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(SAN FRANCISCO) — As school board meetings across the country grow increasingly contentious, parents’ pushback over COVID-19 regulations and virtual learning has brought matters to a head in San Francis. There, voters head to the polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of three school board members in an unprecedented recall election.
San Francisco School Board President Gabriela López and board members Faauuga Moliga and Alison Collins could all be recalled on Tuesday.
The recall effort began in January last year as tensions rose during the pandemic, with parents saying council members misplaced their priorities, focusing their attention on social issues rather than coping strategies. pandemic reopening at a time when many other school districts were open.
In April, council members scrapped plans to rename a third of the city’s public schools after historical figures linked to injustice following backlash from parents. The board said it would review the plan after students return to in-person learning.
“They would spend the first seven hours talking about renaming the schools or they would spend the first seminar wondering if a gay dad was diverse enough to be on the parent advisory council,” Autumn Looijen, co-campaign manager at Recall the SF School Board, told ABC News. “These things are important. But when you’re dealing with this urgent crisis, they’re not what you should be focusing on.”
Each member will be elected individually and a simple majority is sufficient for the recall to succeed. If the recall is accepted, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who supports the recall, will be responsible for appointing replacements to fill their remaining terms until an election is held for the three positions in November.
The recall energizes an influx of voters. As of Monday, more than 500,000 mail-in ballots were issued and more than 115,100 ballots were returned, according to the San Francisco Board of Elections.
Among those who vote are non-citizens, who are eligible to vote in local school board elections in San Francisco.
In this election, non-citizens of San Francisco enjoy that right more than ever. At least 258 non-citizens are eligible to vote and more than 120 have already voted in this historic election. That’s a significant increase from the previous school board election in 2020, when just 31 noncitizens cast ballots.
However, it’s not just those who live, work and have children in San Francisco who are stepping up to support the recall. Financial records show the election was largely funded by donations from major donors who do not have children in the public school district.
Campaign finance records show some of the biggest financial contributors are 95-year-old billionaire Arthur Rock and PayPal COO David Sacks, who contributed nearly $400,000 and more than $74,000, respectively. .
The large contributions of the super-rich are a sticking point for many against the recall.
“Anyone who follows this campaign knows that billionaires are trying to buy out public education,” Frank Lara, executive vice president of United Educators of San Francisco, said in an ad encouraging people to vote “No” in the San Francisco elections. Tuesday.
Reminder efforts continue to thrust the subject of education into the spotlight as it becomes more entrenched in policy textbooks. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin seized on the issue during his successful run for governor following comments by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe that parents shouldn’t tell schools what to teach in a debate.
It’s a trend that doesn’t escape Collins as she reflects on how she came to fight for her job.
“Honestly, I think it’s part of a national trend that we’re seeing. There’s an unprecedented number of recalls and also outrage campaigns happening around school boards,” Collins told ABC News.
In 2022, 25 school board recall efforts are launched against 66 officials nationwide, according to data tracked by Ballotpedia. There are six in California alone. It follows a year in which more than double the average recalls were issued at 92, according to Ballotpedia.
Now, López, Moliga and Collins are awaiting polls to close and votes to be tallied in an election seen as another referendum on tough COVID policies as the midterms approach.
Tuesday’s election is the first time since 1983 that voters in San Francisco have considered removing an elected official from office, when then-mayor Dianne Feinstein survived a recall vote.
Looijen and fellow parent Siva Raj’s efforts, which began around a kitchen table last year, showcase the new avenues parents are taking when it comes to their children’s educational futures after some say virtual learning has disrupted student success.
“I think there’s a common thread that public education is a vital government service. It’s one of the essential public services that we expect in any of these situations. And when you take that away , you’ll have angry and frustrated parents. Guaranteed,” Raj said.
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