San Francisco school board recall should leave conservatives optimistic in the education fight

San Francisco school board members face recall election

Claudia Cowan reports on school district under fire over COVID-19 pandemic priorities.

In a closely watched recall election, San Francisco voters decisively ousted three school board members who had spent the pandemic engaging in woke theater while the city’s schools remained shuttered. 

With over 100,000 votes cast, 79 percent of voters opted to recall board member Alison Collins, 75 percent to recall board president Gabriela López, and 73 percent to boot board member Faauuga Moliga. Mayor London Breed is now charged with appointing replacements.

A pedestrian walks past a San Francisco Unified School District office building in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The three were targeted in an effort launched by single parents and local tech professionals Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen. Raj and Looijen have said that they were moved to act out of sheer frustration, as the city’s schools stayed remote for almost the whole of last year—even as the school board waded into a series of culture clashes. While Collins, Lopez, and Moliga sought to depict the recall as an insidious right-wing plot (in San Francisco!), the consensus that the school board had beclowned the city proved to be a unifying theme in the deep-blue city.

Both of the city’s staunchly progressively newspapers supported the recall, with the San Francisco Chronicle opining that the board had “failed irredeemably” during the pandemic while the San Francisco Examiner’s editorial board judged that board members had “put political grandstanding ahead of progress for children,” and become a “national laughingstock.”

It’s hard to quarrel with such assessments. As Ryan Mills drily noted in National Review:

Instead of focusing its efforts on developing a reopening plan, the board has been preoccupied with woke culture war issues . . . rechristening 44 schools named after prominent Americans, including presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington [and proposing] to spend close to $1 million to paint over a historic, 80-year-old mural at a local school that depicts the life of Washington . . . [There was] national ridicule last February after a two-hour debate over whether a gay white dad was diverse enough to join an all-female volunteer parent committee. All the while, the district’s budget deficit ballooned to about $125 million last year, leading California education officials to threaten a state takeover.

The San Francisco results are one more reminder as to why conservatives should remain optimistic that we’re ultimately going to win the fight to protect and strengthen core values in K-12 schooling. While Americans want schools to talk responsibly about slavery, the legacy of racism, and our challenges, they also reject woke efforts to expunge Lincoln and Washington. Three-quarters of black and white Americans, alike, believe that it’s important to teach the “traditional values of Western civilization.” 

Similarly, progressive demographics guru Ruy Teixeira has noted that most Latinos think America is “a fair society where everyone has a chance to get ahead” and that, by more than 3 to 1, they’d “rather be a citizen of the United States than any other country.”

Even in San Francisco, it turns out that voters want schools to be open, budgets to be balanced, and woke lunacy to be curbed. These issues hit parents where they live. They’re about whether schools are doing their job and what values their kids are bringing home from school.

Remember: Teacher union muscle and the woke liturgy couldn’t muster one-third of the recall vote even in San Francisco. This highlights the opportunity ahead for conservatives in the battle for America’s schools, if we take care to advance shared values, speak to practical concerns, and avoid the siren call of desperation.

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