Initiative To Increase Funding For SF Public Schools Added To November Ballot

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee with the full support of the Board of Supervisors today sent a charter amendment to the November ballot that aims to increase funding for schools and other programs for children, teens and their families.

The “Children and Families First” initiative will ask voters in November to extend the city’s Children’s Fund and Public Education Enrichment Fund for the next 25 and 26 years, respectively. The ballot measure also creates a new council focused on children and families, and reforms Rainy Day Reserves and how that money goes to youth, family and education programming.

At a news conference at the City Hall steps this afternoon, Supervisor Norman Yee said that of the estimated 109,000 children in San Francisco only about 56,000 attend public schools in the city.

“The city must do better for our children and families,” Yee said.

Mayor Lee also shared his support for the measure, which he said, will help invest money into what he called one of the best school districts in the nation.

He called for more families to enroll their children in public schools instead of finding private school alternatives.

“We are making sure all families that deserve our support get it,” he said.

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said at today’s new conference that he was here to “restart the engine” on the public school system.

The measure will ask voters to renew a Children’s Fund established in 1991 that is set to expire June 30, 2016.

The fund receives a set portion of the city property tax each year, currently at a rate of 3 cents of every $100 of assessed property value.

Under the extension for 25 years until June 30, 2041, the property tax would increase to four cents starting in fiscal year 2018.

The proposal would allow the fund to increase services for children under 18 years old and includes childcare, health services, job training, social services, out-of-school programs, recreational and cultural program and delinquency prevention services.

The fund would also provide services to “transitional aged” youth who are between 18 and 24 and fall under these categories or others, including homeless, high-school drop-out, disabled, or leaving the foster care or juvenile justice system.

Under the proposal, an 11-member oversight and advisory committee would be created to oversee administration of the fund.

Also part of the measure is the renewal of a Public Education Enrichment Fund, or PEEF, which was created in 2004.

The city makes annual contributions to the fund, with the latest at $77.1 million for fiscal year 2013.

Money from the PEEF is split with one-third to the San Francisco Unified School District’s art, music, sports and library programs, another one-third to the First Five Commission for universal pre-school programs for 5-year-olds, and a final one-third to the school district for general education.

The latest PEEF requirements are set to expire on June 30, 2015.

With the proposed 26-year renewal, funding would go to pre-school students between 3 and 5 years old to support more early education and eliminates the city’s authority to defer up to 25 percent of its contributions to the PEEF in years where there is a revenue shortfall of $100
million or more.

“This money truly makes a difference,” Kim said at this afternoon’s Board of Supervisors meeting where the measure was discussed. “Those dollars work to extend the support of our children.”

Rainy Day Reserve formulas would be changed under the proposal. As it is, in any year when the city collects more than 5 percent more money than it collected in a the previous year, the city puts half into the Rainy Day Reserve fund.

Money can only be taken out when it collects less many than it did the previous year. The city can give up to one quarter of the money in the Rainy Day Reserve to the SFUSD when the district collects less money per student than in previous years.

With the proposal, it would divide the Rainy Day Reserve into a City Rainy Day Reserve and a School Rainy Day Reserve, with one half of collected reserve funding going to the two funds and split three-quarters to the City Reserve and one-quarter to the School Reserve.

The proposal also creates a new Children and Families Council which will create a “Children and Families Plan” and assess city policies and programs and make recommendations every five years.

Supervisor John Avalos said the measure’s long-term extensions are an improvement to the previous 10-year expiration dates.

“We have done a really great effort to pull together an initiative that will work for generations to come,” he said.

Kim noted that since 2009 there have been $77 million in state funding cuts to the school district.

“If the state and federal government will not take responsibility for our children and families, the city and county of San Francisco will,” she said.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Eric Mar said that combining the funds under one measure “makes for stronger unity.”

The board will officially vote at next week’s board meeting whether to submit the charter amendment to the ballot.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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