An overwhelming majority of residents voted to recall three embattled members of the San Francisco School Board after an intense campaign by parents and activists who were outraged at the way public schools had been managed during the pandemic. Activists accused the now-revoked officers of being too focused on social justice instead of working hard to reopen the schools.
San Francisco’s voters, who are among the most progressives in the entire country, made an undeniable show of disapproval of the way the school has been run in the city. According to the results, all three board members up for recall were voted out of office with more than 70% of the vote. In fact, one of the members, Alison Collins, received almost 80% of the votes against her. According to local law, the mayor will be able to name the replacements of these three school board members until the voters can elect new ones in November.
The effort, which was initially launched by a couple of concerned parents, garnered steam over the last few months, to the point that even the mayor of San Francisco endorsed the effort back in November 2021, saying the school board members “have become a distraction” and celebrated yesterday’s results saying that the decision would allow the city to “refocus our efforts on the basics of providing quality of education for all students.”
The vote has become national news, as it highlights that the ongoing nationwide discontent and controversies over school boards are not reserved for conservative counties and that even in deeply progressive cities like San Francisco there is growing angst on the way many schools have handled the pandemic.
The San Francisco school board was accused of putting politics before children
The resentment against the performance of the board has been brewing for months, and the organizers cited three main reasons for their effort to recall almost half of the San Francisco school board: a failure to reopen schools, the ongoing budget crisis, and failures of the board leadership.
San Francisco schools were closed due to COVID for more than a year (from March 2020 to April 2021) and only restarted traditional, in-person classes in August 2021, a measure that has been proven by studies has affected low-income students the most. This decision was made while San Francisco reported a death rate of less than 6.0 during its peak in January 2021, and a new case daily average of 352 at the same time. To put these numbers into perspective, more than 800,000 people live in the county.
School closures were not the only problem affecting San Francisco school boards, as the county is facing a looming budget crisis as more families flee the district and enrollment numbers go down.
In addition to facing these issues, the board made the fateful decision, on January 2021 to push an unpopular and radical proposal to rename 44 schools of their district (one-third of the entire school district) citing an effort to “condemn any symbols of white supremacy and racism” in schools. Among the names the board had planned to eliminate were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and sitting Senator for California Dianne Feinstein.
The decision was heavily criticized by both parents and politicians of liberal San Francisco, pointing out that it made no sense for the officials to be concerned about changing the names of schools while kids had yet to return to in-person classes. Eventually, after heavy public pressure, the board rescinded its plan to rename a third of its schools.
Accusations of anti-Asian racism also mobilized voters against the school board
Organizers were not only harshly critical of the Board’s apparent aloofness over the problems the school district suffered, they were also angered at board member Allison Collins for posting a lengthy thread of anti-Asian tweets in 2016. In it, Collins accused Asian-Americans (one of the largest minorities in California) of “using white supremacist thinking to assimilate and get ahead” and criticizing Asian Americans for allegedly not opposing Donald Trump policies, Collins also used a racial slur against Asian-Americans.
Collins, who was punished for her offensive tweets, then doubled down by filing an $87 million lawsuit against the school district she was representing. The move was also met with heavy criticism by both local politicians and the community.
Collins’ tweets were not the only thing that angered parents, as the school board’s decision to eliminate merit-based admissions at the prestigious Lowell High School, where a majority of students are Asian-Americans. The move was also viewed by many Asian-Americans as a direct attack against their community, with Ann Hsu, a mother of two high-schoolers telling the Associated Press last week that “It is so blatantly discriminatory against Asians (…) It is so apparent that the sole purpose is that there are too many Asians at Lowell.”