The good news is that SFUSD is scrapping its wildly ineffective EmPower payroll system. The bad news is that they're also likely to scrap 900 job positions too, but at least it means they probably won’t shut down any schools.
About two years ago this time, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) was looking at an apparent $125 million deficit, and things sure appeared bleak. But the district has since added a new superintendent, and in October, gave teachers a substantial pay raise in order to avert a strike. So where do things stand now?
Erm, the Chronicle reports that SFUSD is now running a deficit of more than $400 million. And at tonight’s school board meeting, the Chronicle also notes that Superintendent Matt Wayne will propose cutting 900 jobs from the district’s upcoming budget, which still will not close the entire deficit gap.
Wayne is expected to present this 900-layoff plan at Tuesday night’s school board meeting in a slide show presentation which the Chronicle has obtained, and in which Wayne says the district spent its state and federal pandemic aid too profligately amidst the district’s declining student enrollment.
“Our previous (relative) abundance of resources have masked our budget issues,” Wayne’s presentation will say, according to the Chronicle. “We cannot expect the City or anyone else to come in and ‘save us.’ ”
And it may be somewhat more painless that Wayne is avoiding layoffs, and instead just declining to fill hundreds of open positions. So potentially no pink slips, but that’s not a guarantee. The Chron describes the planned cuts as being to “900 already vacant positions,” and adds “It’s unclear whether layoffs will become part of the plan.”
The true size of the projected deficit is currently $421 million by the 2025-2026 school year, out of an overall $1.2 billion budget.
But you can’t just blame this all on teacher pay raises. Mission Local reported Monday that the district is finally getting rid of its disastrous EmPower payroll system, which has caused missed paychecks galore throughout the district. Attempts to fix that floundering system have resulted in the district blowing an estimated $40 million in consultant fixes, per Mission Local, and has led to headlines like “SF Unified Is Spending $2.8 Million on a Consultant to Fix Another Consultant's Error.” You also have oddball administrative calls like the still-open school that has only 11 students, which is why teachers blame the district’s executive bloat for the soaring deficits.
Wayne’s Tuesday night presentation doesn’t mark the end of this saga, but rather the beginning. The district needs to decide by March whether it will be laying off any teachers, as that’s when pink slips have to go out for the following academic school year. And Wayne’s plan does avoid any school closures, a move that tends to bring lawsuits, state probes, and significant community backlash.
Tuesday night’s SFUSD school board meeting is at 6:30 p.m., and will be broadcast live on SFGovTV2.
Image: Steven Bracco, Hoodline