San Francisco recalls 3 school board members amid debate about pandemic priorities

Voters overwhelmingly supported the effort to recall the three board members.

February 16, 2022, 3:30 AM

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots to remove three members of the city’s school board Tuesday night, marking the first time in the city’s history members of the board have been recalled.

In an election marred by debate about the board’s push for social justice causes, such as renaming schools while they were still closed, board president Gabriela López and board members Faauuga Moliga and Alison Collins were all ousted with more than 70% of voters backing the effort to recall them, results from the San Francisco Board of Elections showed.

“As the first results post for the recall election, it appears we were unsuccessful at defeating my recall,” Moliga said on his Facebook page. “We fought hard and ran a great campaign. I want to thank the Pacific Islander community for standing up and taking on this challenge. There are many more fights ahead of us.”

The three members will now be replaced with appointees selected by Mayor London Breed, who endorsed the recall, until another election is held for the positions in November.

Facing a recall, San Francisco school board member Faauuga Moliga canvasses with Dr. Ponipate Rokolekutu, left, and Gaynor Siataga, right, before polls close, Feb. 15, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif.
Bront Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle via Polaris

In a statement Tuesday night, Breed said that voters “delivered a clear message that the School Board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else” and recognized “all the parents who tirelessly organized and advocated in the last year.”

“Elections can be difficult, but these parents were fighting for what matters most -- their children,” Breed said. “It’s time we refocus our efforts on the basics of providing quality education for all students, while more broadly improving how this City delivers support for children and families.”

When reached for comment by ABC News, Autumn Looijen, campaign co-lead at Recall the SF School Board, said over text that the reaction in her house was “total celebration.”

“It’s one thing to think you’ll win,” she said. “Quite another once it’s real.”

San Francisco’s recall has drawn widespread attention amid a year in which 25 recall efforts have been launched against 66 officials nationwide, according to tracking by Ballotpedia.

A pedestrian walks past a San Francisco Unified School District office building in San Francisco, California, on Feb. 3, 2022.
Jeff Chiu/AP

“School boards are where the rubber meets the road when it comes to Americans meeting their government,” ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said of the recall. “Schools, for better or worse, are the battlefront. They’re where the major issues of 2022 are colliding for so many Americans.”

Financial documents reviewed by ABC News show the effort in San Francisco has largely been bankrolled by big donors who don’t have children in the district.

According to campaign finance records, some of the biggest backers are 95-year-old billionaire Arthur Rock and PayPal COO David Sacks, who contributed nearly $400,000 and more than $74,000, respectively.

“You’d never think that a liberal member of a school board in San Francisco would have to worry about his or her job,” Klein said. “The power of the arguments that are being put forward and on display in this recall election, I think will animate so many campaigns up and down the ballot for state and national political office in 2022.”

ABC News' Zohreen Shah, Lalee Ibssa, Ashley Riegle and Knez Walker contributed to this report.

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