Reduced school year poised to return to normal 

The four days erased from the school year in San Francisco classrooms could be penciled back in after the U.S. Senate passed an extension of a piece of the federal stimulus package.

The legislation, passed Thursday in a 61-39 vote, will be rushed to the House for a vote next week, in time for what Democrats hope will save hundreds of thousands of jobs for teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees across the country.

San Francisco Unified School District shortened its school year for the next two years in an effort to shrink a $113 million budget hole. The shortened year means a pay cut for teachers. Also, some 180 teachers were laid off, along with about 100 aides, in an attempt to balance the budget.

The federal legislation would provide $10 billion to school districts across the country to prevent layoffs, along with $16 billion to state governments to fund Medicaid budgets.

SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia said it’s not entirely clear what the district would spend the money on, though lengthening the school year is a very likely target. But he said even if Congress passes the legislation, it could be quite a while before individual school districts know exactly how their budgets would be affected.

“As you know, the state hasn’t adopted a budget yet, so until the state adopts a budget, it’s still hard to predict where we are,” Garcia said.

He said he would be hesitant to rescind the 300 or so layoff notices that have been sent to teachers and other school employees because, without knowing how the state budget will affect the district’s budget, he’d worry that they may have to send those pink slips out again.

“But having said all that, we’ll take the money,” Garcia said, laughing. “Obviously it will help us.”

Teachers union President Dennis Kelly said rehiring teachers should be a high priority because it helps stabilize school communities.

“The idea is to try to stabilize the schools so they can function better for the students,” Kelly said.

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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