Commentary: Quentin Kopp

SFUSD’s Misguided Moves

By Quentin Kopp

In his first inaugural address in New York City in 1789, George Washington, after proclaiming his desire to serve as president without pay, embraced the noble principle that “… office holding ought to be understood as a responsibility assumed rather than an opportunity exploited.”  

That surely should be taught to at least three members of the San Francisco Board of Education, namely, Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga, now the objects of a meritorious recall effort. Despite a city attorney lawsuit and consistent requests by Mayor London Breed, the Board of Education succumbs to the teachers union and spends time and uses specious reasoning to remove President Washington, President Jefferson, President Lincoln, poet James Lowell and hero Paul Revere from our public school names with inaccurate, unverified rationales while abandoning classroom teaching.  

It also devotes time and effort to eliminating academic achievement as predicate for admission to a historically superlative high school which has graduated U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, famed actress Carol Channing and University of Southern California Athletic Hall of Fame basketball player Ken Flower, among other achievers. Collins last fall advocated abandonment of admission standards in favor of a “lottery” and elimination of “meritocracy.”  She characterized standardized testing and grades as “… racist systems” that constitute “… the antithesis of fair, and … just.”  

As Washington Examiner Magazine’s deputy editor observed last month, “… admission procedures which don’t use standardized test courses often are more discriminatory and subject to abuse.”

Since San Francisco’s public schools have been closed for one year already, why doesn’t the San Francisco Unified School District refund taxpayers their money?  The Naperville, Illinois, school board announced last month it would refund $10 million to taxpayers this year, meaning a typical family would receive $200 to $500. Property tax rebate checks should be sent to San Francisco families and businesses, and all other property taxpayers. 

Meanwhile, private and Catholic schools are open for learning without demanding extra tuition.  (San Francisco trial lawyer Paul Scott from North Beach has demanded School Board compliance with California open meeting law. The Board voted to remove 44 school names at a February meeting after informing the public its written agenda included only consideration of a select committee recommendation, not action on the school name changes.)  

That’s why a recall of the three worst school board members has resounded with taxpayers and voters, even in liberal San Francisco. It will qualify for the next election, which may occur in September if the recall of California’s governor qualifies by March 15. That will keep the teachers union busy, even if members aren’t practicing their profession.

Meanwhile, educational mediocrity and vocabulary rape continue. A retired Chico State University professor observed in the Wall Street Journal last month that 25 years ago he attended a faculty session on diversity and inclusion which recommended faculty not use the words “fail” or “failing,” and instead say “deferred excellence.” Another writer notes high schools have changed from teaching pupils how to think and how to write to “what to think and what to write …” and prohibit books like Homer’s “Odyssey” and Dr. Seuss.  

Similarly, the California Department of Education, rewriting the social and ethnic studies for high school students, faces opposition over its one-sided, ideological and jargon-filled recommended curriculum.  The Department’s “advisory committee” wants strong criticisms of capitalism and colonialism. The State Board of Education will vote on a final draft this month, and must approve a model curriculum by March 31 as a guide to high schools with ethnics studies courses, which some state legislators will try to make a graduation requirement. In the aftermath of lawbreaker Donald Trump, I’d expect educational concentration on Americanism not ethnic separation, just as I’d expect “following the science” in restoring students to their classrooms in which teachers can be safe even without vaccination. Teachers unions, however, control public schools. 

After New York State legislators discussed imposition of a statewide transfer tax on buying or selling stocks and bonds, like San Francisco’s foolish transfer tax on real estate sales, the New York Stock Exchange president stated publicly it would move to another state, if such a tax were enacted.  The NYSE has been in downtown New York since the early 1800s when New York City was our national capital. City Hall can’t copy New York lawmakers because the Pacific Stock Exchange on Sansome and Pine streets closed last century, but if an industry comes to San Francisco, beware. 

Property taxation represents California’s historical means of financing local government, meaning counties, cities, school and special districts. Every tax should be based upon a justified rationale.  Property taxation collects money to defray costs of general governmental services such as police, fire, education, welfare and public health. State government relies on general fund revenue, principally from the state income tax and sales taxation.  

Fortunately, in 1963 state legislation banned local government from imposing income taxation. Local government may only charge such sales tax as voters now authorize. Local governments, however, can also apply a parcel tax with voter approval. Bear in mind, a parcel tax unlike property taxation isn’t based upon a parcel’s market value; every parcel, whether residential or commercial, is taxed the same amount! That means if you own some contiguous parcels, you’ll pay the same tax per parcel as Salesforce pays on its several parcels downtown. It’s as irrational a tax as a real estate transfer tax. Our rapacious City Hall geniuses couldn’t care less, particularly in these quixotic times.  

As my friend Bill Modahl, retired University of New Mexico professor observed last month about the state of history instruction in today’s higher education citadels, “History is now nothing more than studying the mistakes of the past.”  Renaming 44 San Francisco public schools, also known as “Frisco’s Folly” in some circles, proves his point.

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission  and retired judge.

1 reply »

  1. Refund their money? The buildings have been closed, but the teachers are still teaching and the District actually needs money to make the classrooms (ventilation systems, etc.) safe for distance learning.

    Liked by 1 person

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