The funding is another effort from Mayor Breed to support students, families, and teachers as they navigate the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year and adapt to changes such as distance learning. SFUSD currently faces a budget shortfall of $22 million largely due to a decrease in revenues from the pandemic and would otherwise face potential cuts to staffing and critical training without this additional funding.
"One of the most frustrating aspects of the failure of national leadership to contain COVID-19 is that students are facing another year of education without the ability to be in the classroom, parents are facing another year without the childcare provided by schools, and teachers are facing another year of uncertainty due to the looming budget deficits," said Mayor Breed. "The City is stepping in to help the school district through this challenging time because we need to do everything we can to ensure that our students don't fall further behind during these uncertain times. Whether it's this additional funding, continuing to provide daily meals for students who no longer have access to school lunches, or creating learning hubs for up to 6,000 disadvantaged students, we're trying to provide as much assistance as possible."
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"We greatly appreciate this budgetary support from Mayor Breed, which will provide much needed fiscal relief as our school community ramps up for a challenging year," said Superintendent Vincent Matthews. "The pandemic has required significant additional costs and reduced local revenues, and this assistance will help us focus on supporting students and families instead of decimating our budgets further at the worst possible time."
The $15 million in funding will come from the City's General Fund in the Mayor's proposed budget. Following the announcement from SFUSD earlier this month that the school year will begin with distance learning, Mayor Breed and the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families (DCYF) announced that San Francisco will transform facilities around the city into supervised Community Learning Hubs to support distance learning for high students starting this fall. Additionally, the City will extend its emergency child and youth care program to support families during COVID-19, to serve the children of healthcare workers and City employees serving as Disaster Service Workers.
Even prior to the pandemic, SFUSD faced significant budget challenges due to expenses steadily increasing more quickly than revenues over multiple years. The District took steps this past spring to address a mid-year deficit as well as a $57 million budget shortfall projected for FY 2020-21, by significantly reducing expenses and reprioritizing use of restricted resources.
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COVID-19 has caused significant additional fiscal challenges for the new fiscal year, including losses of a $12 million cost of living adjustment on minimum baseline state funding (called the Local Control Funding Formula) and $18 million in local revenues, as well as significant deferrals of cash payments from the state. The state budget currently provides some one-time funding to help offset learning losses, but these will not be sufficient to cover all the unforeseen costs related to COVID-19 -- such as technology, personal protective equipment (PPE), enhanced cleaning, health screening, and reduced class sizes -- especially once in-person learning may safely resume.
In April, Mayor Breed announced a partnership between the City, School District, and nonprofit organizations to provide internet connectivity support students in San Francisco who lack home internet access, including the deployment of up to 25 WiFi "SuperSpots." Since March 2020, SFUSD has distributed more than 13,000 Chromebooks and 3,500 hotspots, with a focus on 3rd to 12th grade students for distance learning. The City's Department of Technology has connected more than 1,300 public housing units where students live to the internet through the Fiber to Housing program. The City plans to continue expanding Wifi access for low-income residents, with particular focus on students to support learning.
Additionally, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission, the San Francisco Housing Authority, and HOPE SF community anchors, HOPE SF has distributed close to 500 laptops across all four housing sites. HOPE SF continues to work with partners to ensure students have access to the resources they need for distance learning.
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