San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia proposed several ideas for budget cuts at the district’s Board of Education meeting Wednesday night to address a $113 million shortfall over the next two years.

Garcia presented the board with ideas for reductions to services such as supplemental counseling, staff development, physical education and violence prevention programs, along with the possibility of suspending teacher sabbaticals, freezing salary increases, and increasing class sizes.

Garcia said in a statement that the state’s lack of funding for the schools is “an unprecedented assault on public education.”

The board was asked by Garcia to consider the options and make a decision soon. The district has until March 15 to notify families about offers for school placement and to send preliminary layoff notices to teachers.

Matthew Hardy, spokesman for United Educators of San Francisco, said today he agrees that the state is to blame for the budget crisis, but that the union will need to have further discussions with district officials before agreeing to cuts.

“Before we’re willing to sit down and entertain the possibility of cuts, we need to know cuts are being made as far away from classrooms as possible, and that the district is being totally transparent with the budget,” Hardy said.

He said the union has put in many requests for information on the district’s finances, but has not heard back.

“We need to know what we’re looking at to assess what cuts should happen,” Hardy said.
District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said today that those requests are “in process at this time, and negotiations are ongoing.”

The district is required to negotiate with the union on proposals to suspend the teacher sabbaticals, freeze salary increases, or increase class sizes. The district can lay off teachers and make cuts to other school services without negotiation.

Blythe said no matter what cuts are made, “it’s just not possible for the cuts to not affect everybody that works at the district and everyone who attends school in our district.”

Hardy said the school and students “deserve a full and open discussion about what the priorities are, and we believe they lie firmly in the classroom.”

He said “we don’t envy the superintendent or school board for the position they’re in. The state has failed the schools, but we need to make sure this process is done right.”

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