On Tuesday, Board of Education commissioners approved the 2014-15 expenditure plan for the Public Education Enrichment Fund, supplying $50 million to the district from The City’s coffers.
The fund was approved when San Francisco voters passed Proposition H in 2004. At that time, it totaled about $10 million, including funding for preschool programs, according to Chris Armentrout, director of policy and planning for the SFUSD. That amount grew steadily until budget year 2009-10 through 2012-13, when the recession caused the mayor to pull the trigger on full funding by 25 percent.
“We were grateful this year that that wasn’t the case,” school board Commissioner Rachel Norton said.
In the four years of reduced funding, money was in many cases used to avoid layoffs of teachers in the programs instead of enriching the services, as the funds were designed for, Norton said. But the situation was much worse for many other schools in California.
“We are the envy of a lot of other school districts because of the fund,” Norton said. “Because we have this walled off, we’ve continued to fund these programs, so we’ve been in better shape and will have to do less rebuilding than other districts that are going to have to rebuild from a much deeper hole.”
An example of the fund’s benefits can be found in the libraries section. When the fund first became available, 52 percent of students attended a school with a library staffed by a credentialed librarian. That grew to 81 percent the following year, 92 percent in 2007-08 and 100 percent since 2011-12.
“It’s made a world of a difference to our students,” Armentrout said.
For the Visual and Performing Arts Department, the fund has meant much more staffing, said supervisor Robert Daniels. Kindergarten through fifth grades saw 15 additional teaching positions in 2008-09 and will see another 15 this year. Sixth through 12th grades saw 20 more instructors in 2005-06 and 20 more as the fund grew.
“The arts were looked at often for cuts in other schools, but thanks to the money, we were able to sustain departmental growth and now we’re looking forward to continuing,” Daniels said.
The fund’s 10-year life ends in fiscal year 2014-15, and its continuation is dependent on voter approval.
“This November, we will ask San Francisco voters to renew the Children’s Fund and the Public Education Enrichment Fund,” Mayor Ed Lee said in his State of the City address two weeks ago.