While city officials are concerned that President-elect Donald Trump could cancel more than $1 billion in federal funding for San Francisco if it remains a sanctuary city, school district leaders are worried about their own federal support.
Trump has pledged to cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities on his first day in office, and the San Francisco Unified School District depends on at least $28 million a year from the federal government to support its neediest students.
But it’s unclear whether Trump’s pledge will pull money from the school district, which has a separate budget from city government. Controller Ben Rosenfield said that he and Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh briefly discussed the topic Monday but have not determined whether the school district could be impacted.
“Part of the challenge, of course, is there’s no specific proposals to respond to,” Rosenfield said. Trump has not been more specific about his plan to cut federal funding for sanctuaries than in a written plan for his first 100 days in office, where he first wrote his pledge.
On Thursday, Mayor Ed Lee convened a meeting with every department head in San Francisco — including Leigh — to discuss the potential ramifications, before hosting a public event at City Hall on Monday where he called on San Francisco to remain unified as a sanctuary city.
If federal funding is pulled from the SFUSD, Board of Education President Matt Haney said “it would have a devastating effect on our students.”
“Our federal funding is mostly part of longstanding programs to support low-income and vulnerable students,” Haney said.
The SFUSD uses federal funding for a range of initiatives, including local iterations of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and the Migrant Education Program for the children of migrant workers, according to the district budget.
But the $28 million does not include federal reimbursements that the SFUSD receives for free and reduced lunches for low-income students.
“That’s a big deal,” said longtime school board member Jill Wynns. “If you were to get no food reimbursements, you would have a very hard time feeding kids.”
“Almost all of the money…comes from the federal government.”
Haney said that Trump’s election last week has also prompted him to ask Leigh, the interim superintendent, and the SFUSD’s general counsel to review the district’s privacy policies and procedures to protect undocumented students.
San Francisco is a sanctuary city because its law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities — the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement.
On Thursday, the mayor announced San Francisco would remain a sanctuary city despite Trump’s pledge.
Haney doubled down on the mayor’s commitment.
“We do not cooperate with ICE within what we are able to do legally and we protect the privacy and information of our students, and we’re prepared to step up efforts to do that,” Haney said.
“We are a sanctuary school district and we fully support the sanctuary city policies that San Francisco has.”