Governor’s budget proposal could take some $40 million from classrooms

No option is off the table — including school closures — when it comes to reconciling a potential $40 million impact to San Francisco’s public schools from the proposed state budget cuts, according to school district officials.

“That number [$40 million] is not one we’ve thought about before,” said Myong Leigh, deputy superintendent of policy and operations for the San Francisco Unified School District.

The school district — with its $485 million annual budget — is estimating an impact of $40 million in losses because of proposed cuts revealed in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 10 budget proposal, which included $14.5 billion in potential losses to services and programs statewide. Schwarzenegger’s budget proposed a 10 percent reduction in most K-12 funding sources, Leigh said.

“We’re going to be looking at every option,” Leigh said. Those options include laying off teachers, cutting back on custodial staff, hiring freezes, program elimination, transportation cuts and expansion of class sizes.

“Forty million dollars is huge, and it could mean the possibility of closing schools,” said Gentle Blythe, district spokeswoman. The district has 112 schools with roughly 56,000 students enrolled, down from 61,000 students the district had during the late 1990s, according to state statistical data. Since 2004, seven schools have closed and several others merged onto shared campuses.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia proposed last week that the school district put aside $7 million out of $45 million the district is set to receive next year from Proposition H — a voter-approved school fund set aside from The City — to perhaps alleviate pressure from potential cuts, Blythe said.

The $7 million would come from the portion of the fund that is designated this year for teacher training and coaching, technology upgrades, a pre-kindergarten literacy initiative and student nutrition improvements, Blythe said.

Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco, called the governor’s budget an “assault” on public education in California. Up to 400 teachers could be lost due to the budget cuts with the threat of layoffs in March and May hanging over the district, Kelly said. Such layoffs would “totally destabilize the school district” because even if teachers would be rehired next year, many would leave the district for more stable employment elsewhere, hesaid. The school district will need to focus on obtaining a clear revenue stream, Kelly added.

In addition to the school district, City Hall is projecting budget losses of between $32 million and $100 million because of the governor’s proposal, with programs to help the area’s sickest and most impoverished anticipated to be hit the worst, according to health and welfare officials.

dsmith@examiner.com

Budget woes

The SFUSD says it will lose $40 million due to state budget cuts.

Potential areas of impact:

» Class size

» Per-pupil spending

» Teachers, custodial staff

» School transportation

» Teacher training, coaching

» Technology improvements in district

» Pre-kindergarten literacy initiative

» Student nutrition programs

Source: SFUSD

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