San Francisco school district leaders are calling for part of an unexpected $415 million windfall from property tax revenue to be spent on teacher salaries and education-related expenses.
The majority of the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund money set to come to the city, which was announced last week, will be dedicated to baseline funding for various city agencies and services. But there are competing proposals coming out of City Hall for how to spend the remaining $181 million, from Mayor London Breed and members of the Board of Supervisors.
While Breed would like to see the money directed to funding affordable housing and homelessness services, current school board member and soon-to-be city supervisor Matt Haney on Wednesday called for at least some to be directed to the San Francisco Unified School District, which he said is grossly underfunded by property tax revenue.
“The county gives the lowest percentage of property tax revenue to our schools out of any county in the state,” Haney told the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday. “Because of the way schools are funded under Proposition 13, even as property tax revenues go way up because of the growth of The City, the schools don’t see a corresponding increase in their funding.”
A portion of the $415 million windfall — or $35 million— is already going to the district as part of the baseline funding, but Haney said it isn’t enough.
Allocating the money to the district would help maintain teacher wage increases promised under Proposition G, a parcel tax that passed in June and is expected to raise $50 million annually for teacher salaries.
Because the tax is currently the subject of a legal dispute over the threshold by which it passed, the City Controller has recommended against spending the revenue until legal challenges are resolved, leaving the school district to shoulder the costs of a 7 percent wage hike for some 3,500 educators.
“The district has started to give those raises to educators who are relying on those raises to continue,” said Haney. “But if the district doesn’t receive additional funding from the county or from the Prop. G allocation, they won’t be able to continue the raises.”
Under Breed’s proposal, the money would be used to advance some of the goals set under Proposition C — a voter approved corporate tax hike on companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue that passed in November — including adding new shelter beds and mental health services. That measure, along with another measure providing funding for early childhood education that passed in June, is facing the same legal challenges as the educator parcel tax.
“This funding creates an opportunity to immediately address major needs facing our City and deliver results for the people of San Francisco. Most importantly, we can get to work now on meeting the goals of Prop. C while we deal with the legal uncertainty of our voter-approved funding on homelessness,” Breed said in a statement issued last week.
But Haney contended there is “a special case to be made for using these funds for educational purposes” because of their source — ERAF directs a portion of property tax revenues to public schools, and the windfall coming to the city is from revenues collected in excess of what is needed to maintain minimum funding levels for the schools.
“They come to us from [the education] fund that— That means that schools should be given a high priority in how we spend it,” he said.
Jeff Cretan, a spokesperson for Breed, said that her focus remains on putting “the funding towards homelessness, mental health, substance abuse and housing services to help people get off the street.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the allocation next year, when three new supervisors — including Haney and current school board member Shamann Walton — will assume their seats on the board.
Haney said he believes that Walton and other supervisors will be supportive of allocating more funding to San Francisco’s public schools.
“They may not have considered yet the urgent need to support funding for educator salary increases, which won’t happen unless the city steps in,” he said.