Three woke San Francisco school board members who invested more time on social justice issues – like the botched renaming of 44 schools – instead of reopening them during the pandemic have been ousted in a rare recall election funded largely in part by Silicon Valley billionaires and millionaires.
In a hot-button election, 70% of parents in the liberal city voted to recall the board members on Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Department of Elections.
The school board has seven members, all Democrats, but only three were eligible to be recalled: school board President Gabriela López, Vice President Faauuga Moliga and Commissioner Alison Collins.
The effort was well-funded by some of Silicon Valley’s billionaires and millionaires, led by early Apple investor Arthur Rock, who poured more than $500,000 of his billion-dollar fortune into the recall. PayPal CEO David Sacks – who has three children and opposes mask mandates and school closures – donated $75,000, and venture capitalist Garry Tan donated $26,000.
Among parents’ main frustrations were that the school board failed to address reopening schools during the pandemic, and instead focused their efforts on renaming 44 because they claimed they were named after ‘problematic’ American icons, like Paul Revere and Abraham Lincoln.
But committee members embarrassed themselves after it was revealed they did not consult historians and used inaccurate Wikipedia entries and other non-scholarly sources to determine which personalities were racist and problematic.
‘The city of San Francisco has risen up and said this is not acceptable to put our kids last,’ said Siva Raj, a parent who helped launch the recall effort.
‘Talk is not going to educate our children, it’s action. It’s not about symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name on a school, it is about helping kids inside the school building read and learn math.’
The school board also scrapped merit-based competitive admissions at elite $42,000-a-year Lowell High School, which disadvantaged Asian American students.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed is now tasked with appointing replacements to the board – who will also likely be Democrats.
‘The voters of this city have delivered a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,’ Mayor London Breed, who supported the recall, said in a statement. ‘San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well.’
The election was the first recall in San Francisco since 1983, since a failed attempt to remove then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein after she passed a handgun ban.
San Francisco School Board Commissioner Alison Collins was voted out during Tuesday’s recall election
School Board President Gabriela López (left) and Vice President Faauuga Moliga (right), both Democrats, were ousted by parents angered over their prioritizing of progressive initiatives over school reopening
Sarah Stettler, Jennie Lucas, and Elisa Smith cheer as they celebrate at the pro-recall party at Manny’s restaurant on Tuesday
David Thompson (left) poses for a selfie with his son Lucas Tamayo-Thompson and friend Leanna Louie (right) as they celebrate the board members’ recall on Tuesday in San Francsico
Billionaire and early Apple investor Arthur Rock, 95, poured more than $500,000 into the San Francisco school board recall campaign
Silicon Valley millionaire investors David Sacks (left) and Garry Tan (right) contributed $75,000 and $26,000, respectively, to help oust the three board members
Opponents called the recall a waste of time and money, as the district faces a number of challenges including a $125 million budget deficit and the need to replace retiring Superintendent Vincent Matthews.
But parents in the politically liberal city launched the recall effort in January 2021 out of frustration over the slow reopening of district schools, while the board pursued the renaming of 44 school sites and the elimination of merit-based competitive admissions at the elite $42,000-a-year Lowell High School.
The campaign to recall the three school board members attracted major donations from Rock, the 95-year-old billionaire who was an early investor in Intel and Apple; as well as Sacks and Tan.
Rock, who has an estimated net worth of $1.1billion, has given nearly $400,000 directly to two recall committees, and an additional $150,000 to two political action committees supporting the effort, reported The Daily Beast.
ERRORS MADE BY THE SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL RENAMING COMMITTEE:
Committee members allegedly used references from Wikipedia and other non-scholarly sources to determine which personalities were racist and problematic.
Several of those citations has now been proven to be factually incorrect:
1. One committee member urged that the name of acclaimed American poet James Russell Lowell should be stripped off a high school because a Wikipedia citation stated that he did ‘not want black people to vote’.
However, that claim is false – and scholarly articles assert that Lowell ‘unequivocally advocated giving the ballot to the recently freed slave’.
