Organizers seeking to recall three members of the San Francisco School Council have been cleared to collect signatures in the hope of making the subject available to voters in a special election.
The couple, Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, are expected to launch the signature drive today to recall Education Committee President Gabriela Lopez and Members Faauuga Moliga and Alison Collins after receiving approval from the Electoral Department earlier this week.
While Looijen and Raj are keen to overturn the entire school board for their inability to reopen schools quickly during the pandemic, four board members won’t be eligible for a recall until July as they took office earlier this year.
“Nobody has a successful recall campaign and we want to be the first to do so,” said Looijen. “We have serious concerns as to whether those in power will be able to control the ship.”
Looijen and Raj are technicians who moved to The City last December and enrolled two children in the San Francisco Unified School District. The couple say the board has been distracted by trying to rename 44 schools with problematic names instead of focusing on reopening.
Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj filed one of three petitions to call back members of the San Francisco Unified School Board outside City Hall on Wednesday March 31, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume / SF Examiner)
In February, the school board suspended the renaming process to focus on reopening schools.
“We have been fully focused on returning to face-to-face learning and supporting distance learning for students who choose to continue,” Lopez said in response to the campaign. “During this time, too, my attention will be focused on these efforts and the support of our school district.”
The campaign is expected to hand out individual petitions for Lopez, Moliga and Collins and has until September 7th to submit signatures. The question would appear on the ballot when at least 51,325 signatures, representing 10% of the city’s registered voters, are validated.
Collins has been at the center of controversy in recent weeks after supporters of the recall resurfaced her 2016 tweets criticizing Asian Americans for “using white supremacist thinking to get ahead.” The controversy divided The City as most of the power structure urged Collins to resign.
Jim Stearns, a political advisor, said Collins would likely become the “flagship” for the recall but doubted the campaign could garner enough signatures to qualify for an election.
“You’re not going to qualify this with a base effort,” Stearns said. “You will only qualify if you have the pro-charter billionaire money that was active in the previous cycle. Once they take that money, they’ll simply disqualify themselves from the San Francisco electorate. ”
Collins did not return a request for comment in time for publication.
Supporters of the callback said they debated not pushing efforts against Moliga after he helped Collins remove her title as Vice President and Committee last week, but decided that his vote results warranted continuation of the effort.
Like Lopez and Collins, Moliga helped rename and change the admissions process for Lowell High School.
Moliga defended his record, which included writing laws to increase teacher retention through the construction of teacher housing.
“The recall shows that there is a group of parents who are frustrated by the school board,” said Moliga. “I am the first Pacific Islander ever elected to office in San Francisco and this is my first time giving my marginalized community a voice in local government.”
Should voters remember members, Mayor London Breed would appoint their successors.
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Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, whose children are enrolled in public schools, are trying to recall members of the San Francisco Unified School Board. (Kevin N. Hume / SF examiner)