Feb 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Asian Americans flex their voting power in SF school board recall

Photo of a crowd of Asian protesters holding signs that say "Recall the School Board" in English and Chinese
Supporters of the San Francisco school board recall gather at a rally on Feb. 12. Photo: Stephen Lam/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Asian Americans proved themselves to be a critical voting bloc this week as San Francisco overwhelmingly voted to remove three school board members from office.

Why it matters: The recall effort was largely driven by Asian American parents who were discontent with the board's delay in reopening schools, accused board members of unfairly prioritizing efforts to rename schools and were upset about plans to install a lottery admissions system at a prestigious local high school.

  • The controversy spiraled further out of control after one board member's 2016 tweets resurfaced. Commissioner Alison Collins had used racist tropes to accuse Asian Americans of indulging in "white supremacist thinking" while discussing anti-Blackness in Asian communities.
  • The comments led to an immediate backlash in the city, which experienced a 567% spike in anti-AAPI hate crimes last year.

How it happened: School board President Gabriela López, Vice President Faauuga Moliga and Collins were targeted by an aggressive recall campaign throughout 2021.

  • Proponents of the recall courted voters through Mandarin and Cantonese ads, emphasized the board's role in changing admissions policies and amplified outrage over Collins' old tweets, according to KQED.
  • Opponents accused the campaign of diverting time and money from more urgent concerns, such as the district's need to address a $125 million budget deficit and replace its retiring superintendent, AP reports.
  • But the effort paid off on Tuesday as each board member drew over 70% of votes supporting their removal, per results tallied by the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Worth noting: The special election was the city's first recall in nearly four decades. The other four board members were not eligible because they had not yet finished a full year of their term.

What's next: Mayor London Breed, who praised the parents "who tirelessly organized and advocated" after the election, will appoint replacements to the board.

The big picture: Asian Americans make up roughly 34% of the San Francisco population.

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