Letter on Budget Questions and Concerns to School Board Commissioners and Superintendent Matthews

Good morning, Commissioners and Superintendent Matthews,

I’m writing on behalf of the SF Parent Coalition. We have appreciated the steady release of information over the past several board meetings, the clear process that seems to be unfolding as the district prepares its budget balancing plan, and your hard work, the efforts of SFUSD staff, and the collaboration among community partners and families and the district of our schoolchildren. We know that a town hall about this topic occurred last evening, and are grateful for the opportunity for families to engage, learn, and provide input. And we are hopeful, while realistic, about what’s needed over the coming weeks to get the district to the place where you can adopt a thoughtful and effective budget balancing plan. 

To that end, and in the spirit of collaboration and inquiry, we are wanting to lift up some questions that our community of parents has raised as it relates to the current budget balancing process. 

  • We appreciate the effort to benchmark against other relevant school districts, such as Long Beach. We’d like to better understand what services LA County Office of Ed (LACOE) is supplying to Long Beach. Specifically we understand that some of the SFUSD budget funds County Office of Education activities and priorities, and we want to understand the ways in which a comparison to Long Beach are comparing apples to apples or not. 
  • We’d like to better understand the structural nature of the budget reductions that are needed vs. one-time / short-term fixes? In particular, how do the Prop G funds, now thankfully released, factor in as one time- and on-going funding? Is all of the released Prop G funding one-time, or is some of it on-going and budget relieving for future years?
  • We’re hearing from FCMAT and Mr. Duchon that we should avoid a focus on the indirect vs. direct and central vs. site dichotomies, but rather, the focus should be on student impacts and outcomes. How do currently proposed budget reductions consider the impacts to students, both focal student populations as well as the general student population in SFUSD? While specifics about reductions in departments, programs, and sites are helpful, it would be most useful if the orientation of the explanations were from the student’s perspective. For example, 2nd graders will have X more students in their class, y% less PE instruction, and only access to 1/4 time nursing at school. Descriptions of cuts to sites, programs, and departments are very adult-focused, and we urge you to provide information that helps families understand how the impacts will be experienced by district schoolchildren. 
  • How do recent and projected enrollment declines and current staffing shortages factor into the ongoing forecast? How does that factor into equity of resource and staff allocations? Specifically is balancing from under enrolled classrooms/sites to schools experiencing staffing shortages part of the current planning?
  • What is the per pupil spending at each site currently, given current staffing and enrollment?
  • Is site consolidation being considered- it’s unclear whether and how that’s being thought about?

We certainly don’t expect detailed responses to this email or even short answers to us. Rather, we hope that these questions will inform your questions and be thought of as opportunities for even more transparent communication with SFUSD families and collaborators. Thank you for your time and consideration, and of course, please us know if you have any questions or thoughts. 

Best wishes,

on behalf of San Francisco Parent Coalition