S.F. schools get more funds, but costs not covered

 By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle 

After five years of budget cuts, San Francisco schools will get more money than they got last year, but it still won't be enough to cover expenses, district officials said.

The superintendent's proposed budget of $593 million requires the district to dip $18 million into its savings account to cover cost increases in pensions, health care, teacher pay and other expenses, said Myong Leigh, deputy superintendent.

The school board is expected to approve a 2013-14 budget plan Tuesday night.

A state surplus combined with Proposition 30's tax revenue will mean about $19 million or $380 more per student in San Francisco.

That per-student amount will vary by district because of a new state funding formula based on the number of low-income students and English learners.

While the increase in funding will be a welcome relief, it's not a windfall, said Gentle Blythe, district spokeswoman.

"With this new budget, our schools still are receiving less revenue than they did 5 years ago," she said. "So, we're still paying 2013 expenses with 2007 dollars. So, yes, we're moving in the right direction but we still won't see an immediate impact for students because the cuts have been so deep in recent years. We're just beginning to stabilize."

Still, the increased funding and a healthy reserve fund allows the district to ensure struggling schools have extra staff, which had in some schools been previously funded by a now expired federal School Improvement Grant.

If the board approves the proposed budget, about half the district's schools would get extra positions funded, including social workers, counselors, literacy coaches, assistant principals and nurses, among others.

The other half would also get extra support, but from shared central office staff rather than people assigned specifically to their sites.

The district's budget will also be bolstered by nearly $6 million from the city's rainy-day fund, money the city set aside to help cover budget shortfalls and save jobs.

Yet while most of the pink slips the district sent to teachers and teachers' aides have been recalled, there are still 60 people who don't have jobs for the fall, said Dennis Kelly, president of the teachers union.

The rainy-day fund should be saving those jobs, he said.

"That is a major concern," he said.

District officials said Monday that they expect to recall all but about two dozen pink slips by July 1.

Those teachers and aides that do lose their jobs were largely in positions that have been eliminated, Blythe said.

"We've been counting on rainy-day reserve funds to help us reduce the number of layoffs," she said. "Many of the layoffs that remain are the result of funding lost for specific services and positions due to lower enrollment, for example, a high school elective class that no students are enrolling in or the end of certain grants that funded those positions."

S.F. schools

To see the full budget proposal, go to sfusd.edu.