School Board fireworks


Look for some interesting heat and maybe some light at the school board meeting tonight (April 27). The teachers union is holding a march and members will be speaking out against the layoffs (PDF), since this is the last board meeting before pink slips to more than 800 teachers and 300 para-professionals. The district, of course, is broke, since most of the money comes from the state, and the state is broke for all the reasons we all know, and I don't envy the job of the school board and the superintendent, who have to somehow balance the books. The teachers think there should be more cost-cutting at the central office and that the district should dip into reserve fund, which will be about $8 million to the good at the end of this year.

It's complicated, but the state requires the district to keep 2 percent of its budget total in reserve; that's a sound policy. Right now, according to information that SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe sent me, the reserve is at $33.6 million, much more than is needed, but some of that is temporary federal stimulus money.

Here's how the distict outlines the situation:

Our baseline projections (i.e., the fund balance that would result if no steps were taken to address the budget shortfalls) are that our Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) balance would be $24.2 million, negative $37.9 million, and negative $97.6 million at the end of the three respective years. At the end of FY 2009-10, we would have $8.4 million more in fund balance than the $15.8 million required. However, we would fall short of our required fund balance in the following two years by $53.7 million and $113.4 million, respectively. If the Superintendent’s Budget Deficit Action Plan were implemented, our UGF fund balance would be $33.6 million, $23.6 million, and $15.8 million at the end of the three respective years.  

That, of course, assumes that the economy will still be awful in the next two years, that the state won't have or allocate any additional money to education and that this same horrible fiscal situation will continue. Which may be true -- but it may also be true that things will get better with a Democrat in the Governor's Office, and the projections might not be so dire.

Meanwhile, the board will also be taking up a truly awful bill called SB 955, which attacks teacher seniority. It's an informational item only, but should generate some discussion, since board member Rachel Norton has already weighed in on it in her sfgate blog post:

Still, it's clear that there is political traction for California to weigh in on the national conversation happening on teacher seniority and evaluation, and I'm told that an alternative bill is likely to be introduced by a Democratic sponsor. If that happens, it will be important for the Board to have a position on what provisions should be included or dropped.

At this point, there's no Democratic alternative bill in Sacramento, but there are plenty of moderate Democrats who could come up with one. And it raises the whole touchy issue of how to handle staff reductions in a district where many of the senior teachers have managed to get themselves assigned to top-performing schools. "We just sent layoff notices to 60 percent of the staff at Alvarado," Board President Jane Kim told me. "And some schools on the west side will have only 10 percent layoffs."

I cna't imagine a majority of this school board coming down on the side of reducing seniority for teachers. But the fact that Norton is talking about the board looking at other alternatives, and how a counter to SB 955 might be structured, suggests that this issue isn't going away. 

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