Four Reasons to Recall the School Board

Get politics out of school

San Francisco's public school system is in turmoil: trust in the institution is at an all-time low, parents are angry, teachers are frustrated, children are being denied a quality public education, and our elected leaders seem to care more about progressive purity than competence. The Board of Education has ruined our public school system and made San Francisco a laughingstock.

I, along with roughly 60% of San Franciscans, support the recall of Board of Education members Alison Collins and Gabriela López.

The recall won't fix all of our problems, but it is an important first step. Below, I'll explain how we got here, why I support the recall, and the reforms we can make to fix our schools.

If you already support the recall, donate today, and if you're an SF resident print & sign the petition.

The School Board is a Progressive pipeline to office

Matt Haney, Jane Kim, Sandra Lee Fewer, Shamann Walton, Norman Yee, and Eric Mar -- what do they all have in common? They're all Progressive elected officials who used the Board of Education as a stepping stone to higher office.

This Progressive pipeline has been well-known among liberals in San Francisco for years, but we have consistently failed to stop it. The Progs have their people run for school board in order to increase their name recognition, making it easier to run for office. Ideologues more concerned with Progressive purity politics end up setting policy for our kids instead of competent professionals.

The endorsements for Alison Collins are a who’s-who of Progressive organizations that run the city. As you'd expect, the League of Pissed Off Voters endorsed Alison Collins and Gabriela López in 2018, Matt Haney in 2016, and Shamann Walton in 2014. Unfortunately, I can't find any archives of their endorsements from before then, but I wouldn't be surprised if they endorsed every single Progressive who sought to use the school board to launch their political career. They're part of the Progressive machine, after all.

Rather than elect education professionals who would apply best-practices and improve the performance of our public schools, the Progressive machine sought only to perpetuate their own power.

Why recall

I recommend you pause here and read Families for SF's "Our Take on SF School Board Recall" -- they do a fantastic job covering all the issues. But I'll also excerpt the top-line summaries below.

On Gabriela Lopez:

We support the recall of President López for multiple reasons. She has not been performing to the minimum standard as the leader of the school board. During this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, she has been unable to meet the moment and focus on the critical needs of the SFUSD student body.  Time and again, President López has ignored prescribed processes in managing meetings and taking Board actions, demonstrated extreme bias and abused her power and position to harass or diminish the voice of constituents.

On Alison Collins:

Commissioner (and former Vice President) Collins has failed to perform to the minimum standard of a vice president, disregarded proper processes, abused her office to harass and diminish constituents, demonstrated extreme bias in her actions on the Board, and has continually disrupted the proper functioning of the Board --  all while failing to focus on the critical needs of the SFUSD student body during the pandemic.

Performing to the minimum standard

Neither Alison Collins nor Gabriela López adequately performed their duties. López, as president of the school board, was responsible for setting meeting agenda and ensuring everything operated smoothly. She consistently pushed discussion of reopening to the end of every meeting despite it being the highest priority issue for parents and students.

What did López think was more important? Cancelling George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and renaming the schools. The school renaming effort produced a shockingly ignorant and factually incorrect spreadsheet (which was deleted, and which I have mirrored), detailing all the crimes our historical public figures are accused of. For a full picture of the nonsense, you should read the report by Families for SF, and the coverage in Mission Local.

López also gave an absolutely incredible interview with The New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner on her work to rename our schools. Her ignorance, rejection of expertise, and doublespeak is on full display: 

Chotiner: You’re talking about the learning of history and its importance. Did the committee want historians to testify? And why or why not?

López: So, it’s hard for me to answer that question without just pointing to [committee statements that] “they did not want to include historians.” I think that that’s not the process that they created. They included a diverse set of community members, people with a set of experiences that contribute to these discussions, people from different backgrounds who are also educated in their own rights.

[...]

Chotiner: You were talking earlier about how, no matter whom we uplift, history needs to be taught. Since you’re highlighting the importance of history, I was curious if historians had testified. And it seems like they hadn’t.

López: Right. My work is in sharing with students this understanding of our history. I think that for me, it’s important to uplift.

[...]

Chotiner: The reason I bring this up is that some of the historical reasoning behind these decisions has been contested [...] factual things like Paul Revere’s name being removed for the Penobscot Expedition, which was not actually about the colonization of Native American lands. And so there were questions about whether historians should have been involved to check these things.

López: I see what you’re saying. So, for me, I guess it’s just the criteria was created to show if there were ties to these specific themes, right? White supremacy, racism, colonization, ties to slavery, the killing of indigenous people, or any symbols that embodied that. And the committee shared that these are the names that have these ties. 

[...]

Chotiner: I guess part of the problem is that the ties may not be what the committee said they were. That’s why I brought it up.

