Saving our schools in SF: call for solution ideas

Tonight, I attended a community meeting focused on finding solutions to the school financing crisis in San Francisco.  There is a $133 million shortfall this year in the SF education budget, which is about 22% of the total budget for San Francisco. This gap will require inevitable cuts: 25/30 students per class instead of 22, 10% pay cut for teachers, no summer school, no field trips, 1 hour less of education per day (7 instead of 8), furlough days (no work/no pay) for teachers.

During the meeting, “money” came back many times. “How much money we spend on education” “The city does not have any money” “Find the money” “not enough money” “we need more money”, etc.

The designated culprits: corporations should not benefit from prop 13, which freezes property taxes based on the original purchase price. Also, the 2/3 majority requirement in Sacremento makes decisions about tax reform difficult.

As I explained during the meeting, money supply has been contracting and is scarcer than ever across the board. Individuals, small businesses, non-profits, cities, etc. everyone is hurting as a result. Given that states are not allowed to print their own money, without any help from the federal government, the only solution are either for special interest groups to show their political muscles in behind-the-doors discussions, or to learn to do more with less federal reserve money. I also don’t think raising taxes is going to be welcomed by the taxpayer, given that the problem is not that the taxpayer is not paying enough taxes, but that the taxes are basically massively misallocated to warmongering instead of education.

Unless the federal government steps in (by increasing interest-bearing federal debt to private banks, or reducing warmongering budgets), the only solution I see is for the community to work together to do more with less federal reserve money, while ensuring the right level of reciprocity.

I have some ideas about how a community currency could help address part of this challenge in our specific neighborhood, but I’m interested to hear ideas from the currency community.

On March 11th at 6pm, at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, we will host the Bernal Economic Forum to discuss practical solutions to these budget problems based on cooperation between local businesses, residents and local non-profits.

If we cannot find a creative solution here in Bernal Heights to such a problem, I don’t know where we can.

6 thoughts on “Saving our schools in SF: call for solution ideas”

  1. Local school bonds are a natural backing to a local community currency. rather than kids selling candy bars for $2/each to raise money, they should be selling school community currency. I believe a well organized drive could raise $10k/student. bonds could be retired within 5 years, though many might choose to let the paper expire, esp. if they are recognized for being a local school patron.

  2. 10 years ago at an individual school facing just such a crisis we created a community currency in a quantity which exactly covered the shortfall. Then we increased parent contributions to school fees by the deficiency, but offered parents the opportunity to provide services to the school so they could earn sufficient community currency to cover the increased fees. Then we went to the local business community and got their agreement to take some proportion of their charges in community currency.

    So, those who could afford the extra fees paid in dollars. Those who could not could do useful work around the school (including non educational work like plumbing etc) and 'earn' their extra fees, and those who had sufficient time could work around the school and earn more than they needed to pay the fees and spend this in the local community.

    The currency stayed alive for four years until a new principal arrived and canned it.

    But the idea is solid.

  3. the saber currency proposal gives an opportunity for students to earn currency by teaching younger students. the oldest students can spend the currency at universities with spare capacity. the government might, therefore, pay the college tuition cost when it accepts the currency back from the universities but at a discount.

  4. Thank you Charles. Yes, this is essentially what I had in mind. It amounts to a new tax/fee but that people can pay with what they have in abundance of, which isn't the case of banking money in periods of deflation. Why was the idea canned? what was it replaced with? increased fees in legal tender?

  5. Hello Guillaume,
    I'm a community reporter for and I'm working on a story about Bernal Bucks and Bernal Heights' attempt to construct a neighborhood economy. I haven't been able to find an email address for you, so I decided to contact you this way! Since you're one of the architects of Bernal Bucks, I'd enjoy speaking with you about the original thinking behind BB and your observations on how the project has worked thus far. I am hoping we could set up a time to speak in the next couple of days if you are available. Please feel free to contact me at dan.carlin [at]

    Thanks in advance for your time.

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