February 18, 2022

San Francisco School Board

“San Francisco residents recalled three members of the city’s school board Tuesday for what critics called misplaced priorities and putting progressive politics over the needs of children during the pandemic.” AP News

All sides criticize the school board’s conduct and incompetence:

“The recall fight was intense, and often ugly. Recall opponents hurled false accusations of racism, classism, and right-wing conspiracies at parents and their supporters… [But] the board members found themselves on the recall ballot for egregious incompetence. San Francisco was among the last major cities in the U.S. to reopen its public schools after the worst of the pandemic. While keeping the schools closed, the board seized the opportunity to fulfill a radical political agenda. They attempted to rename 44 schools based on historical misinformation and personal opinion, including those named after Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Louis Stevenson, and even Dianne Feinstein…

“The board also purged the merit-based admissions process for Lowell High School, on the justification that the school lacked diversity (Asians comprised the majority of the student body). This beloved, academically rigorous institution obviated the need for low-income families to pay for expensive private education elsewhere. When an angry parent challenged the board’s decision on Twitter, [board member Gabriela] López responded with a middle-finger emoji.”
Erica Sandberg, City Journal

“The recall was the result of a school board so out-of-touch with even what liberal parents wanted that it dedicated itself to renaming 44 schools instead of finding a way to return to in-person learning. One of the school board members, Alison Collins, sued the district for $89 million after being replaced as vice president for tweeting racial slurs about Asian Americans. Collins, of course, refused to resign from serving the very district she was suing. The lawsuit was tossed out of court, and voters then tossed her out of her seat

“Accusations of racism and nefarious right-wing political campaigns were always silly when they were being made about Virginia, but they have no foothold here. Nearly 63% of San Francisco voters are Democrats, compared to just under 7% who are Republicans. The recall was backed by Democratic voters, the Democratic mayor, and even noncitizens, whom the city allows to vote in local elections.”
Zachary Faria, Washington Examiner

“[Changing Lowell’s admissions policy] was always going to be a touchy subject because there’s a proud alumni base, and because some kids—particularly Asian American and/or immigrant kids—had been working their asses off for their whole lives to get in, and all that work was for naught when the board decided to assign spots by lottery. More broadly: Is SF school inequity best solved by rearranging one high school? Or would resources and time be better spent on intervention in elementary and middle schools?… The board rammed through a change without allowing for public input…

“For a whole bunch of reasons, including a (very recently overhauled) lottery system that tried to be progressive but essentially made school segregation worse (such unintended consequences are a theme in SF politics), we have low, and declining, public school participation. That, and poor management, has led to a $125 million shortfall, one that got worse because pandemic school closures cut the district off from federal funds. You’d think that getting the budget into line would be the top priority for the board. You would be wrong… If I had to boil it down, [this] was a for vote to put performance over performativeness.”
Clara Jeffery, Mother Jones

“The goal [of renaming schools] was to advance equity by removing names of historical figures linked to slavery and colonialism. But instead of consulting scholars, the school board backed recommendations made by a committee whose research sources included Wikipedia, the History Channel website and erroneous interpretations of local news sites. The committee got important facts wrong about some of the people whose names it wanted to wipe from the schools — ‘embarrassing, avoidable, and credibility-destroying errors,’ local columnist Joe Eskenazi wrote at the time.…

“In the end, all that misdirected effort accomplished little. A judge ruled that the board couldn’t change the Lowell admissions policy because it had violated open-meeting laws. The board rescinded its plan to rename dozens of campuses after being ridiculed at home and across the nation… This wasn’t about a conservative backlash. It was just about a school board that didn’t do its job.”
Laurel Rosenhall, Los Angeles Times

“The recall happened for one reason, and one reason only: The extremely progressive school board completely neglected the actual needs of working families, engendering a backlash among conservatives, liberals, moderates, independents—basically everyone to the right of Robin DiAngelo. Of all the madness that Democratic controlled school boards and teachers union-beholden politicians have wrought during the pandemic, SFUSD's school closure policies stand head and shoulders above the rest. San Francisco schools remained closed for in-person learning until fall of 2021…  If you're more interested in scrubbing George Washington's name from a public school building than figuring out how to get children the in-person learning they need, maybe being a member of the school board is not the right job for you.”
Robby Soave, Reason

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“It’s easy to drool over the story line that the most progressive city in America just ousted three progressive school board members. But disagreements over politics had little to do with San Francisco parents’ decision to push for the first local recall in 39 years. Many, in fact, agreed with the broader goals of the three ousted board members…

“There were disputes over methodology, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a recall supporter who didn’t speak openly about wanting to close the racial achievement gaps in academic performance that recalled Commissioners Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga said they prioritized…

“In their endorsement interview with The Chronicle, Yes on Recall organizers Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen even spoke about the benefits of school renamings when executed with care and thoughtfulness. But holding progressive beliefs alone is no substitute for the job of governing.”
Editorial Board, San Francisco Chronicle

From the Right

“Progressives often claim they could transform America overnight if only they held the levers of power. Tuesday’s election in San Francisco shows that project suffers from one small flaw: It’s not what voters want… The recall effort was led and supported by liberals and progressives who saw this level of extremism and tone-deafness was out of bounds… The GOP is an afterthought in this one-party town. Only 6.7 percent of voters are registered Republicans…

“Still, Republicans can take advantage of these missteps. In Northern Virginia, parents who normally vote for Democrats crossed party lines to vote for now-Gov. Glenn Youngkin — largely motivated by their anger toward school boards. The party-switching was especially heavy in Loudoun County, the commonwealth’s most heavily Asian jurisdiction… Youngkin also won 53-to-47 among the 24 percent of Virginians who named education as their most important issue, a significant achievement given that Democrats traditionally own the issue.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

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