López: So then you go into discrediting the work that they’re doing.

Despite the obvious lies and inaccuracies that the renaming committee cooked up, the fact that López thought renaming schools was more important than reopening schools is grounds for immediate dismissal.

There was no plan to reopen

Collins was right alongside López during all of this, and she was the main reason the board didn't create a plan to reopen. ​​According to this tweet thread, Collins killed a potential contract for reopening schools because the contractor used to work for charter schools:

Beyond the rejection of a qualified consultant over his links to charter schools, the school board failed to find an alternative! Instead of finding another well-qualified consultant to help make a reopening plan, they instead chose to do nothing.

I'm sure you're thinking "well, that's because it wasn't safe to reopen schools." But in San Francisco private schools reopened with adequate safety measures while public schools stayed closed. No outbreaks of covid were caused by private schools because kids were masked and inter-group contact was minimized. The CDC has long recommended that schools reopen, even without vaccination, because education loss is a more important public health concern for children.

San Francisco is among the last cities in the US to reopen its public schools, despite having among the lowest rates of transmission and highest vaccination rates! Yet again, Progressive orthodoxy caused further inequality between those wealthy enough to afford private school and everyone else.

Picking up the slack from the clearly incompetent school board, the Mayor had the Department of Youth & Their Families and the SF Rec and Parks Department open "community learning hubs" for co-located remote learning. These hubs had zero Covid-19 outbreaks. Clearly we knew how to do this correctly; it was just incompetence (or maybe malice) from the school board that kept kids out of the classroom.

This affected kids of working class parents most of all. Parents had to make the impossible choice of working their essential jobs or staying home with their kids to make sure they got a good education. This put a financial and emotional strain on families already struggling to make it in San Francisco. When challenged by the Chronicle's Heather Knight about the impact this is having on kids, López simply denied it was a real problem:

“They are learning more about their families and their cultures, spending more time with each other,” López said. “They’re just having different learning experiences than the ones we currently measure, and the loss is a comparison to a time when we were in a different space.”

Simply put, we failed them.

Bullying and anti-Asian racism

I wish the recall were only about incompetence, but it's also about malice. Alison Collins has a long history of bullying her opponents and accusing them of racism in order to discredit them. So it's only fitting that her own racism came back to bite her.

In recently resurfaced tweets, Collins uses a racial slur to describe people of Asian descent that don't align with her political views:

This controversy was heavily covered by both local and national media and led to the school board stripping her of her Vice President title (notably, Gabriela ​​López was the only person besides Collins to vote against this). Collins found those consequences intolerable and sued the school district for $87 million in response -- all while schools remained closed and the district’s budget is stretched thin.

Collins has still not apologized.

Ending advanced instruction for gifted kids

As someone who participated in many gifted and advanced placement programs, I find this malpractice particularly galling. Gabriela López and Alison Collins led the charge to stop offering algebra in middle school and end merit-based admissions at Lowell.

Collins, continuing her pattern of abuse and lies, attacked student journalists at Lowell who wanted to keep the current admissions system:

Before the vote, Collins blasted high school journalists at The Lowell on Twitter for sharing a petition to keep the current admissions system, and for not covering a racist incident at the school. Neither accusation was true. Collins apologized, but never explained why she was publicly slamming teenagers in the first place.

I took algebra in middle school and think all kids ready for more advanced instruction should have access. Collins and López think it's more important that we delay instruction so pass rates can be artificially higher. I think this is not just flawed logic, but actively harmful to an entire generation of kids.

Next steps

If you haven't already, donate to the recall, if you're an SF resident print & sign the petition, and share this article with your friends.

I just ran a donation matching campaign with my friend Sachin, and we raised over $35,000 in just a week. Maybe we can hit $50,000?

Twitter avatar for @sbussSteven Buss 🥑 🌐 @sbuss
Incredible! The board of education recall WILL WIN if it makes it to the ballot. We need $30k now to hit the next signature milestone by end of July. I'm joining @agarwal in matching every dollar up to $5k, donate and send me a screenshot!
recallsfschoolboard.org/#donate

Sachin Agarwal @agarwal

The School Board recall needs $30k NOW to hit their next signature goal. I'm matching up to $10k to make this happen. This is the most impactful thing you can do to help fix San Francisco. Send me a screenshot after you donate so I can match.

Our work isn't over once the recall is done. We need to fix how the school board is chosen to stop the Progressive pipeline. There's a campaign to move to an appointed school board trying to get on the ballot by June 2022, which I will support. I'll share news of that as I learn it.

But while we have an elected school board, we need to elect people who actually care about education and not their own political careers. I recommend joining Grow SF, which I'm involved with, so you get our common sense voter guide every election.

Fixing our city happens slowly, step by step, together.