I’m afraid Tuesday evening’s post on our looming $113 million deficit for 2010-11 and 2011-12 (combined) left a lot of people feeling depressed and worried. It is depressing, no question, and none of the options in front of the school district for closing the gap are at all palatable. Still, there are a few bright spots in the generally gloomy skies:
- Our funding for sports, libraries, arts and music (SLAM) is generally protected, because it is a set aside under the city budget. Next year’s SLAM funding is estimated to be $15 million even after the City pulls its 25 percent “trigger” (allowed because the City is facing its own budget crisis), and it funds music, art and P.E. teachers, programs and supplies at each school level, and librarians for district schools.
- Discussions with the Mayor’s office and the Board of Supervisors continue over going to the voters to secure additional revenues to protect our local schools from the crisis in Sacramento. If these discussions are productive, and we can convince voters to pass a revenue measure, our budget shortfall would be reduced significantly.
- The district administration and United Educators of San Francisco are working together to see if we can find funds to offer a one-time retirement bonus to staff at the upper end of the pay scale. We saw a lower-than-normal number of teachers and paraprofessionals retire last year, so there’s a possibility that there are staff out there who are already considering retirement — this one-time bonus might sweeten the deal for those staff members. It would also lower our overall payroll and save some jobs of less-senior teachers and paraprofessionals.
- Discussions about the budget are happening earlier and more comprehensively than usual, in an effort to involve the community as broadly as possible in the decision-making. On Jan. 26 (this coming Tuesday), the Superintendent will offer a list of budget options under consideration, and has pledged that at least some of the worst decisions will be made before we have to send out our “March 15” letters informing staff that their jobs may be eliminated next year — hopefully decreasing the overall number of these awful letters.
- Finally, don’t forget that we could get a Race to the Top grant! For all my grousing about the questionable policy requirements RtTT contains, at the end of the day it would still be nice to have the money.
All of this isn’t much in the way of cheer, I know, but at least it’s something. And I have faith that we will come through this, somehow. Three years from now the schools will be standing, there will be learning going on, and hopefully, brighter skies ahead.