district $5.4 million in 2005-06, according to Myong Leigh, the district's chief of policy and planning.

In addition, $1.9 million of this year's general-use allocation — designated for elementary school counselors, nurses, social workers and learning support consultants — is also being considered for use to help pay for the raises promised to teachers. The money is currently unspent due to hiring difficulties, according to district officials.

In 2007-08, when the bill for the teacher increases is expected to jump to $13 million, the district will receive $20 million in Prop. H money, half of which is discretionary and could also be used for teacher compensation.

San Francisco parent Novella Smith, who campaigned to help pass Prop. H and served on the community advisory committee that made the spending recommendations, said she was “disheartened” that the money would be used for general operating expenses, instead of educational extras.

“I want to see the teachers get raises. I think it's shameful what we've done to teachers, but I don't love using Prop. H funds to make that happen,” Smith said. “It's probably legal, it's certainly not what's expected to be used for those funds.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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