Tag Archives: comfort women

Recap: QTEA, comfort women, and more

Due to a work commitment I was an hour late to tonight’s meeting so I was not present for the annual report of the Quality Teacher and Education Act (QTEA) oversight committee this evening. I’ll have to watch a recording of the meeting to fully absorb their report, but I gather that members have raised questions about the district’s carryover of at least some of the annual revenues from this fund.

For review: the QTEA is the district’s parcel tax, passed by voters in June 2008. In 2016-17, property owners will be assessed $238.68 per parcel, generating about $40 million in revenue to support teacher compensation, professional development, technology and innovation in the school district. The QTEA sunsets June 30, 2028.

On the carryover issue, I have to do more research because I  missed the opportunity to ask some key questions tonight. The contention is that the district should be putting more of the annual revenues into teacher compensation now; the rejoinder is that the carryover has been set aside to pay for negotiated salary increases. Given that the district and UESF have just agreed to accelerate salary increases, both these arguments could be moot. I’ve asked for an additional discussion of the QTEA at the budget committee, either May 4 or June 1 depending on scheduling. And as someone who walked a lot of precincts to pass QTEA (before I was elected to the Board), it’s very important to me that we live up to what we promised.

We also had a report on the Our Children, Our Families (OCOF) initiative established by the reauthorization of the Public Education Enrichment Fund and the Children’s Fund in 2014. Some very good work has been done in establishing a steering committee (the OCOF Council) chaired jointly by the Superintendent and Mayor Lee. The group has established a detailed framework (caution, big PDF download) and is working on their first 5-year plan.

After a recess for closed session, we convened a Special Meeting to consider a resolution authored by Commissioners Fewer and Mendoza urging the state to include curriculum about the “comfort women” in the state’s history curriculum standards. (Last fall, the Board unanimously passed a resolution to incorporate information about the comfort women in SFUSD’s history curriculum.)

The “comfort women” were prostitutes who serviced the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. Most people agree that the women — Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Indonesian nationals — were forced either by economic or other means into sex slavery, even if the women did at times receive payment. But there the agreement ends. In recent years, activists have sought to compel the Japanese government to issue apologies and reparations to former comfort women. In late 2015, the Japanese government did issue an apology of sorts to Korean comfort women, because the Korean government has been most vocal and forceful in demanding acknowledgement of the Korean women who were enslaved as comfort women. Still, activists argue that other nations deserve the same treatment. For their part, Japan’s supporters (most notably, tonight, Commissioner Murase, who is Japanese-American and has deep ties to Japan) argue that the tone of the comfort women debate is uncomfortably anti-Japanese.

That’s the geopolitics in a nutshell. For myself, the argument that facing historical atrocities is necessary but painful really resonates. Like many innocent Japanese-Americans, Commissioner Murase’s father was interned in a concentration camp in the 1940s, a shameful chapter in United States history. Tonight Commissioner Mendoza recounted her 90-year-old mother’s memory of being hidden in a rice cannister as a young girl in the Philippines during WWII, to make sure she wasn’t kidnapped by Japanese soldiers. My mother remembers being taught to be afraid of “Japs” in 1940s Berkeley, of all places. War makes people do, say and think terrible things. I think our children deserve to know that, and (if we do our jobs well) know better.

Recap: April 12 – voting and not much else

Very short agenda for last night’s meeting, which was good because we were in danger of losing quorum most of the meeting. Commissioners Walton and Murase are out of the country, and Commissioners Wynns, Fewer and I are running for office with heavy demands on our time at the moment.
Somehow we made it work, and I am very proud that “Encouraging Students to Exercise Their Voting Rights,” authored by Commissioner Fewer and I, and co-sponsored by student delegates Teresia Chen and Miguel Tantiado, passed unanimously. I’m very grateful to the Youth Commissioners who came out to testify in favor, and I owe a huge debt to the youth of Vote16SF who have been incredibly passionate and persuasive advocates for lowering the voting age.

In February, the Board unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Vote16 initiative, but we felt we could actually go further, right now, before voters actually go to the polls to decide whether to lower the voting age. Last night’s resolution doesn’t require an act of the voters, because it’s already state law that people as young as 16 can pre-register to vote. When I learned that,  I looked up the research on pre-registration. A 2009 study from George Mason University tracked outcomes of pre-registration programs in Florida and Hawaii and found that they were helpful in encouraging regular voting. So, why not promote voting in the American Democracy classes every senior in SFUSD already takes? And why not make voter registration forms available so that every SFUSD student who is eligible to register knows how to do so?

Originally, we wanted to make voter registration a classroom activity, but because a significant percentage of our students  (we don’t know exactly how many and we don’t ask) are undocumented, such a requirement could put an undetermined number of students at risk for filing a false government document. So instead, the school district will partner with the Department of Elections and make voter registration forms available to students, and we will also make sure students know whether or not they are eligible to vote.

Some people think 16-year-olds aren’t mature enough to vote, and as a parent of a 16-year-old, I understand that instinct, because 16-year-0lds can be very exasperating. But they can also be incredibly earnest, idealistic and thoughtful, and adults tend to make a lot of decisions for them without asking. Also, when you think about it, driving is as much a privilege as voting when you factor in personal responsibility. In addition, voting is a habit that takes root over time. If, as I do, you care about people exercising their right to vote as early and as often as legal, Vote16 is not a hard leap to make.

A number of public speakers came out to denounce a proposed resolution (pulled by the authors, Commissioners Mendoza and Fewer) that urged information about “comfort women” be included in the state’s history standards. The history of comfort women has been a hot topic of late, because activists have been pushing for this very dark chapter of WWII history to become better-known and acknowledged. Other activists say that the “sexual slavery” narrative of the comfort women is overblown.