One year after the SF School Board recall, the outcomes are clear.
The SF Board of Education Recall benefited political grifters and right-wing strategists, yet has produced little progress for SF’s most marginalized students.
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the recall. I wanted to share some thoughts on this anniversary along with an article I wrote for the SFBayView outlining why the right wing is obsessed with me, “woke ideology” and the city of San Francisco.
When you hear “Parents’ Rights” think “Right Wing Politics”
This past year we have witnessed so much disruption in our district due to political actors (many of whom don’t even send their children to S.F. public schools). It is beyond ironic to think that Siva Raj and Amber Looijen heralded by right-wing talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Spicer’s Newsmax as “parents” fighting “woke ideology” in SF schools don’t even have children enrolled in SFUSD!
One year later, it is even more clear that leaders and key funders of the recall are coordinating with right-wing political strategists, including Chris Rufo, the man working with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to whitewash AP African American Studies, dismiss Black Studies after launching an all-out attack on LGBTQ students. Recently, DeSantis also appointed Chris Rufo to the board of the New College where he is waging a “hostile takeover” of the school.
SF School Board Recallers, called for a return to normalcy after they followed the playbook of many right-wing “parent’s rights” astroturf groups barraging school board meetings with false claims to stir up drama. Local news amplified Republican talking points to demand our district get “back to basics.”* Apparently, listening to Native American, Black, Samoan Pacific Islander, and Latinx students is not something they feel SFUSD should be prioritizing. As if ensuring that all students read Black, Asian American, and Latinx authors has no impact on the reading proficiency of Black, Asian American, and Latinx students.
Since Brown versus Board of Education, “back to basics” and “parent’s rights” have always been codes for undermining public education and dismantling progress in addressing racism and segregation in our schools.
The “anti-CRT” movement is the new dog whistle.
It is no surprise that Diane Yap, a key actor in the S.F. School Board recall, demonizes CRT. whether it’s denigrating homeless people or forming nonprofits with members of the Virginia GOP working to dismantle affirmative action, Yap is making a career out of blaming Black people for the “achievement gap” and the national rise in Anti-Asian attacks. She claims anti-racism is Anti-Asian, peddling the false narrative that Chinese Americans are victims of “equity” policies enacted to support Black students.
For her service, she receives a fat salary as a policy analyst at the Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank whose senior fellow is none other than Chris Rufo.
It is no surprise that right-wing strategists like Rufo and Yap want to discourage us from thinking critically about racism in our public education system. CRT calls on us to look beyond individual squabbles to examine “impact over intent.”
When “back to basics” as a pretext for ignoring Black, Latinx, Native American and LGBTQ students.
The primary charge of district leaders is to provide equitable educational access for each and every student, in a district that serves a majority of students of color, many of whom are immigrants and low-income students. Based on this, we should be asking:
How has the SF recall furthered our district’s ability to meet the needs of historically oppressed students?
- How has dismantling the Equity Audit impacted Black and Jewish students after they demanded an investigation anti-Black and anti-Semitic hate speech and pornographic cyberbullying at Lowell and throughout the district?
- How have harmful images and inaccurate histories of Native Americans in school walls and textbooks continued to impact students?
- How has two years’ inaction on implementing Black Studies impacted students?
- How has inaction in creating a community task force to oversee programs and supports for Latinx students impacted their learning?
- How has inaction on the creation of a Queer/Trans Parent Advisory Council resulted in a lack of voice for LGBTQ families in our district?
- How has 2 years of inaction on Equity Studies curricula elevating collective histories of BIPOC, and LGBTQ San Franciscans impacted student learning?
And how has deprioritizing support and celebration of historically oppressed communities in our district, helped district leadership meet its very BASIC obligation to pay educators accurate paychecks?
If you want to know where we are going, it helps to understand how we got here. I’m providing the following resources for folks to “get educated, and take action!”
San Francisco school board recall is a helpful case study in political takeovers via school board elections. Many of the elements employed by right-wing strategists are evident here and are also playing out across the country. Learn more about SF School Board Recall ties to the school privatization movement, national right-wing think tanks, local political grifters and venture capitalists.
