Ex-Obama aide calls out San Francisco for removing names from schools rather than focusing on COVID crisis

Ex-Obama aide calls out San Francisco for removing names from schools rather than focusing on COVID crisis

The former assistant press secretary in President Obama’s White House, Ben LaBolt, joined those questioning the priorities of San Francisco’s school board Wednesday after it voted to remove the names of historical figures, and even a sitting senator, from schools. 

“Instead of say focusing on the COVID crisis and ensuring kids are getting educated during the pandemic, the San Francisco School Board spent yesterday voting nearly unanimously to remove the names Lincoln, Roosevelt and Feinstein from city schools,” LaBolt wrote on Twitter. 

Following a 6-1 board vote Tuesday, building with certain names — including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — will be renamed.

Washington and Jefferson were both slave owners and Lincoln, who ended slavery, became controversial because critics claim he oppressed indigenous people.

About one-third or 44 of San Francisco’s public schools will be renamed.

SF SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO RENAME SCHOOLS 

Replacing signage at the 44 schools will run a price tag of more than $ 400,000. It could go up to around $ 1 million for schools to get new activity uniforms and repaint gymnasium floors, among other things associated with branding, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The district is facing a budget deficit that could reach $ 75 million next year. 

The Dianne Feinstein Elementary School will be renamed over allegations that she replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall when she was the city’s mayor in 1986, according to Courthouse News. She didn’t replace the flag after it was pulled down a second time.

Feinstein’s office could not be reached for comment. 

Others on the list include Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to the national anthem; former presidents William McKinley, James Garfield, James Monroe and Herbert Hoover; Revolutionary War figure Paul Revere and author Robert Louis Stevenson. 

As the board debated renaming schools Tuesday, absent from the agenda was reopening school from coronavirus shutdowns. 

Replying to another Twitter user, LaBolt called the school board a “Complete parody of themselves.”

The city’s Democrat Mayor London Breed rebuked the plan in October as “offensive” and suggested the school board focus instead on its reopening plan. 

“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,” she said at the time, according to Courthouse News.

“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.”

STATUE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN WITH KNEELING SLAVE REMOVED IN BOSTON

In a statement Wednesday, Breed said she understands the significance of renaming schools. 

“What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then,” the mayor said. 

“I believe our children should be a part of the conversation around the renaming of their schools, and I believe the education and discussions need to happen within our school walls. Let’s bring the same urgency and focus on getting our kids back in the classroom, and then we can have that longer conversation about the future of school names,” she continued. 

According to the Chronicle, some community members cried that the decision had been made with little to no input from historians. In one instance, the board reportedly wasn’t sure whether Roosevelt Middle School was named for Theodore or Franklin Delano, but decided to do away with the name anyway. 

School board members, however, insist the renaming is important, after the racial reckoning that followed protests over police brutality this summer. Board member Mark Sanchez said that naming schools after figures with a contentious past sent the wrong message. 

“It’s a message to our families, our students and our community,” Sanchez said. “It’s not just symbolic. It’s a moral message.”

Board member Kevine Boggess, who supported the resolution, suggested schools shouldn’t be named after anyone.

We “should not make heroes out of mortal folks,” he said, according to the Chronicle. “I think we need to examine our naming policies across the district and really consider how the way we go about naming schools reflects our true values.”

School staff and families have until April to suggest new names for the schools. 

The board also voted to issue a formal apology to Native American families for land theft and the trauma caused by racist imagery in textbooks and mascots. Meanwhile, $ 200,000 will be allocated for the district’s American Indian Education Program and schools are required to nix all Thanksgiving stereotypes, such as headdresses. 

Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report. 

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