San Francisco voters chose to recall SF School Board Members Gabriela Lopez, Faauuga Moliga, and Alison Collins on Tuesday, shaking up the power structure of one of the largest school boards in the state following voter anger over a wide variety of issues over the past few years.
As of Wednesday morning, all three board members have currently over 70% of votes tallying against them. Moliga, one of the longest standing board members who replaced Collins as Vice President last year, currently has 90,977 votes against him, or 72% of the vote. Lopez, the current President and one of the more vocal defenders of the board, currently has 94,692 votes against her, or 75% of the vote. And finally Collins, the former Vice President who was demoted and nearly ousted last year after the resurfacing of racist tweets she sent in 2016, had the most voting against her with 99,955 votes, or 79% of the total vote.
As extensively covered by the California Globe, the recall began in earnest in early 2021. Already beleaguered by a growing deficit and a growing number of parents and citizens angry about the School Board’s delays in reopening schools following the COVID-19 pandemic, more joined in saying that their priorities were severely misplaced after trying to move ahead with a controversial school renaming plan rather than focusing on the needs of students. This was only compounded in March when old tweets by then-VP Collins came to light through school board recall supporters. In the 2016 tweets, Collins wrote numerous racist and anti-Asian American messages, including saying that Asian Americans had “used white supremacist thinking to assimilate get ahead,” comparing Asian Americans to “House n——s”, and stating that she was looking to “combat anti-black racism in the Asian community” at her daughters’ “mostly Asian Am school.”
Hey Twitter! Does anyone know about any news stories highlighting hate speech or bullying of Asian students? Please send them my way.
— Alison Collins 高勵思 (@AliMCollins) December 4, 2016
Many prominent lawmakers, including Mayor London Breed and then-Assemblyman David Chiu called on Collins to either be demoted or to outright resign from her position. Collins refused, and only days later the Board voted 5-2 in a no confidence vote, stripping her of her Vice Presidency and all Committee positions. This led Collins to sue the School District, as well as the 5 Board members who voted against her, for $87 million in District Court. During the next several months, while the lawsuit languished in Court, the recall movement against the three quickly grew.
As the recall became more and more likely throughout the summer and fall, the Board quickly dropped the renaming plan and Collins dropped the lawsuit, but to no avail. The signature goal for a recall was reached in September, leading to the recall on Tuesday.
Reaction from lawmakers, parents
The recall was mostly praised on Tuesday and Wednesday, with prominent lawmakers from both the right and the left praising the recall of the three school board members.
“Today San Franciscans made a clear statement: We need a Board of Education focused like a laser on stabilizing our schools, keeping them open, and supporting students and families in the most effective possible way,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday in a statement. “I want to express my deepest gratitude to the grassroots network of parents and other San Franciscans who worked day and night to create accountability. Your efforts have completely shifted the political dynamic in our city. More people than ever are focused on what the Board of Education is doing and who is — and who should be — serving on the Board.”
“With the recall now behind us, I look forward to the Mayor making three strong appointments to the Board of Education and to all of us circling wagons around our school district to stabilize and strengthen it. The school district has my full support, and I’ll continue to support improved funding for public education in the state budget.”
Longtime recall supporter Mayor Breed also released a statement.
“The voters of this City have delivered a clear message that the School Board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,” added the Mayor. “San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well. I want to recognize all the parents who tirelessly organized and advocated in the last year. Elections can be difficult, but these parents were fighting for what matters most – their children. The days ahead for our public schools will not be easy.
“There are many critical decisions in the coming months – addressing a significant budget deficit, hiring a new Superintendent, and navigating our emergence from this pandemic. These are on top of the structural issues the District has faced for years that include declining enrollment and fixing our school assignment system to better serve families and our students. The School District has a lot of work to do, and the City is ready to offer support as we all move forward. Our kids have suffered tremendously during this pandemic, dealing with serious learning loss and significant mental health challenges. It’s time we refocus our efforts on the basics of providing quality education for all students, while more broadly improving how this City delivers support for children and families.”
The Globe also reached out to parents about the vote, with most expressing approval of the recall.
“You wish it didn’t have to come to this, but they went way too far,” said Andi Foster-Li, a parent of three, to the Globe on Wednesday. “They pushed their agenda when they should have been figuring things out to best help our kids. They put agenda over education. And look. You had the most far-right people and some of the most left-wing people join in unison on this one. Collins, who sent all those racist tweets, had people vote five to one against her.”
“So we got one of the rarest of rares happening here right now. San Francisco is voting against liberals. A lot of us have wondered when we would hit the limit on that, and we might have just done it. They should not have removed kids from being the priority.”
Successful recall of school board members may have broader, statewide consequences later this year
Some supporters of three facing recall were chagrined by the results. Few supporters have made statements as of Wednesday morning, with Board Vice President Moliga the only recalled person to have released a statement.
“As the first results post for the recall election, it appears we were unsuccessful at defeating my recall,” noted Moliga. “We fought hard and ran a great campaign. I want to thank the Pacific Islander community for standing up and taking on this challenge. There are many more fights ahead of us. Thank you again San Francisco it has been an honor!”
Commentators on Tuesday and Wednesday, while not surprised at the recall succeeding, were surprised by just how many voted for recalling them.
“Over 70% across the board. What a message that sends,” said San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke to the Globe on Wednesday. “Look at Collins, the one who had those racist tweets uncovered and was hugely controversial last year. 79% against her. This wasn’t just a movement against them either. With a number like 79% or 75% of voters going against you, you needed to have made the right, the center, and the left all mad in some way or another. So hats off to all three. They found a way to unite voters.”
“In the context for the rest of the year, this and the Shasta County recall earlier this month are both sort of the amuse bouche to how things might pan out in other elections this year. Voters are tired of activism lawmakers, tired of COVID restrictions, and tired of lawmakers not prioritizing important things. A lot can change between now and June and November, a bunch of successful recalls this early on has got to be sending a message to a lot of people across California right now.”
Once the results are confirmed by the San Francisco Department of Elections, Mayor Breed will name three temporary replacements until a new election is called for those spots on the School Board.
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