Read this article in the SF BayView:
Why the right wing is obsessed with San Francisco
Several weeks ago, shortly after Elon Musk took over leadership as tweeter in chief, he joined the right-wing dogpile…
“A friend of mine often says I was like a canary in a coal mine. As a parent organizer, educator and school board member, I saw a lot of this coming. I was on the front end of right wing attacks, which have now become the norm whenever educators have dismantled discriminatory policies in our schools.
There is a clear sequence of events that have led us to this moment. The rise of Trumpism, the global Covid-19 pandemic and racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd mobilized a national conservative backlash. This backlash is playing out in our public education system via conversations about racial equity and LGBTQ rights. Fueled by corporate influence and outside money, right-wing operatives (see below) and tech billionaires capitalized on parental frustration during the pandemic.
Within this context, San Francisco conservatives tapped into outside money and accelerated these profound shifts in our politics. Right wing activists are collaborating locally and nationally to stir conflict to advance regressive policies that harm trans students, dismantle affirmative action and ban racial justice education from schools.”
Dr. Isaac Kamola, a professor and dark money researcher explains how Chris Rufo mischaracterizes Critical Race Theory (CRT) to create a political weapon to empower conservative take-overs at a local level.
Legendary playwright, Ishmael Reed’s new satire attacks the race-baiting and divisiveness that were widely seen in the recent, widely-reported San Francisco School Board Recall. Theater for the New City will present the world premiere of this play, offering both live and live-streamed performances, from March 9 to 26. The director is Carla Blank. Make a tax deductible donation to help fund this Off-Broadway production at the Blackbox website
Get involved in campaigns that REAL parents, educators, and students are leading the fight for education justice, academic freedom, and our democracy.
- Can’t Ban Us: Day of Action—Join the Dream Defenders on February 23, in walking out of our schools and hosting Black history teach-ins all across the country to say that the DeSantis and the Huckabees and the Kemps CAN’T BAN US. Sign up for more info here.
- Become a Freedom Reader—Just as our Civil Rights heroes resisted the indignities of segregation by becoming Freedom Riders and opening Freedom Schools, we must become Freedom Readers to resist this attempt to relegate our history, stories, and knowledge to oblivion. Learn more about Books Unbanned: From Freedom Riders to Freedom Readers and get involved!
- African American Policy Forum’s Truth Be Told Campaign—Get involved in the #TruthBeTold Campaign. Go to the AAPF website to learn more about efforts to ban CRT and the simple actions you can take to fight back!
- Pledge to Teach the Truth—Educators can your name to this PUBLIC pledge put forward by the Zinn Education Project to announce your “commitment to develop critical thinking that supports students to better understand problems in our society, and to develop collective solutions to those problems.”
- Call to the College Board to Restore the Integrity of the AP African American Studies Course—If you are a university educator, sign this letter to express opposition to Ron DeSantis’ slanderous comments about the draft course and to denounce his threats to hold the new AP offering hostage to Florida’s censorial anti-woke law. Urge the College Board to make revisions to the draft curriculum in their normal customary fashion. (Read the College Board’s 2/11/23 response here.)
- Defense of Democracy —This nonpartisan group formed as a response to Moms for Liberty and other right-wing attacks in several states. Become a member and help them build their coalition of parents, students, and veterans advocating for an inclusive public education system.
- Red Wine and Blue — This is another nonpartisan group that bills itself as “a sisterhood working to change the world together, one suburb at a time.” Join real public school parents in advocating for inclusive public education.
- The Fight Back Collective—This organization was founded by a Latina and ethnic studies educator a mama as “a growing community of educators and non-educators, parents and non-parents, ethnically, regionally, and generationally diverse human beings united out of love for our kids and in defense of their physical, social, and emotional safety, their education, and their ability to thrive.”
- Just Talks Podcast — This podcast is dedicated to uplifting the voices of educators, researchers, parents, and activists in protecting education justice and defending public schools. Like, follow, and share interviews and become a patron to help create more episodes!