Do not give up direct student services to balance the budget of the SF school

By Cassondra Curiel

Special to Examiner

At a time when our children have never needed their schools and public services so much, the leadership of the San Francisco United School District is proposing a stupidly anti-student austerity plan that proposes cutting direct student services and d ” negatively impact schools and classrooms. And the real headache is that these proposed cuts come at a time when the state, in its wisdom, is proposing a giant injection of tens of millions of dollars into school funding.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Education will pass a budget plan that would cut $ 50 million from our children’s school budgets and an additional $ 10 million from direct student services. This would jeopardize the funding of social workers, family liaison officers, literacy coaches and special education staff and increase class sizes in some schools. The plan also aims to lay off 360 full-time employees, at a time when the school staff crisis continues to swell locally as well as across the state and country.

The prospect of layoffs also has a huge impact on the ability to hire teachers and para-educators to replace the hundreds of current vacancies, despite the 360 ​​pink slips on offer.

A terrible and specific example of what is at stake: On the chopping block is district funding for our only two community school coordinators. In the broad outline of the budget, those two items would be just a drop in the bucket – roughly $ 300,000 per year – which makes it so maddening, given the continued investment and commitment. state in funding community schools. Community schools provide the kind of services and programs so many of our students desperately need: on-site housing, coordination of community partners, alignment of programs and resources and technology and guidance, to name a few. -a.

The two certified community school coordinators connect with community groups, businesses, agencies and elsewhere to get resources for their schools. Without a dedicated and accredited resource person, these secure resources would disappear. There is near universal agreement that community schools are very successful models of education that can and should be replicated throughout the city and state, but this cannot be accomplished without certified school site coordinators. in charge of the effort.

Governor Newsom understands. He proposed an extraordinary investment in community schools – up to $ 500,000 for each community school each year statewide for the next five years. So why cut these two coordinator positions? It makes absolutely no sense.

We are a cash strapped school district that creates miracles every day on a shredded budget. The prospect of 10% cuts to school budgets – along with the proposed layoffs of hundreds of teachers, para-educators and other staff – would deal a debilitating blow to the expectations of students and parents for good public education. balanced and well invested.

The district faces two major problems: Due to years of fiscal mismanagement, there is now a deficit of $ 125 million. In addition, our schools have been historically underfunded, in part because of the consequences of Proposition 13, which resulted in a shift in support for schools from local property taxes to general state funds. California ranks only 39th in the country for school funding. And the state does not contribute at all near the 40% share of special education funding that it is obligated to send to our district.

There is a way around this. Board member Matt Alexander has come up with a smart alternative budget to avoid many devastating cuts to school sites. This would drastically reduce the negative impacts on students, reduce the fat from the district’s heaviest central office costs, and make reasonable and necessary cuts to balance the budget. It focuses on ensuring investments for students, rather than further underfunding school communities. As Alexander said, this “resizing” would bring the neighborhood into line with other neighborhoods and could improve the efficiency of central services. It makes perfect sense.

I urge the Board of Education to do the right thing for every student and family in San Francisco. Our children have lost so much in the pandemic. So many people are struggling and now is the time to invest, not give up, in great public schools with a variety of resources and supports to help our children recover and thrive.

A cruel austerity program is the antithesis of what our students and schools need. We need a fair budget that will help our students thrive and ensure that their schools can provide all the resources they need to feel safe, supported, and successful.

Cassondra Curiel is president of United Educators of San Francisco.