San Francisco ballot measure to urge school district to offer algebra to 8th graders will be on March ballot

Voters in San Francisco, California, will decide on seven ballot measures on March 5, 2024, including Proposition G, which issues a policy declaration regarding the school district’s mathematics curriculum.

Specifically, Proposition G would make it the official policy of San Francisco to encourage the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to offer Algebra 1 to students by eighth grade. Proposition G cannot bind the school district to change policies as the school district is independent of the city government. Supervisor Joel Engardio, who sponsored the proposal, said, “The Board of Supervisors does not have control over the school district. Our schools are governed by an independently elected school board. But every resident of San Francisco is our constituent, including parents and students. Their voices deserve to be heard.”

Proposition G would declare that the government of San Francisco urges SFUSD to take the following actions:

  • develop a math curriculum for elementary and middle school students rooted in excellence;
  • ensure students who need extra help can access it and students who are excelling can explore their potential;
  • build a math curriculum and instruction team;
  • provide options to ensure students have access to courses that would qualify them for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors in California universities and colleges;
  • promote targeted approaches to math education and career guidance for girls to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM;
  • provide support and guidance to educators;
  • ensure that all students have access to high-quality mathematics programs; and
  • provide that educators and guidance personnel advise students about the importance of accurate math course placement and its effect on future college eligibility.

The San Francisco Unified School District operates the San Francisco public school system and currently offers Algebra 1 to students beginning in ninth grade, rather than eighth grade. In 2014, the SFUSD delayed offering algebra courses until the ninth grade with the stated intent of closing racial disparities and increasing Black and Hispanic success in math courses. Opponents of the curriculum change argued that it made it more challenging for students to take the math courses needed for college by delaying Algebra 1 offerings.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to place the measure on the ballot. Engardio said, “We make everyone wait until 9th grade because some kids aren’t ready for algebra sooner. Let’s better prepare all students instead of holding back kids who love math. …. In San Francisco, Algebra 1 is not offered until 9th grade. We stopped offering it in 8th grade because not every student was prepared for it. How is that a solution? We should do better to prepare all students for algebra — and not punish kids who can handle it earlier.”

The single vote against the proposition came from Supervisor Shamann Walton, who said, “I don’t like misleading the voters in making them think that we’re putting something on the ballot that has any teeth or that actually does anything, because this measure does not do anything.”

Proposition G is supported by the San Francisco Republican, Democratic, and Green parties.

Voters will decide on a total of seven ballot measures on March 5, including one bond measure, one charter amendment, four ordinances, and the policy declaration measure.

From 2010 through 2022, San Francisco voters decided on 151 local ballot measures—an average of 14 per year, including odd and even-numbered election years. Voters approved 103 (68.21%) and defeated 48 (31.79%).

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