Sad Francisco

San Francisco is a magical city. My first visit there was in 1969 as a New York City college kid on winter break, and I was enthralled. I was there again in 1996 on my honeymoon, and several times since, and have always found the city to have an amazing vibrancy rivaled only by New York City and Paris. But now, the City by the Bay, notorious for its $61,000 a year tents for the homeless, its public display of syringes and human feces, can add its school system to the nightmare.

First off, the achievement gap. While 70 percent of white students are proficient in math, only 12 percent of black students are. For a city that wears its progressivism as a proud badge of honor, this is especially shameful.

The above statistics were released in 2020, so you’d think the powers that be would have jumped at the chance to correct the dismal disparity, but, no, the city’s education establishment has involved itself in other matters.

On January 26, in a moment of monumental self-righteousness, the school board decided to rename 44 public schools because their namesakes were presumably more evil than Satan or even Republicans. Paul Revere, Thomas Edison, Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key, et al. were accused of perpetrating anti-woke crimes and were canceled.

Malcolm X got a pass, however; the elementary school bearing his name will not undergo a change. Why would a one-time drug dealer, thief, and pimp be exempted? Because the school board said that he should be “judged by the entirety of his life.” If so, then Lincoln certainly deserves a pass, but the school board never explained why he never received one. (Facing a lawsuit, the board decided on April 6 to put a hold on the renaming orgy.)

In early February, the art department of the San Francisco School District bizarrely decided that acronyms are “a symptom of white supremacy.” Shortly thereafter—in an unheard-of move—the city sued its own school board in an effort to get kids out of virtual learning mode and back to real in-person school. Several school administrators referred to the lawsuit as an embarrassment, but after the silliness of trying to rename 44 schools, the school board showed it doesn’t need the city to embarrass it. The board can do a perfectly fine job of that on its own.

March blew in like a lion when it was revealed that San Francisco school board Vice President Allison Collins had made some rather nasty comments about Asian Americans on Twitter a few years ago. She accused them of many things, including the use of “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’” So, the school board had to do something, but they didn’t fire her or take away any of her six-figure salary; they merely removed her as vice president and stripped all of her committee assignments. But instead of apologizing and graciously accepting the demotion, Collins sued the school district. For $87 million. Among other things, her lawsuit alleges that the demotion caused her a significant loss of reputation, severe mental and emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, humiliation, and (my personal favorite) “spiritual injury to her soul.”

May was no better for the city’s educrats. On May 9, the San Francisco teachers’ union announced it had “exciting news,” referring to a deal that the school district struck with the United Educators of San Francisco to open up schools to seniors on May 14. The joke is that the opening—only a part of which saw students receiving in-person instruction—was established solely to qualify the school district for a $12 million grant. To pass muster, schools had to have opened by May 15. As such, it is hardly surprising that several local legislators are urging that the state deny the funds to the school district for the sham reopening.

In the “hardly exciting news” department, May also saw the beclowned school district lay down rules for the senior prom. Tuxedos and prom dresses are OK, but masks are a must. And none of that icky close dancing will be allowed! Also, students who are not vaccinated must keep six feet from everyone else. Sure sounds like fun!

So let’s see, the district has failed black kids miserably. The school board tried to rechristen 44 schools, many of which were named after iconic Americans. The city sued the school board to force schools to reopen. A school board member sued the school board for “spiritual injuries.” The district tried to pull a fast one on taxpayers by kinda, sorta opening schools for a few days, and then announced strict rules for the Prom from Hell. Not convinced of the insanity yet?

OK, how about this . . .

The United Educators of San Francisco passed a resolution on May 19—no, not about improving student outcomes or getting teachers raises—but rather in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel, becoming the first U.S. teachers union to officially support BDS. The resolution was passed by the historically illiterate or perhaps anti-Semitic teacher union leadership the day before Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after 11 days of fighting.

The late Paul Kantner, the Jefferson Airplane co-founder and a San Francisco native, once said “San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.” This is certainly true, notably for the city’s reality-free and absolutely bonkers and broken school system. It would be truly hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.

Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared originally at the California Policy Center.

About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Photo: Yalonda M. James/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

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