San Francisco school board forced to cut $125 million from budget to avoid state takeover

About a month ago we learned that the worst school board in the country (in a crowded field, mind you) was in danger of having their pay suspended and their authority removed by the state of California because of their irresponsible spending. This wasn’t an idle threat. The state had been demanding the SF school board propose a balanced budget for a year and the board had failed to do so.

“If you fail to act accordingly, then CDE’s intervention will increase to the point where your governing authority is set aside,” said Michael Fine, chief executive officer of the state’s Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team, at a special school board meeting on Tuesday. “There is nothing good about that process…now is the time to act.”…

“There was a time a year ago to start this process but it hasn’t really gotten off the ground in a way that we consider to be a thoughtful manner,” he said. “So now we’re crunched. I understand where your schools are coming from. I don’t mean to be critical of it. At the same time, time is of the essence here.”

This week the board finally put forward a plan to cut $125 million from its budget to avoid losing its authority, but obviously cuts of that magnitude are going to hit hard.

Faced with the choice of cutting $125 million or a state takeover, San Francisco school district officials have come up with a plan to balance the budget, one that would hit classrooms hard and eliminate funding for long-standing student programs…

Superintendent Vincent Matthews and his staff are expected to present a basic plan to the board Tuesday, one that would reduce school site budgets next year by $50 million, a 13% decline from this year, and a loss of an estimated 360 positions out of 3,431 at school sites. Board members will likely have their own ideas about how to make cuts…

Officials said the $50 million cut to school sites would in part reflect an enrollment decline of nearly 5,000 students over the past five years.

The district has about 49,000 students, so if they’ve lost 5,000 students over five years that’s in the neighborhood of 10 percent of the total. Cutting 360 school positions out of 3,400 is also in the neighborhood of 10%. All of that to say, these cuts shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. When you have fewer students it makes sense your staffing levels should drop by a similar amount. That’s all that is happening here. The problem is it’s happening all at once now because the school board hasn’t been adjusting staffing and funding downward during the decline. They let this get to a crisis point where the state had to step in before acting.

Even if the new budget proposal manages to get to $125 million in cuts and new revenue, that won’t be the end of it. The deficit is expected to grow by another $20 million or so next year. So the needed cuts now are only the first in a series. There will be another round next year.

Fortunately for three of the school board members, they probably won’t be around next year. The recall election is set for February 15 and given what we saw happen this week in Virginia, Seattle, New Jersey and elsewhere, there’s every reason to think these three woke members of the school board are going to be ousted.