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San Francisco Unified pushing for nearly $800M bond measure to improve schools

San Francisco school officials push for voters to approve nearly $800M bond
San Francisco school officials push for voters to approve nearly $800M bond 03:24

San Francisco Unified school officials are pushing for voters to approve a nearly $800 million bond for major improvements. Some parents are fully supportive, but there is skepticism about whether the funds will be used wisely.

Supriyia Ray has been a SFUSD parent for a decade with one of her children in high school and the other about to head to middle school next year.  

The district's push for a nearly $800 million bond for improvements including renovating aging facilities has been top of mind. 

"The question isn't whether we need the money.  We clearly need the money," said Ray.  

According to the district's plan, $410 million would be for a large construction project to modernize school sites and classrooms.

Ray supports SFUSD's push to put the bond measure on the November ballot, when voters will decide.   

"I really hope the district will come out and show it can handle funds responsibly," said Ray. 

Another $225 million is earmarked to build a new central food hub the district said would ensure healthy meals for all students.

Some $150 million is allocated for fixing facilities like restrooms, technology upgrades, schoolyard outdoor learning, and security.   

"There are more families and kids out there who could come to SFUSD and opt for SFUSD if they had more confidence in our school system," said Ray. 

Decreasing enrollment, contributing to major budget shortfalls with less funding coming from the state, has been problematic.

The SFUSD board is also working to rebuild trust with parents wary of how the district has spent approved bond funds in the past. 

"We absolutely are continuing to build trust with the public, understanding our current financial position," said SFUSD Board Commissioner Jenny Lam. 

"There is a lot that needs to happen I think through this process to kind of correct the historical wrongs that have happened through bond projects for communities, feeling neglected, and forgotten sites not being fully upgraded," said SFUSD Board Commissioner Kevine Boggess. 

Highlighting the fiscal crisis, state officials this month, downgraded SFUSD's latest budget report to "negative" meaning they're concerned the district will not be able to pay its bills over the next couple years. 

"If we can show that we can spend money well, and we can do it in a way that actually improves the school environment and improves student outcomes, that will go a huge way to helping to regain the trust of parents and families," said Ray. 

That includes the teachers union which said the state's intervention will pressure the district to close underperforming schools and lead to staff layoffs. 

Either way, Supryia Ray believes approving a milestone bond measure could ensure a quality education for public school students in San Francisco for years to come. 

The bond measure would require 55% of voter support in November to pass and is not expected to raise current tax rates, given the expiration of previous school bonds.

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