It seems like life on the school board is one tough vote after another. Tonight’s agenda featured a resolution authorizing the district to lay off 20 paraprofessionals and reduce the hours of 14 more. Reader, I voted for it, even though I truly value the contributions that paraprofessionals make in our classrooms every day.
Ultimately, the resolution was defeated 5-2, saving the jobs that were threatened. Still, I know there are many UESF members who aren’t happy with me because I supported this resolution. Let me explain why:
- First and foremost, this vote was about preserving a measure of financial flexibility for the school district. We are required under state law to give paraprofessionals a minimum of 45 days notice of layoffs, so tonight’s resolution allowed us to lock in a “worst-case” employment scenario for this class of employees. However —
- Second, and equally important, I fully expected that once our stimulus funds show up (annnny dayyyyy nowwww) we would be able to use our additional Title I funds to rescind all or most of the layoffs I voted for.
- Third, tonight’s resolution only had to do with general education paraprofessionals, and protected special education paraprofessionals from layoffs. I was definitely comforted by assurances from district staff that any general education paraprofessional who wanted to move into special education would be given a job.
- Fourth, the decision to eliminate these positions originated at the school sites, through site-based budgeting. Once School Site Councils got their budgets last month, they had to prioritize and identify at least some cuts. These are excruciating decisions that no one wants to have to make, but they go with the territory in giving schools greater budget flexibility. I support the Weighted Student Formula and I support site-based budgeting, so I need to support school communities when they have gone through and identified their budget priorities. To be sure, there are legitimate concerns around whose priorities get identified, so we as a district need to do much more in identifying the key elements of a core program that EVERY school must support. We also need to back that work up with centrally-distributed resources that go to every school.
Anyway, all of these reasons are moot because a majority of the Board voted to reject the paraprofessional layoffs. What will happen now is that the school sites that voted to eliminate these positions will be told that they have to find cuts somewhere else. Those schools include: Bryant, Charles Drew, Garfield, Glen Park, Hillcrest, John Muir, Junipero Serra, Malcolm X, Sutro, Ulloa, Willie Brown, Everett, Balboa, Burton, SOTA and Woodside.
The Board also voted 6-1 to oppose A.B. 223, the bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma that would order SFUSD to reinstate JROTC. This vote was not about JROTC — it was about local control. Ultimately, six Commissioners (including me) felt that micromanagement by the state was not a good precedent for school districts. I understand the Assemblywoman’s frustration with the school board’s failure to reinstate the popular JROTC program, and I appreciate her support for the students who have worked tirelessly to save a program they feel makes their school experience worthwhile. But I still believe that this is not the best approach for the state to take, and I vastly prefer A.B. 351 (co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Ma) as a bill that paves the way for us to reinstate JROTC.
Update: SFGov TV has posted video from the April 14 meeting.