Schools Parcel Tax
Living Wage for Educators Act
Levies an annual $298 parcel tax to raise salaries for San Francisco Unified School District educators.
What the Measure Would Do
This measure would authorize the City and County of San Francisco to collect an annual parcel tax of $298 beginning July 1, 2018, and continuing for 20 years. All parcel tax revenue would be transferred to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), which would use the funds only to:
- Increase the salaries of teachers and paraeducators (aides), and increase the compensation or benefits of other school district employees
- Increase staffing and funding at high-needs schools
- Increase staffing and funding at community schools
- Provide additional professional development to teachers and paraeducators
- Invest in technology to support educators, students and families
- Fund charter schools
The amount of the tax would be adjusted annually for inflation and would raise an estimated $50 million a year, amounting to a $5,500 annual increase in pay for average educators in the district.
The measure would exempt senior citizens who are 65 years of age or older before July 1 of the tax year if they own an interest in the property being taxed and use the property as their principal residence. The measure would also exempt property designated as a parking space.
Finally, the measure would require an independent oversight committee to ensure that the tax revenue is used for the purposes outlined in the measure and would require the city controller to prepare an annual public report on the uses of the funds.
SFUSD employs 10,000 educators and administrators to serve 57,000 children. The district is majority non-white, and over half of students come from low-income families. Teachers have been hard hit by the affordability crisis in San Francisco. The average teacher pay for 2015–16 was $67,540, putting San Francisco on par with far less expensive cities like Chico and Vacaville and placing the city No. 478 out of 775 school districts in the state that reported salary data for that year.1 Within the Bay Area, San Francisco educators make far less than teachers in neighboring cities. (The average teacher salary in Palo Alto for example, is $34,000 more a year.) In a broad survey, 64 percent of San Francisco teachers report spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and nearly 15 percent report spending more than half of their income on housing. The district estimates that more than 1,100 teachers live outside San Francisco and commute in to their jobs. As a result, SFUSD has struggled to fill vacancies and stem turnover in the classroom. About 20 percent of teachers in the district are in their first or second year; that number is even higher in schools serving the highest need students.
In 2017, SFUSD and United Educators of San Francisco — the union that represents more than 6,000 district educators — held a series of contract negotiations to increase teacher salaries, resulting in an 11 percent pay increase over three years and a one-time bonus. An agreement to place this parcel tax on the June ballot was part of those negotiations.
The union collected signatures to place this measure on the ballot. As a tax measure submitted by voter initiative petition, it must be on the ballot and requires approval by a simple majority of voters (50 percent plus one) to pass.
- Paying educators more could help SFUSD address its teacher shortage and attract high-quality teachers.
- Higher salaries would keep teachers in the classroom and reduce the crippling effects that turnover has on student performance.
- Increasing pay would create incentives for higher performance and could increase educators’ quality of life.
- The tax would not be high enough to actually solve the problem of low pay for San Francisco educators.
- It is problematic to tie a program with ongoing needs to a funding source that will expire at a set date.
- As a flat tax, this parcel tax would punish single-occupancy property owners while forfeiting an opportunity to collect more revenue on multiple-occupancy parcels.
The cost of living in San Francisco is a significant burden on the teachers and staff whom we entrust with a critical mandate: educating our children and youth. While SFUSD can rightly be proud of the investments it has made into innovative programs and services that support students, teacher salaries are far below those of other cities in the region and untenable for a growing number of educators.
Competitive pay would help SFUSD attract top talent in the midst of a historic state-wide teacher shortage. It would also keep teachers in the classroom and cultivate an experienced staff cohort. This measure is an opportunity for San Francisco to reaffirm its support for educators and their value to the city. We should no longer ignore teachers’ degrading quality of life, nor accept that they make just over half of the median income in San Francisco.
San Franciscans have made investments in students and in capital improvements for public schools; now they face an opportunity to make needed investments in teachers. On its own, this parcel tax will not solve the problem of low salaries for SFUSD educators, nor will it solve the affordability crisis they face. However, in combination with the negotiated agreement between the district and the union to raise salaries, this measure is a necessary — and long overdue — next step in the right direction.
1 “Expected SF teacher raises aren’t enough to stem exodus from costly city,” San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 7, 2017, http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Expected-SF-teacher-raises-aren-t-enough-to-12336403.php