San Francisco schools to unveil budget plan in hopes of avoiding state takeover

San Francisco's schools are facing a major budget deficit and some difficult decisions on how to proceed. The district is facing the prospect of a state takeover. The school board is set to consider a plan on how to balance the budget, that plan has to be approved and submitted to the state by the middle of next month or the district faces the prospect of a state takeover.

San Francisco's schools are facing declining enrollment and fewer students means less state funding. 

Now the district must cut roughly $125 million out of the approximately $1.1 billion budget and the superintendent is pitching a plan to make drastic but necessary cuts to prevent the state from stepping in. 

"I'll just say that plan will be unveiled this evening and it's really more a discussion that we're having with the board to get to a place where we have a stabilized budget," said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews.

San Francisco mom and budget hawk Beth Kelly says the plan removes $50 million dollars from the budget which students will see directly, possibly with bigger class sizes, the elimination of some teaching positions or combined schools. And the district is looking at an additional $40 million in cuts to central services, like office jobs. 

Still, Kelly says that won't be enough to cover what the district needs to do to prepare for the long term. "We don't want any of those things to happen, but they're going to happen, and so, how do we think about the future and really plan for sustained declining enrollment?" said Kelly.

School Board President Gabriela López says she understands that difficult decisions will have to be made, but that it's the duty of the district to ensure that the city's children receive a top-notch education. "It's a discussion that we want to make open and clear for everybody," said López. "A lot of my work is connecting with the community, letting people share what it is we want to prioritize in our budgeting, because we're in this space where we have the opportunity to clear up a lot of years work of what brought us here."

Lopez is among three board members who face being recalled in a special election next year. 

Budget experts say soaring costs and projected declines in student enrollment mean the district needs to be prepared to face some long-term austerity measures to stay in the black. 

"I don't want people to lose hope over it, right," said Kelly. "This is a moment of crisis which also makes it a moment of opportunity."

The district does have a $35 million one-time boost in state funding this year, but that won't solve the systemic financial problems the district is facing. The district is planning on finalizing the current financial plan by December 14 in hopes of avoiding a state takeover.