San Francisco school district faces possible takeover due to budget problems

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Facing a $116-million budget shortfall, San Francisco Unified schools are looking to avoid being taken over by the state.  

The California Department of Education is stepping in to help the district get its financial house in order, over concerns it may not be able to pay its bills for the current fiscal year, and for years to come. 

Right now, the San Francisco Unified School District is operating on a nearly $1.2-billion budget for the current school year. 

This year, the district received $140-million in federal funding to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But in the current year, and years to come, district leaders say they may not be able to pay their bills. Now, they only have a few weeks to come up with a financial blueprint. 

The school district is about to receive a tough lesson in finance, courtesy of the California Department of Education. The state is sending in an expert to help the district with a money makeover.

“The state is asking itself. Wait at a state level we’re making priorities, at a federal level we’re making priorities. Why aren’t we seeing results in the City of San Francisco?” Frank Lara, with the United Educators of San Francisco, said. “You can not blame workers and then blame bus drivers, blame educators, blame the people servicing our students, and then still claim that it’s a budget problem due to workers.” 

In a September 15th letter from the state education department to San Francisco Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, the school board will have to cut 13% from its budget in 2022-23.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond would also have to review any labor agreements.

Until a plan for a balanced budget is in place, the district would implement hiring freezes and stop discretionary spending. 

During a special meeting Tuesday night, leaders said the state could take over if the district doesn’t do enough to fix the mess. 

“We know that there is an internal problem. They have to answer for themselves,” Lara said.

The district has faced declining enrollment for years.

Lara questions why the district isn’t doing more to go after billions of dollars in aid available right now.

The district will now have until December 15 to submit a plan to the California Department of Education on how to fix the shortfall. 

For more information, visit the school board website.

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