The ‘Recall the School Board’ crowd points to the school district’s $116 million deficit, but a little perspective comes from realizing that pretty much every other district in the state also has a huge deficit.

One of the many pet peeves of advocates trying to recall three SF school board members can rightfully point to the fact that the district is drowning in a $116 million deficit, and now requiring state intervention because of it. “In SFUSD we are seeing a decline in enrollment, which results in a decrease in revenue,” superintendent Vince Matthews wrote in an email to staff last month that was obtained by the Chronicle.

But what if we told you. School districts all over the state are having the exact same issues. Cal Matters reports that lots of California school districts are running out of money because of declining enrollment during COVID-19.

Cal Matters points out a few examples. “Hayward Unified is considering closing an elementary school — one that primarily serves immigrant families — to plug budget gaps,” the site says. “West Contra Costa Unified, confronting a possible $30 million deficit, says it may have to lay off teachers.”  

The culprit in each case is declining enrollment — with state funding based on the number of students in a district — but that is not just a San Francisco thing. Indeed, San Francisco schools have lost 3,500 students in the last two years. But look at Los Angeles, whose district lost 27,000 students in just the last year. Yes, L.A. has about triple the population of San Francisco, but their percentage of enrollment loss is substantially higher than ours.

The education news site Edsource points out that many other California districts are seeing plummeting enrollment. “Districts such as Stockton and Oakland are reporting that a third or more of their students have been chronically absent in the first two months of school,” Edsource notes. “Districts that have built daily attendance to 95% are now seeing a drop in attendance — to 91% in Long Beach and 93% in Gilroy, representing potential losses, if they continue, of millions of dollars in revenue next year.”

The SF school board certainly embarrassed itself with Allison Collins’ bizarro $87 million lawsuit  and a botched school renaming process. And yes, SFUSD now needs state help to meddle in and try to fix their finances. But districts all over California are also begging for state assistance, and there are plenty of textbook examples of this across the state.

Related: School Board Recall Election Confirmed for February [SFist]

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