Pension and Other Retirement Costs Are Crowding Out SF School Teachers

100+% growth in retirement spending over five years.

School starts today in San Francisco but according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle not all classrooms may have teachers because of “a rash of departures over the summer.” Perhaps the departed teachers observed this depressing mismatch in spending priorities over the past five years:

Sources: First Interim Reports, San Francisco Unified School District, FY2012 and FY 2017

According to reports* filed with the state Department of Education, SFUSD spent 106 percent more on retirement costs in 2017 than in 2012. In stark contrast, district spending on teacher salaries increased just 23 percent.

Revenues weren’t the problem. District revenues rose a very healthy 36 percent. The problem was — and remains — unfunded retirement debts, the service of which drains ever-larger amounts of money from SFUSD’s budgets. In 2012 retirement costs equaled 26 percent of the amount spent on teacher salaries. But just five years later that figure had jumped to 44 percent. It will jump higher, for reasons explained here.

SFUSD already devotes too little of its budget to teachers. In FY2017 only 29 percent of its expenditures went to certificated teachers’ salaries, down from an already-anemic 31 percent in 2012. If the growth in retirement costs had been limited to the growth rate of total expenditures (32 percent), an extra $35 million would have been available this year for SF teacher salaries.

Needless to say, SFUSD needs to field a sufficient number of teachers and pay them appropriately for the Bay Area’s cost of living. It cannot do that while continuing to shift an increasing share of its revenues to retirement debts. Elected officials need to act, as explained here.

*See http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/about-SFUSD/files/budget/FY11-12-sfusd-first-interim.pdf and http://www.sfusd.edu/en/assets/sfusd-staff/FY%2016-17%20-%20SFUSD%20-%20First%20Interim%20Report.pdf.