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Huge majority of San Francisco voters recall school board members

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly recalled all three Board of Education commissioners on the ballot during Tuesday’s election, according to preliminary results.

Initial results released by the San Francisco Department of Elections show 79 percent of voters agreed to recall Commissioner Alison Collins; 75 percent of voters agreed to recall Board President Gabriela Lopez; and 72 percent agreed to recall Board Vice President Faauuga Moliga.

Just over one in four registered voters cast a ballot in the $8 million election, the lowest voter turnout in San Francisco since 2009. As of 10:37 p.m. Tuesday night, 130,302 ballots had been counted, with 10,584 votes being cast in person on Election Day.

Once the final election results are confirmed, Mayor Breed would be tasked with appointing replacements to serve the remaining respective terms of the recalled commissioners.

The recall was organized by the group Recall School Board Members Lopez, Collins, and Moliga — made up of more than 1,000 volunteers that include parents, educators, and other residents. The group gathered nearly 80,000 signatures, well above the amount needed to make the ballot.

The group gained support, in part, due to dissatisfaction with the prolonged closure of San Francisco Unified School District schools during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although elementary schools reopened in April 2021, middle schools and high schools remained closed for in-person learning for the entire school year and reopened in the Fall 2021.

According to recall organizers, commissioners Lopez, Moliga, and Collins were the only commissioners eligible for recall because they have been sitting on the board the longest, not including commissioners who’ve won recent reelections.

The recall comes as the district is facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million for the next fiscal year, prompting intervention by the California Department of Education.

Both Mayor London Breed and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, among other city and state leaders, supported the recall effort.

Breed said in a statement on Tuesday night in response to initial voting results:

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.”

Breed added:

There are many critical decisions in the coming months — addressing a significant budget deficit, hiring a new superintendent, and navigating our emergence from this pandemic. These are on top of the structural issues the district has faced for years that include declining enrollment and fixing our school assignment system to better serve families and our students. The school district has a lot of work to do, and the city is ready to offer support as we all move forward.”

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the United Educators of San Francisco have both come out against the recall. Both labor unions represent thousands of SFUSD staff.

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