San Francisco schools bracing for ever-deeper budget cuts

San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said new Principal Natalie Eberhard has made great strides in improving systems and support structures in her first year at MLK.

San Francisco Unified School District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said new Principal Natalie Eberhard has made great strides in improving systems and support structures in her first year at MLK.

A budget gap of nearly $109 million over the next two years is predicted for San Francisco schools, which could mean deeper cuts to programs, larger class sizes and even school closures under the worst-case scenario.

The grim budget forecast was outlined Tuesday night to the Board of Education.

“What we have ahead of us is totally unacceptable,” Superintendent Carlos Garcia told board members at the start of the meeting. “This is one of the worst scenarios I’ve ever seen.”

The San Francisco Unified School District, which operates on a budget of $490 million, must cut $24.8 million for the 2011-12 school year. These cuts are based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s failure to convince legislators in Sacramento to hold a June special election that would have let voters decide to extend vehicle and income taxes.

Without the tax extensions, roughly $2 billion must be cut from K-12 schools across California. The state is facing a $19 billion budget shortfall.

The deficit in San Francisco schools could grow to another $84 million by the 2012-13 school year if the state’s economy doesn’t turn around.

Next year’s budget could be worse, said Myong Leigh, deputy superintendent of policy and operations, depending on the governor’s revised budget, which is due in May. Discussions in Sacramento have focused on an “all-cuts” budget that would slice current spending to extremely low levels without raising any revenues, K-12 schools would stand to lose another $4 billion.

If additional cuts need to be made schools could be closed, the school year could be shorter, class sizes could be increased and cuts could be made to advanced-placement programs, among other areas, Leigh said. The district must approve a budget and submit it to Sacramento by July 1. Two community meetings are scheduled for May and the Board of Education will vote on a final budget by June 28.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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