San Francisco Board of Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Myrna Melgar are missing board meetings while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Japan to explore math educational methods at Tokyo Gakugei University.
Concerns about the trip: The trip has raised questions as the supervisors have no direct influence over educational curricula in San Francisco. In addition, the city is facing a significant half-billion-dollar budget deficit, and algebra has not been taught to eighth graders in the city for almost a decade, according to The San Francisco Standard.
The absence of the supervisors from the important meetings has also sparked concerns about potential delays in important votes, including an affordable housing bond measure for the March 2024 ballot and the reintroduction of algebra to eighth graders, which had been met with resistance from the new schools Superintendent Matt Wayne.
Melgar’s defense: However, Melgar argued that the trip is valuable in light of the city’s financial support for the San Francisco Unified School District.
“We give [the school district] so much money with very little accountability, and I think this is one thing we can do to provide leadership,” Melgar told the Standard, noting that four San Francisco schools have seen impressive results from a pilot program using Japanese teaching methods.
At John Muir Elementary School, competency in math and literacy went from under 20% of students performing at their grade level to now more than 57% of students meeting the state’s standards.
Attention to education: While many are critical of the supervisors’ trip, some view it as a good sign that Ronen and Melgar are paying attention to educational issues. Autumn Looijen, founder of the education-focused group San Francisco Guardians, told the Standard that she hoped the supervisors would “double down” on other issues besides schools.
“I don’t know whether an in-person visit to Japan is the most effective way to learn more, because they’re not in charge of schools,” Looijen was quoted saying. “I do think it’s a good sign that they’re paying attention.”
Balancing fiscal responsibility with innovative leadership remains a point of contention as the city deals with financial constraints and educational challenges.