San Francisco voters removed three members of the Board of Education on Tuesday in a recall election fuelled by widespread concern and fury. The vote brought to a close a painful chapter in the city’s history that had been marked by infighting, charges of racism, and a flurry of litigation.
When preliminary results were revealed shortly before 9 p.m. Pacific time, more than 70% of voters backed the recall of each board member, and one of the board members acknowledged defeat. The votes cast represented around one-quarter of the total number of registered voters in the city, and turnout was not anticipated to be much higher.
The members, Alison Collins, Gabriela López, and Faauuga Moliga, were removed from their posts on the seven-member board, which was presided over by Ms. Lopez, who had served as president. Members appointed by Mayor London Breed will take their places on the council.
Activists hailed the recall as a triumph for parents who were outraged that the district spent so much time last year debating whether or not to rename a third of its schools instead of working on getting them back open. A show of Asian American political strength, it also proved to be a rallying moment for Chinese voters in particular, who came out in exceptionally high numbers for the election.
After hearing about similar debates in other cities, many Chinese voters were outraged when the school board decided to institute a lottery admission system for Lowell High School, the district’s most prestigious institution, thereby eliminating requirements that were primarily based on grades and test scores. The move echoed similar debates in other cities. Last year, a court determined that the board had breached processes when it made the decision to modify.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive prosecutor, faces a recall election in June. The recall campaign is being driven by moderate San Franciscans who are concerned about an increase in property crime and hate crimes during the coronavirus outbreak. Ms. Breed is standing for re-election in the next election.
There are a variety of historical figures commemorated in the names of the targeted schools, including Abraham Lincoln and the three other presidents chiselled into Mount Rushmore; Spanish conquerors such as Vasco Nez de Balboa; naturalist and author John Muir, as well as Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere
The board of directors decided to put the renaming process on hold after receiving a storm of criticism, notably from Ms. Breed. In its processes, the board was found to have violated a California statute requiring open meetings, according to a court.
During a time when signature collection for the recall campaign was well underway, it was revealed that the board’s vice president had sent several contentious tweets. The board’s critics rose in number and strength as time went on. In them, she said that Asian Americans were similar to slaves who benefitted from working within a slave owner’s home – a connection that Asian American organisations and many city authorities denounced as being discriminatory.
Historically, Asian American voters in San Francisco have punched below their weight in recent years, accounting for just approximately 18 percent of active voters in previous elections, a far cry from their 34 percent share of the city’s total vote. Supporters of Tuesday’s recall election, on the other hand, claim that Asian Americans played an outsized role.
Mr. Raj, the father from San Francisco, noted that participation was particularly high in areas with substantial Asian populations, as well as a relatively high return rate among those who requested a vote in Chinese, among other findings.
After registering more than 500 Chinese people in the months leading up to the election, Ann Hsu, a San Francisco resident who has two high school kids enrolled in the public school system, was recognised. Education, she said, was a significant problem.
During her time as a P.T.A. president at a high school and as head of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, an organisation that reviews the district’s use of money collected via bond issues, Ms. Hsu said she had gained an understanding of some of the inner workings of the district. The oversight committee was established last year after a whistle-blower alerted the city attorney’s office to the fact that the school system had neglected to establish the board, which is required by state law.
Ms. Meredith W. Dodson, president and CEO of the San Francisco Parent Coalition, which was founded during the flu epidemic to lobby the district into reopening schools, described the recall effort as a “strong expression of parental involvement.”