Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 School is among those targeted by a San Francisco Unified School District stipend program intended to attract and retain teachers at harder-to-staff schools. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Ronen, Fewer threaten to block Mayor Breed’s $10M teacher stipend proposal

Plan could increase incentives to attract and retain faculty at some schools to as much as $5K

The future of Mayor London Breed’s proposal to increase stipends aimed at attracting and retaining teachers at underperforming schools appears uncertain after supervisors panned the incentive program as ineffective.

The San Francisco Unified School District currently pays teachers stipends of $2,000 a year to attract and retain teachers at underperforming public schools.

In her $12.3 billion budget proposal for the next fiscal year, Breed said she wants to up the ante with a proposal for a $10 million pilot program over the next two years that could provide stipends of up to $5,000 a year per teacher.

But members of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee took aim at the initiative during a hearing Friday on the budget proposal.

The plan calls for the expansion of the school district’s existing teacher retention program at 25 schools that the district formerly called “hard-to-staff” schools, but now calls “high potential schools.” The $10 million “would leverage” the school district’ existing stipend funding “for greater impact, potentially incrementally increasing the stipend for teachers each year,” according to a budget presentation from the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, which would oversee the $10 million program.

However Supervisor Hillary Ronen said the program did not appear to have been successful so far and asked Maria Su, executive director of DCYF, to return to the board with information on how the money would be used.

“Without it, I am not inclined to support this massive increase to a program that hasn’t been very effective,” Ronen said.

Ronen said it wasn’t clear why the incentive program wasn’t working or if merely increasing the amount was going to help.

“Between now and the next budget hearing, I want to truly understand what your plan is,” Ronen said. “We know that $2,000 in stipends is not working. Is that just because it’s too low, or is it that that is not the right intervention?”

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, who chairs the budget committee, said she agreed with Ronen’s position.

“This program is not successful, quite frankly,” Fewer said.

She noted that the same schools are on the list that were there when she was a member of the Board of Education.

Among the 25 schools are three high schools, Burton in Visitacion Valley, Thurgood Marshall in the Bayview, and John O’Connell in the Mission District.

“Those schools still have four times the turnover, sometimes they even have more, than other schools,” Fewer said. “This is not the incentive that is going to get teachers to teach at the schools.”

Fewer said she had already discussed her concerns with Breed. “When I spoke to the mayor about this, I said I think a better investment would be to strengthen the coaching and the supports that teachers get at those schools.”

Su said that “I would agree that the $2,000 has not had a strong impact, which is why the mayor is allocating even more monies.”

“I am going to throw myself into this initiative and work really hard with the school district to make sure that this program, the way we expand it, is really going to meet the needs of these teachers, to make sure that these teachers feel seen and valued in their schools,” Su said.

She said that DCYC is uniquely positioned to oversee the program since the department funds nonprofits who also work in the schools where the stipends are targeted.

The Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to discuss the DCYF budget proposal again on Thursday.

The committee began review of the budget proposal last week and will continue its review this week and into next week. The committee will make cuts to the budget and use the revenue to fund other priorities in a process traditionally referred to as “add-backs.”

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