Friday, February 27, 2009

Get Gavin to release rainy day fund

Below is a letter from Parents for Public Schools:

I am hoping that you might help publicize the idea of parents getting out in front of
schools very soon with umbrellas up, and placards urging Mayor Newsom and the Board of
Supervisors to release all the rainy day funds now.

As noted on the Bay Area section of the Feb. 25 Chronicle (p. B-1) 33 million is needed to
save all 500 teacher and administrator jobs of SFUSD employees who have been targeted
to receive pink slips owing to funding shortfalls. However Mayor Newsom announced that
the city is tinkering with the formula so that they would release only 11.5 million, saving
just 130-160 jobs.

Tom Ammiano, who wrote the rainy day legislation, says the intention of the legislation
should have the Mayor release the full amount.

Our public schools cannot absorb any more cuts. I am more than upset that we are in a
position of having to fight for proper implementation of a rainy day fund that we thought
was already in place.

Public schools are the heart of a democracy. I am ready to get out in front of my
daughter's school holding my umbrella and a picket sign saying: "Mayor Newsom, release
ALL rainy day funds now. 500 essential positions are on the line. It is raining on our public
schools!"

What I see is teachers and administrators working their hearts out on daunting tasks. We
need to support these dedicated educators.

I know many parents feel as I do.

15 comments:

  1. Why isn't this letter on the PPSSF website?

    Also: Is this protest planned for a particular day?

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  2. If we use up all the rainy day funds this year, what happens next year?

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  3. This was posted on the PPS listserve earlier this week. I believe all the staff are in Portland this weekend for a national conference and maybe haven't had the chance to post it.

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  4. Here's the letter sent out by UESF today:

    Help Save the Rainy Day Fund

    This week City Hall announced that the city of San Francisco would provide approximately $11 million from the Rainy Day Fund to help offset the SFUSD's dire budget shortfall. A day earlier, Superintendent Carlos Garcia announced that the district is facing a $29 million deficit for the 09-10 school year and that he intends to send out 506 layoff notices to teachers and administrators the week of March 9th.

    Unfortunately, City Hall's commitment of $11 million falls well short of the 25% called for in the legislation that created the Rainy Day Fund. According to the City Controller there is approximately $92 million in the fund, of which the schools should be eligible for up to $23 million (25%).

    Shorting the district that $12 million will make a world of difference in our schools. It will almost certainly result in the layoff of up to 375 teachers and dozens of paraprofessionals. It will likely lead to large increases in K-3 class size, and the elimination or reduction of many vital programs.

    Now is time for the school community to send a strong message to the folks over at City Hall. The Governor and state legislature have failed our schools. This is the Mayor's and the Supervisors' chance to show their leadership and support for our schools, our students, and our educators.

    The first thing I would like you to do is mark Thursday March 12th on your calendar. On that day we will gather in the yard at Civic Center Secondary School (formerly John Swett Elementary, 727 Golden Gate Ave.) at 4:00 p.m. for a march over to City Hall. Bring your umbrellas and raincoats as a visual reminder of what our schools need. (It may also, indeed, rain.)

    The second thing I would like you to do is to email and phone the Board of Supervisor in you’re school's district and the Mayor and ask them to give our schools the full Rainy Day Fund. Contact information will be sent out on Monday.

    Individually our efforts might not seem like much, but collectively they will send a powerful message to the leaders of our city to support our schools. A moment of your time to make a phone call and send an email, and an afternoon of your time to attend a boisterous rally will make a difference.

    Look for more information and materials early next week.

    In solidarity,

    Dennis Kelly

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  5. If they release all of the rainy day funds for next academic year, does that leave nothing for the following year?

    I don't expect much being added to the fund over the next year considering revenues are not likely to climb anytime soon, right?

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  6. Like all public school parents, I'm very concerned about the state of our future's education. As a citizen of San Francisco I'm equally concerned about our dire public health crisis (the deptartment that has had to take the biggest cuts) and making sure that we have adequate fire protection in particular (we currently have had to reduce stations on call which has resulted in a slightly longer response time - please imagine if it is your child that needs the ambulance they are now waiting longer for).

    None of these are easy choices. It is not right to demand that the schools receive more and our public health and other vital services are reduced. You may think that the mayor could reduce his staff and therefore fund these items, not so as it's way more needed than those savings would bring. This fund was not established to make up for anything that happens -but to help offset the cuts that could happen. It is a help to be able to save a portion of the jobs.

    As others have pointed out, we will likely be in this situation next year. The blame and protest belong in Sacramento, not on our district or mayor/BOS who are trying to help offset what the state has done.

    Please keep this in mind when you are advocating for this. Remember this fund is set up for the city not just the schools. Also, Tom Ammiano did not advocate draining the fund this year, in fact he implored his former colleagues not to do so.

    There has not been anything added to the fund. SFUSD received 19 million last year and the city nothing. The city was entitled to 50% of the total fund (that is the amount that was in the fund last year when SFUSD took 19 million). They are asking for what is their share to protect vital services for all of us (including our children).

    I hope you are not just concerened with your own presumably insured family and care nothing for those who have no health services?

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  7. oh, and there is not going to be an increase in class size in K-3 beyond perhaps moving to 22 students.

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  8. 1:09 PM:

    Ammiano also says that Newsom's math is wrong, which is what the argument is about now. While I agree that the city's situation is dire, SFUSD is only asking for what they (and most others) believe to be their legally-allowed share.

    The only person I'm aware of who has advocated emptying the fund in the way you suggest (not that there will be much left in it, true) is Chris Daly. SFUSD took no position on that, even though it would supposedly net SFUSD $34 million.

