Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hot topic: Proposal for closing SFUSD's large budget gap

This from an SF K Files reader:
I am passing on the email that Dennis Kelly sent out to UESF (United Educators of San Francisco) members today regarding proposals for closing SFUSD's large budget gap in hopes that you will alert parents. As an SFUSD teacher I ask that you not use my name, but I think everyone is deeply concerned about what these proposed cuts would mean for our students. We need parents to stand up and demand transparency in the budget process, and to make it clear to the administration that cuts need to be made as far from the classroom as possible.
Here is the email from Dennis Kelly:
Superintendent Garcia Asks UESF Members for Millions to Deal with $113 Million Budget Crisis UESF Calls for Cuts Away from the Classroom, Transparency from District in Making Budget Decisions

Rally at the 555 Franklin - January 26 - 5:00 p.m.

Last night Superintendent Carlos Garcia stood before the UESF Assembly, detailing the need for upwards of $113 million in cuts over the next two years. The bad news was delivered as Governor Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers continue to offer a cuts-only approach to the state budget crisis.

Lawmakers in Sacramento have failed our schools. Instead of looking for additional revenues to patch the budget, they instead look to take it out on our state's most vulnerable people - our students. In San Francisco we are now forced to consider such substantial cuts that the quality of education will be severely compromised.

All district employees got an email outlining the special cuts that the Superintendent is asking for. His presentation last night followed similar lines. Those cuts include at least 400 teacher layoffs, four furlough days, freezing step and column increases and sabbaticals for two years, eliminating summer school for two years, and raising K-3 class size up to 30. UESF staff is currently preparing a fact sheet explaining this information, which should be available by the weekend.

As this awful process moves forward, UESF now calls on the Superintendent and district officials to do everything they can to make cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. We also call on the Superintendent to be forthcoming with documentation to verify the basis for his proposed cuts.

Last night the Superintendent promised to be open and fully forthcoming with specific budget information. Because of the collapsed timeline involved, he now needs to quickly make good on that promise.

Furthermore, in order for any sacrifice to be made by UESF members, we need to see not only that substantial cuts have been made on the administrative end, but that every possible cost-cutting approach has been thoroughly considered.

Moving Forward
Superintendent Garcia intends to present the proposed cuts he has outlined to the Board of Education at their meeting on January 26, 2010. He has also indicated that he wants the process to be completed by the end of February. The deadline for layoff notices to be sent to teachers is March 15, 2010. For paraprofessionals, it is April 27, 2010. In making his presentation, Garcia implied that without an agreement he would be forced to send out several hundred more layoff notices and to reopen full negotiations.

Because many of the proposed cuts would require a modification of the UESF contract, Superintendent Garcia is essentially proposing that limited negotiations between the district and UESF begin immediately. At a meeting this morning with UESF leadership, we told the Superintendent that we must see more details on his budget numbers and know his priorities before we can have a any further discussions.

Anticipating receiving the information we requested, we have scheduled an emergency meeting of the Executive Board and Bargaining Team for January 27th to discuss entering these negotiations. The results of such negotiations would be put to the UESF membership for an up or down vote.

The district has been put into an incredibly difficult situation because of the failure of the state to adequately fund our schools. Many difficult decisions lie ahead that are in no way the fault of the Superintendent or the district. But it is more important than ever that these tough decisions are made with complete transparency, and with the priority firmly placed on saving the jobs of teachers and paras.

We ask that all UESF members stay engaged in the process, and that you stand in unity with your brothers and sisters to defend our jobs and the classroom.

Rally January 26th Before the Board of Ed Meeting
On Tuesday UESF will hold a rally and picket line before the Board of Education meeting at 555 Franklin St. Our message at the rally is twofold - first, to take a stand against any further state budget cuts and to call for progressive taxation and budget reform; second, to demand that the SFUSD make cuts as far away from the classroom as possible and that their budget process is done with transparency. The rally will take place at 5:00 p.m. Please plan on attending.

Please print, copy, post and share with UESF colleagues who are not receiving UESF emails.

United Educators of San Francisco
2310 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94133


  1. I guess the SF rainy day fund has dried up? Just thought I'd ask . . . . To my mind, rather than getting the state to fund more, I'm thinking it is time that the city take up the lead. How's this for a proposition: let TICs convert to condos without restriction and use the attendant incresed fees to close the SFUSD budget gap. Seems like a pretty fair proposition to me. And, given the large number of low-income public school kids, it would certainly count as a "wealth-transfer" that our progressive Bd of Supervisors is always so interested in.

  2. I understand that Garcia's proposal already includes $6 million that the city has indicated SFUSD can have from the Rainy Day fund.

    The city is floating a couple of ideas for raising money. In the unlikely event that the condo conversion policy were overturned, there are many competing interests for that cash.

    I have to admit I am somewhat suspicious of the Superintendent's proposals. I would like to see the administrative cuts detailed, especially those for consultant contracts. I do hope that there will be a vote on additional furloughs vs. layoffs/gargantuan class sizes.

    I would also like to see the Superintendent, Associate and Assistant Superintendents, and Executive Directors take a pay cut of 5 - 10% in solidarity with their staff.

  3. I think that we need to start thinking long term on this issue. I taught in the community college system for many years, and I can assure everyone that this is only the latest in a long series of financial crunches brought on by inadequate state funding.

