With the school board recall finally complete, what’s next for education policy in San Francisco?


“We have all these other huge, huge issues that we have to tackle that absolutely impact what happens in our schools, and yet we are only talking about these three people on the school board,” a- she declared.

The council’s future direction will be determined in part by Mayor London Breed’s selection of three new commissioners, who could take up their duties 10 days after the Oversight Council certifies the election results – likely in early March.

On Wednesday, Breed held a press conference outlining his process for selecting new board members, emphasizing candidates who can handle the district’s finances and promising to focus on “all those kids who don’t have no defenders”.

To the chagrin of many opponents of the recallwho lamented the huge sums donated by charter supporters and vouchers to the recall campaign, Breed declined to rule out the nomination of a board member who supports the expansion of charter schools in the city, or the use of public funds for private schools.

“There were a lot of different types of people who were involved in pushing for this recall from all walks of life,” Breed said. “And attributing it to a group of people is really not fair to the work that so many grassroots people who have children in our public school system have done.”

Ann Hsu, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association of Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, Breed’s alma mater, is an early favorite to be named to the board. As chair of the district’s Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, she would come to her position with knowledge of the school’s finances.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Hsu led the voter registration drive for hundreds of Chinese American residents, as well as noncitizen relatives who were able to vote in the election.

Laurance Lee speaks during a press conference held by the Chinese Voter Outreach Task Force/API on January 14, 2021. He fears the city is approaching a ‘cliff of interest’ for the school policy. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Whichever race is chosen, it will face two immediate challenges: choosing a new superintendent to manage the day-to-day affairs of the district and dealing with a permanent budget shortfall. On Friday, the board announced it would extend the deadline for applying for the superintendent position until the end of March.

“It’s hard to say how long these new commissioners will be able to catch up on things,” said Laurance Lee, a recall supporter who writes a Board of Education newsletter. “It is of great concern to me if some of these commissioners arrive without having followed these meetings in detail.

Additionally, the district faces a steady decline in enrollment that could further jeopardize school funding, which is largely based on attendance. And it must continue to close longstanding and persistent achievement gaps between white and Asian students and their black and Latino peers.

In November, the three seats opened by the recall will return to the voters.

Lee said he fears the city is approaching a ‘cliff of interest’ in school politics after a recall election that, while controversial and grabbing headlines, did not draw to the polls. than about a third of the city’s voters.

But others are more optimistic about the prospects of the recall setting in motion continued attention to the governance of the city’s schools.

When he ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2018, John Trasviña said he remembered running into indifferent voters who sometimes mistakenly thought he was already the commissioner. But now he expects that to change, he said.


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