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Teachers accuse San Francisco public school leaders of fiscal mismanagement

The teachers' union says the district’s behavior has led to teacher shortages, a payroll disaster and talk of merging and closing campuses.  | Source: Camille Cohen/The Standard

The San Francisco teachers’ union has released a report accusing public school administrators of fiscal mismanagement amid ongoing contract negotiations in the 50,000-student K-12 district.

The United Educators of San Francisco report claims the district has borrowed irresponsibly, failed to capitalize on vacant properties, hired expensive consultants and overspent on top administrative salaries.

The union says the district’s behavior has led to teacher shortages, a payroll disaster and talk of merging and closing campuses.

READ MORE: San Francisco Parents Are Increasingly Anxious About the Possibility of School Closures

“By ceasing to engage in irresponsible borrowing practices, the district could save an average of $1.3 million in fees and interest per borrowing,” according to the report.

“By returning to 2009-10 upper management spending levels, the district could save $26.4 million annually,” it goes on to claim. “By leasing its underutilized properties, SFUSD could generate between $11.4 to $19.2 million annually.”

Also, the report says the district has spent more than $30 million on the faulty rollout of a new payroll system.

That buggy system resulted in inaccurate payment amounts sent to teachers, some of whom went unpaid for months, and may be hampering the district’s recruitment and retention efforts, along with low starting salaries, according to a civil grand jury report released in June.

Union officials hope its new report will help clear the way for a new contract agreement.

“Our contract expired June 30 this year,” union President Cassondra Curiel said. “We attempted to get an agreement with the district last (school) year, so they could attract and retain teachers and we could know what to expect over the next two years.”

Instead, Curiel said the district has yet to present a contract offer union officials find acceptable.

The union is asking for a two-year, across-the-board raise for all credentialed teachers and a minimum salary of $30 an hour for teacher's aides, which would cost the district roughly $90 million over the course of the contract, Curiel said. 

The district responded by pitching a $5,500 across-the-board raise for a one-year contract, she said.

Currently, the average SFUSD credentialed teacher has been at the district for about 10 years and makes between $70,000 and $80,000 a year, while aides take home between $24,000 and $34,000, according to Curiel.

She also said the district received $80 million from the state last year and has millions of dollars in savings. 

“They’re talking about overspending on their current budget, but how can you overspend and have $300 million in savings?” Curiel said. “The math isn’t mathing for us.”

A district spokesperson said administrators are reviewing the union’s report.

“SFUSD remains focused on the critical work of responsibly managing district resources,” SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email. “We appreciate our labor partners shedding light on these important concerns.”

Contract negotiations are scheduled for Monday night, and the San Francisco Board of Education is meeting Tuesday to discuss plans for addressing declining enrollment, staffing shortages and aging school buildings.

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