San Francisco Unified agrees to make $125M in cuts to close deficit

Families in San Francisco are bracing for big cuts coming to that city's schools. The district is saying the cuts represent a new reality that they and families will have to live with.

The district says the cuts that the board of education voted to approve were a hard but necessary reality check.

San Francisco's School Board voted to approve cuts aimed at closing a $125 million budget gap for next year.

Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said the district has been losing students and losing money.

"It's incumbent on a district to set a budget where the expenditures do not exceed the revenue," said Matthews. "Right now our budget was out of line. We were spending more than we were taking in."

The district has seen a steep decline in students in the last five years, about 9,000 students, with the biggest drop coming just last year amidst the COVID pandemic with many families opting to leave the city or leave the district.

Now the district will be making $90 million in cuts. About $40 million from central services including junior ROTC, and college prep for underserved youth, and $50 million from school sites.

The district is also dipping even deeper into its reserves and hoping that additional funding from the state will make up an additional $35 million.

How those cuts will impact students and families has yet to be determined.

"The answer to that question is we're still working out those details, whether there will be some impact," said Matthews. "Most likely there will be some because we clearly right now are spending more, our expenditures exceed our revenue."

Parents and educators expressed their frustration at the budget cuts, made under the threat of a state takeover of schools if the district didn't balance the books.

Budget hawks like San Francisco mom Beth Kelly said the cuts were a difficult but necessary step to keep the district afloat. She said previous school boards started digging this financial hole, and while this board did continue to dig for a while, their vote to cut the budget was step in the right direction.

"Now the district is out of reserves and so, it's this board that had to make the really hard decisions and last night showed that they were able to do that," said Kelly.

She hopes that as the district continues to contract leaders will improve efficiency and find a way of making the best of a challenging economic future.

"Now that we have this initial plan in place let's work with it," said Kelly. "Let's adjust it, let’s modify it, let's make sure that all of these cuts work for SFUSD as a whole, and make it the best school district it can be with the limited funds that it has."

The superintendent hopes that the state budget will provide some additional funding, and says that this plan is just a starting point. He says the district and board will continue working to refine the plan, including looking at more administrative cuts, to minimize the impact on students.