2. The committee concluded that Paul Revere’s name should be removed from a middle school after citing an article from the History Channel website.
Members alleged that Revere’s military activities were tied to ‘the conquest of the Penobscot Indians’, which was untrue.
3. James Lick – who resided in San Francisco – was also deemed ‘racist’ after members failed to critically read an article about the famous 19th century businessman.
The committee stated that Lick had funded a sculpture showing an American Indian lying at the feet of white men.
However, in actuality, Lick died 18 years before the sculpture was created, and it was only partially funded by his posthumous estate.
Public records indicate that during the 1980s and 1990s, Rock donated money mainly to Republican candidates and causes, but over the past three decades he has emerged as a major Democratic donor, including to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A major proponent of charter schools, Rock has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into school board elections in districts from coast to coast, including Los Angeles, Minnesota, New Mexico, Georgia and New York, reported Mission Local.
Additionally, Rock has donated some $12million to charter schools and organizations that promote charter schools all over the country. In San Francisco, the school board has been hostile to the proliferation of charter schools. Opponents of charter schools believe that charters draw the top students from regular public schools, leaving behind the most vulnerable students to be educated, with fewer resources, and reducing the overall quality of public education.
The second-highest donor to the recall effort in San Francisco is David Sacks, the founding COO of PayPal and general partner at his venture capital fund, Craft Ventures, who contributed $75,000 to push out the three school board members, after bankrolling a failed effort to recall Gov Gavin Newsom.
Sacks, who has been vocal about his opposition to school closures and mask mandates, tweeted after the vote on Tuesday: ‘Every child deserves a high-quality education. School boards and administrators work for parents and students, not the other way round. Competence matters more than ideology. That’s what San Francisco voters affirmed tonight.’
Garry Tan, co-founder of Initialized Capital, contributed just over $25,000 to the recall effort. Tan began donating to local elections last year, pouring $50,000 into a campaign to recall the ultra-progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who has been widely criticized as being soft-on-crime.
The mayor, one of the most prominent endorsers of the recall, praised the parents, saying they ‘were fighting for what matters most – their children.’
Several of controversial tweets penned by Collins in December 2016 targeting Asian-Americans are pictured
Siva Raj, a father-of-two tech entrepreneur, helped launch the recall effort alongside his partner Autumn Looijen (pictured together)
The pressures of the pandemic and distance learning have made school board races a hot-button topic as frustrations over pandemic measures reach a boiling point.
In a statement on Wednesday, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said that San Francisco parents were standing up to have their voices heard.
‘Over the past two years they have watched liberal school boards in their communities prioritize renaming schools over re-opening classrooms,’ he said. ‘School boards have used ‘equity’ and ‘social justice’ as an excuse to discriminate and lower standards for children. This is exactly what the San Francisco school board did and why three of their members were recalled in a landslide.’
Many commenters on Twitter greeted the news of the recall with glee, mixed with disbelief.
‘There is hope for #California yet! Mindblowing that this is in #SanFrancisco!’ tweeted one user. ‘The recall votes were not even close. This was a powerful statement!’
Another weighed in: ‘DANG I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS!! SUPER PROUD of California right now….and that is NOT a sentence I ever thought would be coming out of my mouth!’
In San Francisco, one of the nation’s most liberal cities, the recall effort split Democrats. Breed, a Democrat, had criticized the school board for being distracted by ‘political agendas.’
The ousted board members – Collins, Lopez and Moliga – had defended their records, saying they prioritized racial equity because that was what they were elected to do.
Both sides agreed that San Francisco’s school board and the city itself had embarrassed itself under the national spotlight.
One of the first issues to grab national attention was the board’s January 2021 decision to rename 44 schools they said honored public figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices. On the list were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and trailblazing US Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.
Instead of consulting historians to inform their decisions, the committee members used inaccurate Wikipedia entries to justify renaming the schools.
