The financially troubled San Francisco Unified School District will come asking voters for a bond measure that’s in the neighborhood of nearly a billion dollars in November, the most expensive bond measure ever in SF.  

If you’ve been paying any attention to the San Francisco Unified School District lately, you’re aware the district is in terrible shape financially. State monitors just stepped in and took partial control of the district’s spending, amidst a gigantic deficit and concerns that the district could literally go broke within the next few years. Enrollment is declining significantly, and there will almost certainly be school closures announced later this year. Also, the district’s notorious payroll fiasco had teachers going months without getting paid, while the district was throwing millions of dollars toward consultants and software vendors.  

So there are obviously some fiscal management issues here. Yet despite the awful optics, the Chronicle reports that the SF Board of Education is expected to ask voters to approve a $790 million bond measure in the November 5 election. And as KGO points out, “it is the costliest bond ever to be voted on in the city.”  

The Chronicle got a look at the measure that the board is expected to approve at their Tuesday night meeting. It would provide funds to modernize a still-undetermined large SF high school, as well as seven other yet-to-be-determined schools. KPIX notes the tab on those construction projects would be $410 million, and schools district-wide would be in line for roofing and window upgrades, and heating and ventilation improvements. The Chronicle adds the bond would also finance “​​a $225 million central food hub, where fresh meals would be assembled.”

Wait, a $225 million central food hub? Yes, as the district explained earlier this month, “As SFUSD is the largest provider of food security for children in San Francisco, the 2024 bond will also construct a Food Hub for Student Nutrition Services to improve access, source fresher products locally, and offer a wider range of healthy meals for all students.”

The bond measure would need 55% to pass, but it is not expected to raise anyone’s taxes.

Still, while the district has successfully passed four bond measures in roughly the last 20 years, they haven’t been so successful at spending the money on what it was originally intended for. KGO reminds us that in the 1990s under former superintendent Bill Rojas, there was a “history of improper spending practices.” And funds from the latest bond measure passed in 2016 were used to pay attorneys and legal fees over that Washington High School mural lawsuit and controversy, which is absolutely outside the scope of what school bond money should be used for.

So this may be an uphill slog for the SF Unified School District, which has not been acquitting itself particularly well over the last year. And on top of all that red ink and questionable management, KGO adds that the district “has already announced that another bond measure will be placed on the ballot in 2028.”

Related: State Monitors Take Partial Oversight of SFUSD Finances, as District Runs Risk of Going Broke [SFist]

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