Mayor reacts to San Francisco's plan to rename schools named for Lincoln, Washington: How about a plan to open schools instead

In the midst of a pandemic and with most public schools still closed to students, San Francisco has announced plans to rename about a third of its schools. The schools being renamed include several named for former U.S. Presidents including Abraham Lincoln and George Washington:

A third of San Francisco public schools could see their names changed as officials push to replace “inappropriate” ones honoring presidents, writers, generals and even Sen. Dianne Feinstein…

Those names on the school buildings, including Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson, that have connections to slavery, genocide or oppression should be changed, according to a committee recommendation heading to the school board…

The principal of Commodore Sloat, Fowzigiah Abdolcader, notified parents Wednesday of the need to come up with a new name, because John D. Sloat was a colonizer who “claimed/stole” California from Mexico, according to the committee…

[Dianne Feinstein Elementary] made the list because, as mayor in 1986, Feinstein reportedly replaced a vandalized Confederate flag, one of several historic flags flying in front of City Hall at the time.

Putting aside that we’re talking about taking the names of former U.S. presidents off public schools, some parents were just amazed that the school board had time for this in the midst of the pandemic:

“Principals are devoting resources to this,” said parent Jonathan Alloy, whose children attend Commodore Sloat, one of the schools on the list. “We’re being presented with it as a fait accompli.”…

“We’re not actually helping disadvantaged children by changing the name of the school they can’t attend,” he said.

Today, Mayor London Breed issued a statement joining with those parents and calling the focus on renaming schools “offensive.” Here’s what Mayor Breed said:

Schools have been allowed to open in San Francisco under public health orders issued at the beginning of September and while many private schools are open today, our public schools have still not yet made a firm plan to open. Parents are frustrated and looking for answers. The achievement gap is widening as our public schools kids are falling further behind every single day…I know there are tough choices to be made, but the School District and the Board of Education need to do what needs to be done to get our kids back in school.

And now, in the midst of this once in a century challenge, to hear that the District is focusing energy and resources on renaming schools — schools that they haven’t even opened — is offensive. It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity. It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college. It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.

Look, I believe in equity. It’s at the forefront of my administration and we’ve made historic investments to address the systemic racism confronting our city. But the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our City. Not the name of a school. We are in a pandemic right now that is forcing us all to prioritize what truly matters. Conversations around school names can be had once the critical work of educating our young people in person is underway. Once that is happening, then we can talk about everything else. Until those doors are open, the School Board and the District should be focused on getting our kids back in the classroom.”

It’s a good statement as far as it goes. San Francisco shouldn’t be wasting time on this while kids are stuck at home. I wish she’d go further and say that the contributions of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to our nation’s history deserve recognition as well as criticism. Even poor Dianne Feinstein deserves more respect then she is getting from the panel making these calls. This is the elevation of woke ideology above all else. It might make a few parents feel good but taking Lincoln’s name off a high school isn’t going to improve test scores.

Update: I meant to include this above. The best evidence right now is that schools do not add to the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of students and teachers have become sick with the coronavirus since schools began opening last month, but public health experts have found little evidence that the virus is spreading inside buildings, and the rates of infection are far below what is found in the surrounding communities.

This early evidence, experts say, suggests that opening schools may not be as risky as many have feared and could guide administrators as they chart the rest of what is already an unprecedented school year.

Public schools need to reopen everywhere next semester. The plan to accomplish that is what the San Francisco school board should be spending its time on.