Two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are currently on a taxpayer-funded trip to Japan, missing crucial city meetings to explore educational methods at Tokyo Gakugei University. This excursion is in light of a debate over the teaching of algebra in local schools, despite the supervisors having no direct influence over educational curricula. The city’s financial contribution to the San Francisco Unified School District, bolstered by last year’s Proposition G, is a key factor in this educational exploration.
The journey has sparked a mix of skepticism and defense. Supervisor Myrna Melgar justifies the trip by pointing to the city’s significant financial support to the school district and the need for accountability and leadership. A pilot program employing Japanese teaching methods in four San Francisco schools has yielded impressive results, particularly at John Muir Elementary School, where math and literacy rates have notably improved.
However, the timing of the trip has raised concerns, potentially affecting the progression of measures for the March 2024 ballot. The absence of Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Myrna Melgar could delay critical votes, including a significant affordable housing bond measure. Supervisor Aaron Peskin assures that the essential votes will occur after their return, but not all are reassured.
In the midst of this, Supervisor Joel Engardio is pushing for a resolution to reintroduce algebra to eighth graders, a move resisted by new schools Superintendent Matt Wayne due to potential conflicts with a forthcoming school bond measure. The school district is considering the reintroduction of algebra, with a second focus group being formed to evaluate the possibility.
The supervisors’ commitment to educational improvement is evident, yet the effectiveness of their methods, including the Japan trip, is under scrutiny. As the city navigates financial constraints and educational challenges, the balance between fiscal responsibility and innovative leadership remains a point of contention.