The notices are being sent out now to meet a March 15 deadline required by state law. District officials hope to rescind most of those notices before school starts in the fall. That would happen only if state voters pass proposed tax extensions and increases in June as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal. The governor's proposal to place the measures on the ballot is before the Legislature.
In the meantime, board members said they had no choice but send the notices.
Washington High School counselor Jay Kozak urged the board to look elsewhere for cuts.
"What would a day look like without those people around," Kozak said. "I think it would be terrible at those schools where there are fewer teachers, larger classes and few aides."
Tens of thousands of public school teachers in California are expected to get pink slips by the deadline. Final notices must go out by May 15.
The layoff notices are expected to hit struggling schools the hardest because of a disproportionate number of new teachers at those sites. Under seniority rules, it's typically last in, first out in layoffs.
At El Dorado Elementary in Visitacion Valley, for example, half the school's 15 teachers are expecting to get a layoff notice.
Last year, civil rights groups sued Los Angeles Unified School District over the number of pink slips issued to struggling schools, claiming the teacher turnover unfairly disadvantaged those students. Following a settlement, Los Angeles is expected to protect more than 40 schools from pink slips.
State law requires districts to apply seniority in layoffs, but allows for two exceptions - to keep teachers in hard-to-staff positions like special education and to protect a student's constitutional right to equal opportunity.
Districts can prevent disproportionate layoffs, but have refused to do so, said Public Counsel Law Center attorney Catherine Lhamon, who was co-counsel for plaintiffs in the Los Angeles case.
"It's clearly an option and it's clearly a necessity," she said. "To walk away from doing that is to walk away from those kids."
The San Francisco school board declined to address the issue Tuesday. The district will exempt in-demand special education, math, science and bilingual teachers from layoffs.
But that means those getting pink slips will include teachers at nine district schools that receive about $5 million in federal funding each to boost student performance. The money currently is used to train those newer teachers to succeed in their classrooms.
"It's based on seniority," said Roger Buschmann, district head of human resources. "And there's not a lot we can do to avoid that."