SFUSD reconsiders parcel tax 

San Francisco public school officials are reviving discussions about a possible parcel tax to provide wage increases for teachers and aides — and perhaps principals.

Two years ago, former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman began promoting the idea of a parcel tax, but her proposal fell flat with San Francisco’s teachers union since it included a provision that offered teachers differential pay — also called merit pay — for teaching in classrooms or schools that have particular challenges, such as low-income schools or classrooms with special education students.

The idea resurfaced last year during teacher contract negotiations; and as part of that settlement the district agreed to work with union representatives to explore a possible parcel tax to pay for future raises, according to Dennis Kelly, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. Since 2004, teachers have received a total 8.5 percent salary increase. The contract ends in July 2007.

Thoughts of the parcel tax were pushed aside in 2006, however, in order for the school district to focus its efforts on passing a $450 facilities bond — which voters approved in November — in order to pay for court-ordered disability access improvements.

San Francisco’s school board president, Mark Sanchez, newly elected by his colleagues last week, put the parcel tax proposal on the agenda for the board’s committee of the whole meeting last night because "the talk is we want to have a November parcel tax," he said before the meeting.

The ballot measure would support raises for teachers, as well as classroom aides and possibly principals, Sanchez said.

In addition to the recently passed facilities bond, San Francisco voters also approved $295 million for schoolfacility improvements in 2003 and $300 million for extracurricular needs in 2004.

Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan acknowledged before Tuesday’s meeting that passing another funding measure would be a challenge. "Right now we’re just at the exploratory phase, there is no plan," Chan said. "We’d have to have a lot of partners involved to pass this."

A parcel tax is typically a per-parcel tax on property. According to 2000 Census Bureau data, only 19 percent of San Francisco households have children, fewer than other Bay Area cities. Of the households with children, 48 percent are homeowners, according to a 2005 study done by San Francisco State’s Public Research Institute.

Many school districts in California are putting parcel tax measures on the ballot for school improvements, although few attempt to do so for raises, said Paul Goldfinger, vice president of California School Services Inc., a Sacramento-based consulting firm. More often, a parcel tax is for added improvements, such as reducing class size, or increasing art or music, he said.

E-mail Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@examiner.com.

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