Supervisor Jane Kim wants San Francisco to help students graduate

S.F. Examiner File PhotoOn edge: More than half of San Francisco juniors are in danger of falling short of graduation requirements.

Supervisor Jane Kim wants The City to give the San Francisco Unified School District $2.7 million to help pay for programs that could help more students graduate on time.

According to data released recently by the school district, 2,216 of 4,024 juniors are in danger of not graduating because they are missing one or more of their requirements. Starting with the class of 2014, graduation requirements were changed to help prepare students for college. Known as “A-G requirements,” these new requirements resemble the minimum standards for entrance into the University of California and California State University systems.

The proposed $2.7 million in funding would allow the school district to help students obtain more academic credits via after-school programs, in-school support and partnerships with community-based organizations.

Kim noted that the district is facing deeper cuts in the next two years, calling now the time to act. This year, The City decreased its contribution into the voter-approved Proposition H, which provides funding for arts education, by 20 percent. Under that measure, The City can decrease such funding during fiscal crises.

“The City is doing quite well,” Kim said. “I don’t think we fully understood the size of our budget when we pulled the trigger and decreased Prop. H funding. We were expecting a deficit.”

Kim’s original resolution, which was to have been considered last Tuesday, called for the money to come from The City’s state reserve funding. But city officials asked for its consideration to be delayed until Dec. 4, with discussions over the next two weeks likely to consider taking some money from The City’s rainy-day fund, which was set up in 2003.

The school district’s own $26 million reserve was another concern for some supervisors. Yet Deputy Superintendent of Finance Myong Leigh said most of that money is already spoken for because the district must plan three years in advance. The district is drawing on its reserves to fund programs that have already taken cuts, as well as the rising costs of health care and employee benefits.

“If we were only concerned about the ending fund balance at the end of this year, we would feel a lot better,” Leigh said. “But we have a structural deficit. We’re on track to spend $24 million more than we are taking in, in revenues. So we’ll be short next year.”

If approved, Kim’s funding would provide programs during the spring semester only. The limited-duration funding prompted concern from supervisors who asked how the district would provide the same services to students in the future.

But Kim urged The City to help with this crisis.

“We have real students struggling to graduate,” she said. “I support the higher standards, but these first classes need additional support.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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