During a meeting between San Francisco Mayor London Breed and city Supervisors on Tuesday, Breed announced her support of the recall of three members of the San Francisco Board of Education.
The recall against School Board President Gabriela Lopez and board members Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga began in earnest in March following discovery of a number of racist tweets sent out by then Board VP Collins. The scandal resulted in her demotion and suing the School Board in retaliation.
While the lawsuit played out in court over the summer, growing discontentment against the board continued. In particular, San Francisco Unified School District parents were outraged during the spring over the districts decision to keep schools closed during the pandemic when all other school boards in the state, including Los Angeles, had reopened.
The resulting rise of mental health issues among students, as well as learning loss, and monetary loss was impetus for parents to start the petition. A massive failed citywide school renaming program only added more attention and district voters against the board.
With local, national, and international attention against the board, the three board members at the center of the recall received over 81,000 recall petition signatures, which was 30,000 more than needed, by the deadline in early September. Following certification, the recall, the first in San Francisco since an attempt against then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein in 1983, was set for a February 2022 election date. That same day, Collins dropped her $87 million lawsuit against the board.
While Mayor Breed had been supportive of Collins being demoted and had called for her resignation following her tweet scandal, she had been largely absent from the recall battle before Tuesday. During a budget meeting determining how much was to go to the February special election in the city, which will also include the District 17 State Assembly vacancy election and the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder election, Mayor Breed finally took a side in he recall debate, favoring recalling the three education board members.
“I have made it clear from the beginning of the pandemic, we need to focus on educating our students, supporting our workforce, and reopening our city,” said Mayor Breed on Tuesday. “During this critical time, we need to ensure that the cost of the school board recall does not fall on the backs of our children, which is why we are stepping in to make sure that this funding goes directly to our students.
“Sadly, our school board’s priorities have often been severely misplaced. During such a difficult time, the decisions we make for our children will have long term impacts. Which is why it is so important to have leadership that will tackle these challenges head on. Our kids must come first. The board’s priorities have been misplaced, and I support the parents’ call for change.”
Mayor Breed’s recall support
Political experts noted that while the decision seemed surprising to many, Mayor Breed’s school board recall support makes sense.
“She has has been upset with how the SFUSD Board has been running things for quite some time,” San Francisco-based policy advisor Sharon Burke told the Globe on Wednesday. “Look at how quick she wanted Collins gone after her tweets. But really, the Board has been making the news over and over again for mismanagement, with the city intervening directly recently to stop a state takeover of the district because of the SFUSD massively going over their budget. They had to cut $125 million just to stay above water.”
“Parents are mad at them. Many lawmakers are mad at them. And now the Mayor showed her true colors and is mad at them too. Part of it may be about self-preservation. Breed has shown to be ambitious and is obviously eyeing a higher office in the coming years. But she has also been more diplomatic in the past when it came to things like this. This time around there was no diplomacy, and she is also genuinely upset with them.
“For the board members, they lost a person who would have been their biggest ally. It’s not looking good for them.”
Breed and the city Supervisors agreed to fund the three special elections with $6.9 million from the city’s General Reserve funds on Tuesday as a mid-year budget supplemental, with another $5.1 million coming from repurposed funds stemming from the Gubernatorial recall election held in September.
“Whether you agree or disagree with school board recall, we should all agree that our students shouldn’t bear the financial burden of the election. This supplemental will ensure that the Department of Elections is fully funded to do its important work without harming SFUSD students, families, and workers,” said SF City Supervisor Rafael Mandelman on Tuesday.
The San Francisco special election is due to be held on February 15, 2022. Should any of the board members be recalled, Mayor Breed would assign temporary replacements until the 2022 November general election.