Oct 27: Board meeting recap

Another meeting that seemed like it would be short but then wasn’t. Probably the most noteworthy topic at the meeting was a presentation from Budget Director Reeta Madhaven on budget development for 2010-11 and beyond. This presentation is an attempt to demystify the budget, but I think it still needs more detail in what the numbers really mean for schools. It also lacks a clear statement that every dollar we cut NOW will save us from cutting even more later.

The key take-away points:

  • We end this year with $16 million on hand after setting aside our required 2 percent reserve (more about that reserve later);
  • At today’s level of spending, we endĀ  2010-11 with a deficit of $17.8 million — that deficit grows to $33.6 million once we set aside the required reserve ($15.8 million);
  • It gets worse from there — with no cuts to today’s level of spending, by 2011-12 our deficit is $67.6 million ($83.4 million after we set aside the required $15.8 million in reserve);
  • Failing to set aside the required reserve triggers serious consequences: for one thing, an almost immediate downgrade in our bond rating (which hurts us when we sell facilities bonds and other short-term instruments that help us maintain cash flow between payments from the state). It also makes it more likely that the district would lose local control and be taken over by the state. In short, even though the reserve is in theory supposed to get us through the bad times, actually using it could make matters even worse. Crazy, right?

The Superintendent said that schools are being urged to save whatever they can in this year’s budgets and promising that whatever is saved can be rolled over to cushion next year’s budget. But Commissioners urged that the numbers above be presented in more concrete terms: what does a $33.6 million deficit mean to the classroom?

Stakeholders and the public also need specific information about what options are on the table. The sooner we all know what is being contemplated, the better input we’ll be able to give. But it should be noted that in these dire times, “don’t cut my program” isn’t what I would call constructive input. Something — probably many things — must be cut, and I think its a safe bet that any option will be painful.

Other highlights from tonight’s meeting:

  • Parents for Public Schools – San Francisco was honored — the organization is celebrating its 10th birthday and its great legacy of helping parents be involved in our public schools;
  • Facilities Director David Goldin presented the annual update of the district’s 10-year Capital Plan – the Board decided to wait to approve the plan until after a more in-depth discussion of facilities planning at a Committee of the Whole on Nov. 18;
  • A group of parents with a plan for implementing a French immersion program in the district addressed the Board during public comment and asked for support in getting a program started;
  • First reading of a petition asking the Board to approve a charter boarding school;
  • First reading of two resolutions: In Support of Sustainability in SFUSD (Mendoza. Kim); Supporting a New Day For Learning in SFUSD (Norton);
  • The Board appointed Derek Turner to the Elections Commission.

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