    Garcia has left K class sizes open for increase and, at least since his last Chronicle quote, has not mentioned intending to end CSR in 1-3. Given the proposed layoffs and the increase in enrollment I'm not sure that the numbers work to keep Ks at 21-22. (This includes assuming some schools will move teachers to K as K teachers with less seniority are laid off.)

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  9. 1:09's post implies that advocating for a better deal for schools this year is somehow greedy. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the suggestion makes me so annoyed I'm reposting my response to a similar suggestion on the PPS list, below. I'd also like to remind the poster that the City did not qualify for a 2008-09 distribution from the fund until recently -- $6 million. Here's my PPS post:

    "Sharing the pain" sounds fair, but the creative interpretation of the Rainy Day Fund legislation being circulated at City Hall isn't just sharing the pain -- it's transferring it unfairly onto schools. Even the person who WROTE the Rainy Day Fund legislation (Tom Ammiano) disagrees with the interpretation that would allow the City to take its draw and then use the remaining balance to determine the schools' share. And don't forget that there is precedent for the original
    interpretation -- that schools would get 25% of the balance of the
    fund before anyone takes a distribution -- because the Controller's office used exactly that interpretation in our distribution last year.

    Shorting the schools this year does absolutely nothing for the City's 2009-10 budget shortfall -- it seems pretty clear in the Rainy Day Fund legislation that whatever amount SFUSD gets, the City is "only" able to draw up to $46 million. What we are essentially fighting over is the balance of the fund that will be available for the City in 2010-11 (if SFUSD gets more this year, the City will get less in 2010-11).

    In 2008-09, the City gave raises to many classes of employees; SFUSD
    did not (other than the increases given to certificated employees
    through Prop. A, which comes from property taxes and not the City's
    general fund). Now we're both in a hole, but the City's is deeper.
    Should SFUSD students "share the pain" for raises we didn't give?

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  10. Rachel,
    I am 1:09 and take a little annoyance myself at your tone. I never once implied it was greedy. I am merely stating that this is not an easy decision and that while there are many reasons the schools should have more money from Rainy Day funds, there are equally valid concerns regarding citizen health and safety, and yes, I did not make it clear enough that I am speaking of the following fiscal year.

    I am also pointing out that there is still advocacy work that can be done in Sacramento as all years, the state budget will be revised in May. By spending time and energy advocating to get more Rainy Day funds you could be missing an opportunity to keep the state's feet to the fire to fulfill their legal obligations under Prop 98 for one.

    As far as city raises, like all union contracts some included raises which accounted for the majority of raises the city gave in 2008-09. SFUSD will also no doubt be facing the same with the UESF contract being up soon. The administrators in SFUSD also received a wage increase as a result of their collective bargaining agreement struck but it was not last year. Union contracts are generally for several years, so the practice of giving raises in either SFUSD or the city employees (SEIU, police, sheriff, etc.) is a hard one to argue since you may have just fallen in a year that required a contract to begin. I would not fault SFUSD for giving raises in an extreme financially hard time if the union contract for a group of employees happened to come due. I do agree that there is a vast group of overpaid people in the Newsom administration that need cuts, however that won't make the shortfall that much different.

    My post was aimed at reminding people that there are other vital services that will be cut and that while we all value education, not to realize there are other needs is equally shortsighted. Actually it is not true that it would change the amount the city would receive as it would change it for next year when both the city and SFUSD will both certainly be able to take advantage again, barring some unknown economic recovery.

    I hope that clears up some of your annoyance with my post as I suspect that we are actually on the same page in our desire to see the schools fully funded.

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  11. My understanding is that class sizes must stay at or below 20.44 students per class, average, per grade at a given school site for the period from the 1st day of school to the 15th of April in order to receive the class size reduction funds. If class sizes go up to 22, they may as well go higher as far as getting that money is concerned. Schools get over $1,000 per student for keeping classes within the 20.44 average.

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  12. 3:40:

    While I disagree with your conclusions, I think you raise an important point. Eventually, SFUSD needs to come up with some budget-balancing scenarios that don't include mass teacher layoffs. Other districts - other local districts, other local low-income districts - make different budget decisions. SFUSD seems to examine few other options.

    SFUSD also massively increased the number of layoff letters they're sending from the first suggestion in the Chronicle (from 250 total to over 500) and I have yet to hear any explanation for this other than making sure to trigger the Rainy Day fund. If there were other significant considerations I think SFUSD should be proactive in getting them out to teachers - annual lay-off letters are bad for morale, and some teachers are likely to leave. Those will, sadly, often be the best ones who have more options.

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  13. Given the level of cuts to education in the most recent state budget, I doubt there are any districts that are not contemplating layoffs, except perhaps those that have significant parent fundraising capacity. March 3, 6:03, which districts are you referring to?

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  14. I was actually thinking of last year, when the letters SFUSD sent out comprised something like 10% of the total for the state of California, while rich and poor districts alike throughout the East and South Bay sent out few/no letters whatsoever.

    Sending out layoff letters triggers the Rainy Day fund (while totally ignoring that high-qualified teachers are actually professionals, not pawns). So in some sense SFUSD is quite motivated to send out the letters, where other districts are not.

    Also, given the freedom in state funding this year, I don't know that so many districts will be laying off teachers. Arne Duncan has indicated that federal money is largely intended to prevent layoffs, and loosening restrictions on how state education money is spent (as is happening) will also probably reduce layoffs. Unfortunately it appears that SFUSD has no plan other than to get $24 million from the Rainy Day fund.

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  15. ^^Thanks!!

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