San Francisco’s financially strapped public schools stand to receive $123.4 million after the California Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a 2018 ballot measure to boost educator pay.
The court denied a final appeal challenging Proposition G, a parcel tax passed by voters in June 2018. The measure did not receive a two-thirds majority vote, which often opens measures up to legal challenges that are later denied.
“The courts continue to affirm that only a simple majority vote is required when voters place measures on the ballot through the initiative process,” said City Attorney David Chiu.
“This victory represents years of work by my predecessor, Dennis Herrera, and attorneys in our office to ensure the will of the voters is upheld,” Chiu continued. “San Franciscans definitively voted to provide more resources for our school district and educators, and the courts once again validated that decision today.”
The court’s decision comes as San Francisco Unified School District attempts to stave off state intervention over its $116 million structural deficit. It has until Dec. 15 to submit a budget-balancing plan to state regulators cutting $125 million for the next school year.
“It’s definitely a big one for the school district right now,” said Faauuga Moliga, vice president of the San Francisco Board of Education. “We have to discuss with the board in terms of what direction we want to take. What a turn of events.”
Several years ago the district assumed the cost of the negotiated salary increases, costing $93.4 million from the reserves, according to the district. Prop. G funds were inaccessible due to the lawsuit as it struggled to retain educators facing a high cost of living in San Francisco.
City officials instead placed Proposition J on the ballot in 2020 to affirm and replace Prop. G while litigation continued. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure with more than two-thirds of the vote, instituting a $288 parcel estimated to bring $48 million annually to SFUSD.
The City collected at least $150 million, according to the Controller’s Office, and will be repaid $26.6 million that it loaned to SFUSD in 2019. The district said $40 million will be committed to its rainy day reserve and $53.5 million is available to be determined for other eligible uses.
“This ruling is a huge victory for San Francisco public schools and represents the will of the voters of San Francisco,” said Superintendent Vincent Matthews. “We will continue to work with our community to determine next steps in balancing our budget and ensuring these funds are used for their intended purposes.”