Several citations used in the debate have now been proven to be factually incorrect, including a false claim that American poet James Russell Lowell did not want black people to vote and that Paul Revere’s military activities were tied to ‘the conquest of the Penobscot Indians’.
Activist and first-grade teacher Jeremiah Jeffries, who led the committee, is said to have ‘ridiculed’ a proposal to bring in historians for consultation.
Jeffries reportedly stated: ‘What would be the point? History is written and documented pretty well across the board. And so, we don’t need to belabor history in that regard. We’re not debating that. There’s no point in debating history in that regard. Either it happened or it didn’t.’
He added: ‘Based on our criteria, it’s a very straightforward conversation. And so, no need to bring historians forward to say – they either pontificate and list a bunch of reasons why, or [say] they had great qualities. Neither are necessary in this discussion.’
The effort drew swift criticism and critics said it made a mockery of the country’s racial reckoning. Angry parents asked why the board would waste time renaming schools when the priority needed to be reopening classrooms.
One of the first issues to grab national attention was the board’s January 2021 decision to rename 44 schools they said honored public figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices. On the list were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and trailblazing U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein . Instead of consulting historians to inform their decisions, the committee members used inaccurate Wikipedia entries to justify renaming the schools. Activist and first-grade teacher Jeremiah Jeffries (pictured), who led the committee, is said to have ‘ridiculed’ a proposal to bring in historians for consultation
The school board’s plan to scrap merit-based admissions at the elite Lowell High School, where most students are Asian, drew ire from local parents
After an uproar, the school board scrapped the plan.
Collins came under fire again for tweets she wrote in 2016 that were widely criticized as racist. In them Collins, who is black, said Asian Americans used ‘white supremacist’ thinking to get ahead and were racist toward black students.
Racism against Asian Americans has come under a renewed focus since reports of attacks and discrimination escalated with the spread of the coronavirus, which first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China.
Collins said the tweets were taken out of context and posted before she held her school board position. She refused to take them down or apologize for the wording and ignored calls to resign from parents, Breed and other public officials.
Collins turned around and sued the district and her colleagues for $87million, fueling yet another pandemic sideshow. The suit was later dismissed.
Moliga (far right) canvassed with Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu, left, and Gaynor Siataga, right, before polls closed on Tuesday
Many Asian parents were already angered by the board’s efforts to end merit-based admissions at the elite Lowell High School, where Asian students are the majority.
As a result, many Asian American residents were motivated to vote for the first time in a municipal election. The grassroots Chinese/API Voter Outreach Task Force, which formed in mid-December, said it registered 560 new Asian American voters.
Ann Hsu, a mother of two who helped found the task force, said many Chinese voters saw the effort to change the Lowell admissions system as a direct attack.
‘It is so blatantly discriminatory against Asians,’ she said. In the city’s Chinese community, Lowell is viewed as a path children can take to success.
SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO RENAME 44 SCHOOLS OVER ‘DISHONOROABLE LEGACIES’ OF NAMESAKES:
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: U.S. president targeted for his treatment of indigneous people, Abraham Lincoln High School.
GEORGE WASHINGTON: The first U.S. president and a slave owner, George Washington High School.
VASCO NUNEZ DE BALBOA: A Spanish explorer targeted by the board over colonization and abuses of indigenous people, Balboa High School.
MISSION DOLORES: The 7th mission founded by Spanish settlers in their quest to colonize and evangelize the native peoples of California, Mission High School.
JAMES R. LOWELL: While initially involved in the movement to abolish slavery, the poet’s support wavered over the years, Lowell High School.
JAMES DENMAN: Founder of first S.F. school and first superintendent, a racist leader who denied Chinese students a public education, James Denman Middle School.
EDWARD EVERETT: An American statesman who a speech in 1826 in which he appeared to endorse slavery, despite his arguments that he rejected the slave trade and the act of kidnapping someone into slavery, Everett Middle School.
