School board approves Prop. H funds for teacher raises

Millions of dollars of voter-approved school funds will be used to help pay for the recent 8.5 percent pay raise given to teachers, San Fran-cisco's school board voted Tuesday.

The tentative two-year contract agreement provides teachers and classroom aides with an initial 2 percent retroactive pay increase by the end of this school year and another 6.5 percent increase by the middle of next school year.

Officials for the San Francisco Unified School District said the contract agreement will likely come at the expense of other school programs and services, unless additional revenue comes from the state or other sources.

Some of the additional revenue needed will come from Prop. H funds. The proposition was sold to voters in 2004 as a way to improve public education by allocating city tax dollars — an increasing amount annually — to schools. Of the millions of dollars coming out of The City's coffers, one-third is earmarked for free preschool and another third is designated for sports, arts, libraries and music in district schools. The district can use the remaining one-third for “general uses.”

Although 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 next school year, the district will take an advance on those Prop. H funds, using them instead to help pay for the teachers' retroactive pay increase.

With the average teacher estimated to receive about $1,000 in back pay, the costs of the compensation package for this school year is about $5.4 million, according to the district.

In addition, $1.9 million of unspent funds from this year's Prop. H money — designated for elementary school counselors, nurses, social workers and learning-support consultants — are also being considered to pay for the teacher raises. According to district officials, the money is currently unspent due to hiring difficulties.

The costs of the contract agreement will also contribute to a $19 million projected budget shortfall over the next two school years, according to district officials.

Union officials have bristled at the assertion that the new compensation package is creating a budget shortfall for the district, countering that teachers have gone for nearly four years without an increase and that the financial difficulties are due to declining enrollment, poor spending priorities and lower-than-expected state revenues.

beslinger@examiner.com

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