Are you frustrated by the way San Francisco’s public schools are run but don’t know what to do about it? I’ve heard from many people who are upset that the school board seems more focused on renaming schools than safely reopening them. 1/35
Parents want to know if the school board can be recalled. Or if we can stop electing the school board in a low information/low turnout race and let the mayor appoint competent school commissioners. I put together a 101 explainer with pros and cons. 2/35
When school board members recently debated appropriate school names, it took seven hours to bring up what should be the only topic of every meeting: how to better teach students in a pandemic. 3/35
Kids who haven’t been in a classroom for a year are falling behind in academic and social development. Parents are stressed. Meanwhile, the private schools that serve a third of San Francisco's children are open. 4/35
Some schools honoring conquistadors or slave owners absolutely warrant a name change. But the widely reported incompetence of the renaming process undermined the entire effort. 5/35…
Without any expert historian input, it was based on cursory Wikipedia searches and riddled with errors. This was a tipping point. 6/35
How could parents expect the elected school board to handle the complexities of providing a good education to 57,000 students when the renaming committee didn’t know whether Roosevelt Middle School referred to Teddy or FDR? 7/35…
The school board’s answer was to cancel both presidents. But students need a school board willing to do more critical thinking than that. 8/35
THE RECALL SOLUTION: Recalling the school board isn’t easy. There are seven members and you would need to mount seven separate recalls to replace the board. To qualify for the ballot, each recall requires 52,100 signatures. 9/35
Online signatures don’t count. They must be pen on paper, collected in person during a pandemic. You would ideally need 70k signatures for each school board member because the Dept. of Elections verifies the signatures and many can be disqualified for a number of reasons. 10/35
Collecting all those signatures within a deadline of 160 days will take a lot of resources. Imagine the logistics of volunteers standing outside grocery stores with seven clipboards in hand, asking people to sign seven different recall sheets. 11/35
The pandemic limits where you can get lots of signatures in a short time. Muni stations at rush hour aren’t an option. A massive network of volunteers would have to get the signatures from their neighbors. 12/35
Realistically, the effort will require paid signature gatherers — at up to $5 per signature. A recall will depend on serious fundraising. 13/35
Timing is another issue. The four school board members just elected last November are not eligible for a recall until at least six months into their term. You can’t begin a recall effort for them until after July 2021. 14/35
The three remaining school board members cannot be recalled less than six months before their term ends January 2023. So there is a limited window when all seven school board members can be recalled. 15/35
There’s a catch: If the effort to recall Gov. Newsom qualifies, a special election fall 2021 could complicate timing for a local school board recall. Election law is complex and lawyers on both sides of a recall will try to get those complexities to work in their favor. 16/35
Local recall elections are different from statewide recalls. When a governor is recalled statewide, voters simultaneously decide to recall the governor and pick a replacement. In San Francisco, a recall only removes the person from office. Voters do not pick a replacement. 17/35
The mayor appoints a replacement who must run for a full term at the next regularly scheduled election. Read the Department of Election’s “Guide to Recalling Local Elected Officials. 18/35 “…
THE CHARTER AMENDMENT SOLUTION: A charter amendment isn’t a recall. It fundamentally changes how the school board is formed. Currently, we directly elect school board members. 19/35
A charter amendment could eliminate school board elections and have the mayor appoint qualified commissioners to decide school policies. This is how schools are run in major cities like New York and Chicago. 20/35
School board elections are low turnout and voter information is even lower. Each member of today’s school board was elected by less than 17 percent of the vote. Most voters don’t know anything about the candidates, which are elected by narrow special interest groups. 21/35
Many school board members over years did not have kids or any connection to education. The position is commonly used as a platform for higher office. 22/35
Mayoral appointments to the school board could ensure more qualified members who are experts in useful areas like finance in addition to education policy. 23/35
The criteria for a certain number of appointments could include having kids who attend public schools. Parents would have better representation. 24/35
There would be accountability with mayoral appointments because everyone knows who the mayor is. The education platforms of mayoral candidates would have great importance and people could vote the mayor in or out of office based on how well the schools were run. 25/35
Changing the formation of the school board from direct election to mayoral appointees would be novel in San Francisco. It will require election lawyers to navigate the complicated state education code and how state law interacts with our city charter. 26/35
Here’s how charter amendments work: The charter is the city Constitution. Amending it requires 52,100 signatures to put an amendment on the ballot. The signature collection must be in-person with pen on paper. 27/35
You have six months to gather enough signatures, but you must deliver them three months before the next election. Otherwise you have to wait until the election after that. 28/35
For timing, charter amendments can only happen on regularly scheduled elections. If there is a special election to recall the governor, we cannot put a charter amendment on that ballot. The June 2022 primary is the soonest we can change how the school board is formed. 29/35
Read the Department of Election’s “Guide to Qualifying Initiative Charter Amendments” 30/35…
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS: If a recall or charter amendment is not possible, the last recourse is to replace the incumbent school board members by voting them out when they are up for re-election in November 2022. 31/35
Doing so will require recruiting qualified candidates now and organizing parents, friends and neighbors in every part of the city to promote one slate of candidates to replace the incumbents. 32/35
It will take an extraordinary effort to overcome the powerful political machines and unions that back their own candidates for purposes beyond education. They are investing in the next generation of higher office holders. 33/35
Many supervisors at City Hall over the years started at the school board. If you care about how the Board of Supervisors handles citywide issues, the current school board members are a preview of what is to come. 34/35
Click link if you want to receive my email newsletter for school board reform. You’ll get updates on efforts that are in the works:… 35/35

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