SFUSD may receive more funds for low-income students

In a city where more than 12 percent of its residents live under the poverty level, the San Francisco Unified School District stands to receive close to $4,000 more per pupil, according to a funding plan proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

California’s Department of Finance released Gov. Brown’s plan for school funding last week, which would give more money to school districts throughout the state, giving priority to districts with higher volumes of English language learners, foster youth and students who qualify for free or reduced priced lunch.

If approved by the legislature, SFUSD, which has 27 percent of students who identify as English language learners and 61 percent who qualify for free and reduced lunch due to low income, will see an increase from $7,250 to $11,171 per student.

But because of past budget cuts, schools might not see a difference for a few years.

“After decades of budget cuts, SFUSD has a structural deficit meaning we have areas where costs keep rising, yet the funding to meet these rising costs isn’t there,” Gentle Blythe, SFUSD spokeswoman, said.  “For example, the district spends more on services for students with disabilities, early education and student nutrition than the resources provided for these services and the costs of providing quality services in these areas, and others keep rising along with the costs of operations such as employee benefits and utilities.”

There are other efforts to improve California school districts, however. Prop 39, which passed with a 60 percent vote last November, would cut energy bills in public buildings, such as schools.

The initiative would allocate $1 billion in revenue annually from a closed corporate tax loophole for energy efficiency projects. There aren’t enough funds from the bill to cover all of California’s schools, but schools that serve lower-income families would reap the benefits, according to a report by the Daily Democrat.

San Francisco has already been a model of the governor’s plan for over a decade, according to Blythe. It utilizes school site councils made up of principals, teacher, parents and sometimes students at the secondary level to determine how school funds are allocated. Still, school advocates appreciate the governor’s plan.

Masharika Maddison, executive director of Parents for Public Schools, a nonprofit advocacy group for San Francisco parents, believes that the plan will lead to better education in San Francisco.

“We are hopeful the signals we receive from Sacramento will lead to positive imprint in San Francisco,” Maddison said. “It was really encouraging to hear the governor take a stance.”

Parents in San Francisco had a similar response: it makes sense.

Rebecca Biega, a 32-year-old mother, expressed concern that with the rising cost of living in San Francisco, Brown’s proposal could help those most in need.

“If it eventually pays off, then sure,” Biega said. “It is better to make the offer in the first place than to not plan anything at all.”

Others believe that the plan will lead to a better future for students that are either English language learners, foster youth, or live under the poverty level in San Francisco.

“I think it is a pretty good idea — I feel that the income inequality in San Francisco is high,” Gaby Herrera, a senior international relations major, said. “It’s important to help children when they are younger, so they can break the cycle and get the education they need so that they can no longer remain poor.”

The proposal went through its first legislative public hearing last Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. No decisions were made regarding the plan, and lawmakers have until July 1, when the final state budget is picked up for the fiscal year, to deliberate.