THE SAN FRANCISCO teachers’ union released a report Monday accusing school administrators of fiscal mismanagement amid ongoing contract negotiations in the 50,000-student 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.

“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. By leasing its underutilized properties, SFUSD could generate between $11.4 to $19.2 million annually,” it claims. 

Also, the report says the district has spent more than $30 million on the faulty roll-out 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.

Roadmap to financial recovery

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

“Our contract expired June 30 this year,” said UESF President Cassondra Curiel. “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 with a $5,500 across-the-board raise proposal for a one-year contract, she said. 

“They’re talking about overspending on their current budget but how can you overspend and have $300 million in savings.”

Cassondra Curiel, UESF president

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 to $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,” 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.

More information about the district’s “Resource Alignment Plan” is available here.

Kiley Russell writes primarily for Local News Matters on issues related to equity and the environment. A Bay Area native, he has lived most of his life in Oakland. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, worked for the Associated Press and the former Contra Costa Times, among other outlets. He has covered everything from state legislatures, local governments, federal and state courts, crime, growth and development, political campaigns of various stripes, wildfires and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.