SFUSD deficit grows by $30 million 

The budget deficit for San Francisco public schools grew by $30 million in recent weeks and district officials are blaming the governor.

Initially, San Francisco Unified School District officials thought the budget shortfall stopped at $83 million over the next two years. But after analyzing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget proposal, district officials now say the SFUSD is $113 million in the hole — a figure that is 25 percent of the district’s operating budget.

“This is one of the most devastating years for education,” SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. “This is worse than the Great Depression and worse than Prop. 13 [which curbed revenue for education, among other things].”

School officials were already planning to send out preliminary pink slips March 15 as well as possibly cut back on summer-school classes, as first reported by The Examiner, and consider capping salary increases.

Now, it appears as if the cuts will go deeper.

Some other money-saving options to consider: closing schools on certain days, Blythe said. The district will hold meetings throughout the spring before making any final decisions about budget cuts.

Education leaders blame the governor, saying he did a “bait and switch” when he claimed during his State of the State address that he would preserve education funding. But last week, San Francisco school officials traveled to Sacramento only to learn that the governor’s budget proposal included a permanent cut to basic funding that they had thought was only a one-time reduction for this school year.

“We are all pretty much in shock,” school Trustee Rachel Norton said.

Superintendent Carlos Garcia attended a teachers union meeting Wednesday night to explain the imminent cuts. Garcia said he intends to share his thoughts on what should be cut from the budget at a school board meeting Tuesday. Union leaders called on Garcia to be open and transparent about the basis of his proposed cuts.

Until now, San Francisco has been able to dodge serious reductions and layoffs as it dipped into voter-approved rainy-day funds over the last two years.

“That is our concern — where the cuts will come down,” said Matthew Hardy, spokesman for the United Educators of San Francisco. “It’s our hope that he would look outside the classroom to make cuts first. Laying off teachers and increasing class sizes is the worse possible outcome for students.”

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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