The effort to recall San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Faauuga Moliga, and recently demoted Board Member Alison Collins gained traction in the past few weeks following new polls finding that, if enough signatures are collected to put the matter on the ballot, city voters would likely vote to recall all three.
In the past two years, a growing number of incidents and scandals have bogged down the School Board, including a now-halted battle to rename dozens of schools that took priority over COVID-19 reopening and student safety decisions, controversial school reopening delays resulting in San Francisco being one of the last major school districts in the country to fully reopen, sudden school admission changes, a growing financial crisis, and how one member, Collins, was kept on the Board despite her sending out a barrage of anti-Asian tweets.
These incidents, and more, propelled Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen to start a recall effort against the top three board members. While to date they have only collected 26,000 of the needed 51,325 valid signatures, Raj and Looijen, as well as other supporters, hope to get that amount, plus thousands more as backup in cases of invalid signatures, by the September 7th deadline.
Helping the effort in the past few weeks has been new polling data by EMC Research. In a June 25th memo, it found that 69% of San Franciscan parents support the recall. The 69% figure, garnered from two polls conducted in May, showed a noticeable rise in support from February, when only 60% of parents were in favor of a recall.
The memo also notes that the SF School Board has an overall 71% negative rating among voters, with the District itself getting a 57% unfavorable rating. This was a drastic rise from a 2016 poll that showed that only 17% of voters had an unfavorable view of the School District.
“This is such a complete 180 in such a short period of time,” explained San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke in an interview with the Globe on Thursday. “A lot of people knew that they haven’t been too well liked. Here in San Francisco you hear about them often, and it’s always about racist tweets one of them made, or them trying to rename a school named after Abraham Lincoln, or refusing to open up schools despite parents begging in front of them.”
“We did our own poll several months ago, and one response from a prominent lawmaker here, who didn’t allow me to use her name, always stuck with me. She said they’re doing what they think is right instead of doing their jobs. They just kept pushing the envelope, but as we’ve seen with this recall petition, there is a point where they go too far.”
Growing support for a recall in San Francisco
The new polling figures also did not surprise recall supporters, who have been seeing these kinds of complaints and incidents for years.
“It doesn’t surprise us,” explained Raj to the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week. “On the streets that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Pretty much anyone who is remotely aware of the situation is eager to sign.”
While the three Board Members on the recall petition have remained largely silent about the possibility of being ousted, the School District responded to the new polling figures on Thursday. In particular, they focused on the post-pandemic reopening of district schools rather than the recall issue.
“The challenges and complexities of reopening our public schools during the pandemic cannot be overstated and were not unique to SFUSD,” said SF School District spokeswoman Laura Dudnick. “All of the work to reopen school buildings last year was done as guidance and circumstances surrounding the pandemic continued to shift, and while the district continued to deliver distance learning to over 50,000 students.”
While it remains largely in the air on whether enough signatures will be collected by the September deadline, supporters noted that they plan a huge drive this summer, including using a rented school bus to help collect more signatures.
“No one thought that Newsom would ever face a recall in a Democratic-heavy state, but look at what happened there,” added Burke. “Lopez, Moliga, and Collins made people just as mad, if not more here, and it’s not letting up. The polling shows that they’re likely gone if it gets on the ballot, so until that September deadline, San Francisco is going to be a battle ground for petition signatures.”
The deadline for the recall petition is September 7, 2021.
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