Family Engagement

Let’s talk about budget transparency… Let’s talk about PEEF! (a Tweet thread)

Meeting notes from the SFUSD Committee of the Whole, June 15, 2021

Last night, the SF Unified School Board heard a staff report on the Public Education Enrichment Fund, otherwise known as PEEF. Before I joined the Board, I regularly blogged posts sharing district information in an effort to provide context and help more families get involved. This summer, I decided to make an effort to get back to blogging. (Wish me luck!)

In an effort to increase transparency around the budgeting process, I wanted to reblog a tweet thread I shared on Twitter related to PEEF, an important, yet often misunderstood school funding source. Folks often say that budgets are the ways we operationalize our values and priorities. If this is so, it’s important to learn about how our school district allocates funds. So, with that in mind…

Let’s talk about PEEF!

Because PEEF Funds are ADDITIONAL funds, raised via an SF 2004 ballot initiative (Prop H), it is important that SFSD is accountable and transparent to the public. The PEEF Community Advisory Committee, or PEEF CAC, was established for this very purpose.I am deeply grateful to district staff and especially PEEF CAC members who spend tireless hrs. pouring over district reports. The PEEF CAC is composed of parents, community advocates & educators who work without compensation. Our district is better for it.

The purpose of PEEF has been to fill funding gaps to provide direct services to students and families in the form of 1) enrichment (e.g.  art, music, athletics, libraries; and 2) support services: (e.g. social workers, literacy coaches, and family engagement activities.) (This is a slide from the District presentation. To see the full presentation and view the video from the meeting, go to the district website and see the links for the June 15, 2021 meeting.)

PEEF allows SFUSD to fund programs that most CA districts serving low-income kids don’t have the ability to fund. These funds are meant to specifically target funding gaps with an eye on equity. For this reason, you could say PEEF funds serve as “opportunity gap” funding. For example, because of PEEF funds, SFUSD is able to provide art and music teachers at every elementary school, despite a school’s ability to supplement site-based budgets with money raised via parent fundraising.

Most folks would agree, a student’s ability to access arts instruction should not be predicated on being lucky enough to be enrolled in a school with affluent families who have the time and network to raise up to $300K per year (as some schools do.) ALL children deserve arts programming. And even families with means, should not have to perform additional labor or contribute financially to ensure their children can participate in school art programs. (Commissioner Lopez and wrote a resolution to ensure art and music access for all PK-12 students.)

2021-22 PEEF CAC Recommendations

That said, I wanted to make the public aware of some specific directives that the Board made several years ago in relation to how the PEEF should operate to make SFUSD’s budget allocation process transparent and accountable. This issue of transparency was at the top of the list of PEEF CAC recommendations.

In 2019, Commissioners Sanchez and Cook wrote a resolution to make the PEEF budgeting process more transparent. I worked with PEEF CAC members to add requirements to measure impact and report on investments. (See the 2nd link on the PEEF CAC webpage below.) 

Listening to last night’s presentation, we learned that while staff has improvement plans in place, they won’t be sharing program evaluations until September 2021. That is a major concern as it is well beyond the timeline needed to incorporate “lessons learned” this fall.

With a program with a budget of just over $84 MIL, the fact that staff is waiting until well into the fall semester is simply unacceptable.

I worked in the district data office and know that at a very minimum, staff should easily be able to produce reports on student enrollment in various programs we fund. Staff confirmed this when questioned. For this reason, I requested staff share reporting on PEEF programs earlier to incorporate some results into fall planning. My concerns were reiterated by Commissioner Alexander. Stay tuned…

In response to my questions, Lainie Motamedi, a veteran PEEF CAC member highlighted another key directive from the PEEF Resolution relating to unused/unexpected PEEF funding. Transparency is necessary in how these funds are reallocated as well.

The PEEF CAC also raised this concern in their recommendations. Unspent funds can add up when the District is unable to fill positions or expenses are lower than expected. It is imperative that staff report on unspent funds for full transparency to the public.

Commissioners who state they are concerned about “fiscal responsibility” should be making issues like these a top priority. I look forward to hearing my colleagues make this expectation clear with staff in future Board meetings.

Finally, I’d like to lift up the other recommendations, and especially the request for school-to-school comparisons of programming PEEF funds. I think at the very least, this is one way to see the opportunity gap on a more human scale.

Again, I want to share my deep admiration and gratitude to PEEF CAC members and also district staff who work hard on making this process accessible and transparent. I encourage you to read their recommendations in full (PEEF CAC members worked tirelessly this year to draft them!) and make your voice heard!

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