SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco's Board of Education passed a balanced budget plan late Tuesday night, just hours ahead of a deadline that could have forced the state to take over the district's finances.
The vote was 6-1 in favor of the staff's recommended plan to address a projected $125 million budget shortfall in the 2022-23 fiscal year, caused in part by a precipitous drop in enrollment.
"You went from 57,000 to 50,000 students That's a 14% loss of students," said Elliott Duchon, the state-appointed financial expert who was asked to evaluate the balanced budget proposals, "It will be a long-term process so long as you get through the short-term hemorrhaging."
Hundreds of San Francisco teachers, parents, and students rallied across the street from the district's main offices during the board meeting and then marched down the street, picketing in front of the district building.
They opposed the district staff's proposal to cut 10% from all school sites in order to balance the district's budget.
"Some PTAs in very lucky schools can make up the difference, but for the majority of San Francisco families and San Francisco schools, fundraising that amount of money or at all is not an option," said Cassondra Curiel, the UESF President representing members of the teachers' union.
The Board had a passionate debate. Some advocated to adopt the staff's plan, saying there was no other option to avoid a state takeover.
"We cannot have the district go bankrupt. That is what a state takeover is. It means the district is bankrupt and cannot make payroll or financial obligations," said Jenny Lam, a Board of Education Commissioner.
The staff and superintendent's plan included $90 million in cuts, with $50 million eliminated from school sites and $40 million cut from central services such as ROTC, a college prep program for youth, tutoring, nurses, and other student programs.
"I'm going to be going into my senior year very soon, so these budget cuts are going to be affecting me later on. I don't want to go ahead and have my arts gone," said Arianna Luther, a Galileo High School 11th-grader.
"If this budget passes goes through July and passed as is what will happen at sites is a disaster," said Mark Sanchez, a Board of Education Commissioner.
"We're reducing funding to sites, so they will be less likely to carry some programs we are off-loading on to them. So, I want to make sure the public knows that and that's what's heartbreaking about this budget," said Board of Education Commissioner Alison Collins.
Some people spoke in support of an alternate proposal by Board member Matt Alexander, which would make the majority of cuts in administrative and managerial staff.
"We can cut $50 million from schools no problem and 350 educators no problem and we can't cut a single chief? That's a disturbing message," said Commissioner Alexander.
In the end, Commissioner Alexander withdrew his alternate proposal which teachers and students at the rally hoped would pass.
In a compromise with the superintendent, the board and staff will work together to see if more staff cuts can be made at the top instead of at the classroom level before the final budget is implemented in July.
Also, the staff and board plan to advocate for more state funding to help avoid cuts to student services.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.