Parents to City: Give Prop H cash to schools 

Several dozen parents filled a public hearing on Thursday in fear that millions in taxpayer dollars they say voters approved to enhance public education would instead be used to pay for existing services The City provides to school-age children.

The joint committee meeting of The City’s Board of Supervisors and Board of Education was in response to grumblings from some city officials in recent months about how much money San Francisco’s public schools will receive from The City’s General Fund — the budget that pays for such services as public safety, street cleaning and parks. Most public-school funding comes from state sources.

The financial support is required by Proposition H, which was sold to voters in 2004 as a way to improve public education by allocating an increasing amount of city funds each year to schools. Proposition H requires that one-third of The City’s annual allocation be earmarked for free preschool programs, one-third for sports, arts, libraries and music in the district schools and one-third for general uses. This year the district was allocated $13.3 million in Proposition H funding, with funding rising to $20 million next year.

In January, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd introduced a resolution asking the district to take a second look at its 2007-08 Proposition H spending plan to find ways that city services could be offered instead of cash, something permitted for one-third of the funding.

According to a City Controller’s report, The City is providing approximately $13.7 million in in-kind services to the school district, including for after-school programs, utility subsidies, health services and school use of city parks and facilities.

On Thursday, the committee voted to write a letter recommending that any in-kind services provided by The City under Proposition H be for new services and not for those already provided. The letter will be sent to their respective board colleagues and other city officials.

Currently,there is also a resolution before the Board of Education — drafted by school board President Mark Sanchez — supporting an increase of in-kind support to the amount of $2.5 million in 2008-09, out of the overall $20 million goiing to the district as part of Prop. H. Next year’s plan — which budgets $250,000 for in-kind services — has already been approved by the school board, but not the Board of Supervisors.

Sanchez said before the meeting that he supported the idea of documenting what services The City provides to the school district in order to create a baseline that would not qualify as the Prop. H allocation.

Catherine Muller, from the City Controller’s Office, told the committee that there’s "nothing in [Prop. H] that specifies that in-kind services have to be new."

Clarendon Elementary School parent Michelle Jones-Siegel expressed concern that a new learning aide paid for with Prop. H funds would be taken away if less cash were given to the district. Jones-Siegel also noted that more parents would have come to protest if the public meeting had not been scheduled at 3:30 p.m. — when kids have to be picked up from school.

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