    I think it is time to start thinking about what long-term structural reforms need to be put in place in order to create adequate, stable funding streams for public education at all levels - from preschool through college. It's not just that there is constant attrition in funding - the problem is also that budgets are so unpredictable. One year you have money, the next you don't, etc. Makes it hard to plan.

    I don't know nearly as much about the budget process as I should, but here are a few thoughts:

    1. The supermajority for passing a budget in CA has got to go. It enables a small cadre of legislators to hold the entire state hostage to their whims. Every year.

    2. Prop. 13 needs to be reformed. It was created for a noble purpose, but it seems to have devastated funding for public services while creating gross inequities along the way (example: we pay over $11,000 / year in property taxes. We have friends, who bought their much larger house in the 70s, who pay much less. They bought the house for, I think about $20,000, and today it is worth $4 million. They are multimillionaires and could afford to pay the taxes on the $4m, but instead their basis is $20k + plus whatever the formula Prop. 13 set up is. How is that fair?).

    Any ideas? I think we need to think beyond bake sales and grants and force the state to get its fiscal act together, but I don't know what the next steps should be.

  4. Forget it, Prop 13 is the holy grail and isn't going anywhere. I have a similar situation. Tax bill is over 17 thousand and a very close friend of mine has a father who is paying $2,080. . . on a house at the top of the hill in Pac Heights, double lot. Probably worth oh $8 Mill or so. It's clearly broken but politicians refuse to touch it. Another issue is the state and the city for that matter is so incredibly hard to do business in. I deal with it because I am a small business owner that lives here but if I had a larger company, I would definately locate it elsewhere. On the TIC fix? Isn't that just a one time solution? What happens next year?

  5. Good comments all. I don't think any state fixes are ever going to happen. I thought the condo conversion idea could at least get us through this upcoming year and then we could all hope that the economy turns around. I agree that there are competing interests for the condo conversion monies, but I think we all need to have a conversation with progressives on the Bd of Supervisors about how improving schools directly improves the most vulnerable low-income and minority populations, perpetuating their position at the bottom rung of society. I think moving money from generalyl wealthier condo converters to the children of low-income parents is a wealth transfer that will have longterm positive consequences to them.

  6. Sorry. I published that last comment without proofing it. I meant in that line about low-income children that, if we let the public schools in the city go down the tubes, we will be perpetuating keeping low-income and minority populations on the bottom rung of society. You get what I mean.

  7. Prop 13 will not be overturned, but what can happen and should happen is a split tax roll. Corporations were never meant to be included in Prop 13, it was meant to protect pensioner homeowners who were actually being forced out of their homes. Yet the biggest loss is due to corporations not changing ownership on paper and locking in their property tax rates. There are groups working on this in CA and all interested parents, school supporters should join with them. It makes no sense to have several groups working on this seperately, we should all join together to get this reform through, in fact that is the only way it will happen is if there is a united front.

    The main group working on this is Repair California and they are working to get a constitutional convention convened which is the only way we can get budget reform and education finance reform in this state.

  8. I have to agree that at the least, a split 13 is no longer out of bounds.

    But if we decide that 13 is an impossible boundary, we're never getting anywhere.

    I propose that SFUSD significantly cut the number of out of classroom teachers ("teachers on special assignment"), especially those who are doing a lot of BTSA mentoring, etc. I also propose that all expense accounts associated with jobs earning in excess of $100000 annually be cut to zero. All consumable materials for adopted programs should be ordered at the site level, so that materials a site does not use are not ordered (workbooks are ridiculously expensive). No food should be served at any District meeting. The Board retreat should be held at a Board member's home.

    Many of these are cosmetic changes with small cash savings, but there needs to be real hardship across the board, not just in the classroom.

  9. I don't think that Prop. 13 is the Holy Grail -- and I also disagree that it was created for a noble purpose. Prop. 13 was publicly led by right-wing angry old men, fronting for wealthy corporations. (I was an aware California voter in 1978 and voted no.) It's true that longtime homeowners were seeing their tax bills rise as their home values skyrocketed, but there were various proposed solutions that would have allowed them to defer taxes or make other arrangements. They didn't actually have to decide to dismantle our public services and infrastructure to get relief from property tax bills.

    The press is constantly repeating that Prop. 13 is the third rail of politics, but I don't buy it. Prop. 13 WAS the third rail of politics back when it was fresh in the minds of the electorate -- but only a small percentage of the voters even know what it is these days. Obviously if most people don't even know what it is, they can hardly be outraged at the possibility of dismantling it. I think it creates a false belief that Prop. 13 is the third rail when the press keeps repeating it, though.

    I agree that Prop. 13 needs to be reformed. One key piece was already eliminated -- the former 2/3 requirement for passing any school bond in the state. That was eliminated in 2000 by Prop. 39. Working to eliminate the 2/3 supermajority for passing the state budget and creating a split roll seem to be the next clear steps.

  10. Dennis Kelly said-

    "Many difficult decisions lie ahead that are in no way the fault of the Superintendent or the district."

    What is this supposed to mean? We don't have the decisions yet, but we already know that they are not the district's fault. I understand that all the districts have been thrust into a terrible situation as a result of the budget. But SFUSD exascerbated the situation by spending freely the last two years, knowing that these cuts were coming. To this extent they harbor blame for lack of judicious budgeting. The fixed cost argument doesn't fly. Many discretionary budget items were adopted in last year's budget.