HERBERT HOOVER: U.S. president: African-American leaders condemned various aspects of the Hoover administration, including his unwillingness to push for a federal anti-lynching law, Herbert Hoover Middle School.
JAMES LICK: A land baron whose estate funded the controversial ‘Early Days’ statue depicting Native Americans in a demeaning manner, James Lick Middle School.
PRESIDIO: S.F. military post estalished in 1776 as Spain’s northern-most outpost of colonial power, Presidio Middle School.
THEODORE OR F.D. ROSSEVELT: Both U.S. Presidents. Teddy Roosevelt held Racist attitudes toward Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Filipinos during the Spanish-American War; F.D received heavy criticism for his internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, Roosevelt Middle School.
HENRY WARE LAWTON: An officer in the U.S. Civil War, Lawton K-8
CLAIRE LILIENTHAL: A S.F. school board member, two school sites
PAUL REVERE: A Patriot in the American Revolution, Paul Revere K-8
ALAMO: A poplar tree or the site of Texas Revolution battle, Alamo Elementary
PEDRO DE ALVARADO: A conquistador, Alvarado Elementary,
EDWIN BRYANT: The author penned editorials supporting the anti-Catholic nativism movement and a series of racist attacks on Vice President Richard Mentor Johnson for his black common law wife and two mixed race daughters, Bryan Elementary
EDWARD HYDE: The English politician and Earl of Clarendon, Clarendon Elementary Second Community and Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program
EL DORADO: Mythical City of Gold, El Dorado Elementary
DIANNE FEINSTEIN: The US Senator replaced a Condererate Flag at City Hall while the Mayor of San Francisco in 1984, Dianne Feinstein Elementary
JAMES GARFIELD: US President, Garfield Elementary
WILLIAM HENRY GRATTAN : An Irish author regarded as controversial due to the inaccuracy of some of his work, Grattan Elementary
THOMAS JEFFERSON: U.S. president and a slave owner, Jefferson Elementary
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY: Composer of ‘Star Spangled Banner’, Francis Scott Key Elementary
FRANK MCCOPPIN: San Francisco Mayor, Frank McCoppin Elementary
WILLIAM MCKINLEY: US President, McKinley’s expansionist policies are now widely viewed as racist toward indigenous people, McKinley Elementary
JAMES WILSON MARSHALL: Sawmill worker at Sutter’s Mill, who reported the finding of gold at Coloma on the American River in California on January 24, 1848, sparking the California Gold Rush, Marshall Elementary
JAMES MONROE: US President and slave owner, Monroe Elementary
JOHN MUIR: The naturalist made comments that invoked racist stereotypes made toward black people, John Muir Elementary
JOSE ORTEGA: A Spanish colonizer, Jose Ortega Elementary
JOSE BERNARDO SANCHEZ: A Spanish missionary, Sanchez Elementary
JUNIPERO SERRA: Elementary, Spanish priest to be renamed due to colonization and abuses of indigenous people Serra Elementary
GEN. PHILIP SHERIDAN: A Union General in the American Civil War, Sheridan Elementary
GEN. WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN: According to some reports, Sherman did not believe in equality between white and black people despite being a genera in the Northern Army during the Civil War, Sherman Elementary
JOHN SLOAT: Navy officer and a colonizer who ‘claimed/stole’ California from Mexico, Commodore Sloat Elementary
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON: Author, Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary
ADOLPH SUTRO: S.F. mayor accused of discriminating against black people in the 19th century who wanted to visit the baths named after him, Sutro Elementary
DON ANTONIO DE ULLOA: Spanish General and the the first Spanish governor of Louisiana, Ulloa Elementary
DANIEL WEBSTER: U.S. Statesman who urged northerners to respect slavery in the South and to assist in the return of fugitive slaves to their owners, Daniel Webster Elementary
NORIEGA: Unclear, Noriega Early Education School
PRESIDIO: San Francisco Military Post formerly established by the Spanish, Presidio EES
ROBERT F STOCKTON: Navy Commodore who captured California during the Mexican–American War, Stockton EES