What is a left-wing city to do when its own, union-dominated school district refuses to even come up with a plan to reopen, which is required by state law?
In San Francisco, city leaders are suing their own school district and board of education, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
A California state law passed last year, months before the 2020-21 school year began, requires all school districts to created and adopt a clear plan during the pandemic detailing actions they "will take to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible," the newspaper said.
But the San Francisco Unified School District, thanks at least in part to the teachers' union, has failed to even start coming up with a plan, much less adopt one.
Therefore, City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced Wednesday that "he has sued the San Francisco Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District for failing to come up with a reopening plan that meets state requirements," according to an announcement on his city attorney website.
The lawsuit alleges that board and district's reopening plan is "woefully inadequate and doesn't meet the basic requirements set by the state." The suit seeks to have the San Francisco Superior Court order the district "to prepare to offer in-person instruction now that it is possible to do so safely," the announcement said.
The city has "squandered months of opportunity" to address the issue, Herrera's site said — all the while the district's 54,000 students have not seen the inside of a classroom for nearly 11 months, the Chronicle reported.
Still, Herrera noted, the SFUSD "does not have an adequate plan to reopen classrooms" and the city's kids are "facing a widening achievement gap & threats to their mental health."
It has been more than 10 months since students were in schools, and @SFUnified still does not have an adequate plan… https://t.co/svzRjDjuYy— Dennis Herrera (@Dennis Herrera)1612374328.0
Despite the fact that "students and their families are suffering," the school board has refused to stay focused on the need to reopen and instead spent their time on "renaming empty schools" and other less pressing needs.
Herrera noted that the city's rules have allowed schools to be in-person since September and that scientific consensus shows schools can safely reopen.
Yet, San Francisco's schools remain shuttered.
San Francisco's health orders have allowed in-person schools since September. The undisputed scientific consensus i… https://t.co/3Zc0EhSfEJ— Dennis Herrera (@Dennis Herrera)1612374329.0
The city attorney knew exactly at whom to point the finger of blame: district leadership and the teachers' union.
"It's a shame it has come to this," Herrera said in his office's announcement. "The City has offered resources, logistical help and public health expertise. Unfortunately, the leadership of the school district and the educators' union can't seem to get their act together. The Board of Education and the school district have had more than 10 months to roll out a concrete plan to get these kids back in school. So far they have earned an F. Having a plan to make a plan doesn't cut it."
Union officials thwarted an effort by the district to "gradually open schools for severely disabled children" in January, the Chronicle reported. Several other unions continue to stand in the way of reopening, the newspaper said:
Six unions representing workers in the San Francisco Unified School District are circulating a petition among their members calling for a dozen requirements that go far beyond the Department of Public Health's requirements. For example, they're requesting reliable transportation for students and staff even though Muni service has been slashed due to the pandemic.
Separately, a group of union educators have formed a committee called Strike Ready that is urging a strike if reopening proceeds without all school employees having access to the COVID-19 vaccine, adequate personal protective equipment, ventilation, purifiers and training.
Herrera took his accusations and complaints to social media, writing on Twitter, "SFUSD and teachers' union leadership need to step up. Get your act together," adding, "[district] leadership has earned an F. It's unfortunate we have to take them to court to get it sorted out, but enough is enough."
In terms of helping our students and their families through this difficult time, @SFUnified leadership has earned a… https://t.co/o0NEaUytfZ— Dennis Herrera (@Dennis Herrera)1612374329.0
And Herrera isn't doing this on his own, he's got the full support of left-wing Democratic Mayor London Breed.
"This is not the path we would have chosen, but nothing matters more right now than getting our kids back in school," Breed said. "The city has offered resources and staff to get our school facilities ready and to support testing for our educators. We've offered the guidance and expertise of the Department of Public Health. We are ready and willing to do our part to get our kids back in the classroom."
She went on to note the impact closed schools are having on students who have "lost ground academically" as well has how the situation is "hurting the mental health of our kids and our families."
"[T]his isn't working for anyone," Breed added. "And we know we can do this safely. We've seen our private schools open and our City-run community learning hubs serve our most at-need kids for months without any outbreaks. We need to get our schools open."