Remember the silent role of corporate money in the San Francisco Board of Education

Written by Claudia Dardol

San Francisco Efforts to withdraw the controversial San Francisco Board of Education resulted in a big win for investors and venture capitalists alike on February 15, when 76% of San Francisco residents voted to fire board members Gabriela Lopez, Allison Collins and Fauga Muliga.

While these results show overwhelming support for the recall, Participation rates in special elections do not provide the same urgency. TThe 2020 Board of Education elections turned out more than 86 percent of San Francisco’s eligible voters, while this special election yielded only 34 percent of voters. “I think the most frustrating thing is that a lot of working-class parents in my community didn’t even know about the election,” said Julie Roberts Fong, co-chair of No School Board Recall.

Special election dynamics aren’t new to Californians, with several others popping up across the state over the past few years, including the 2021 subpoena of California Governor Gavin Newsom and the ongoing subpoena against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Bowden. In all three of these recall efforts, activists examined corporate funding for teachers. Such a special election is appropriate for those with business interests, said Roberts Fung, as “in a regular school board election, there is a funding cap of $500 per person, but in a recall, there is no funding limit.”

Supporters of the recall campaign Quote Management of board funds, their attempt to merge Lowell High School, and the renaming of schools formerly named after slave owners as reasons to remove the three members from their positions. Frank Lara, Executive Vice President of United educated From San Francisco (UESF), he believes that while there were parents who supported take-back efforts, they needed to “align themselves with the right-wing elements, with venture capitalists, because they don’t have the majority of public support.”

Venture capitalists David Sachs and Arthur Rock were among the pushback Biggest donor, along with other investors. Lara attributes investor interest in this election to the fact that San Francisco Unified District is one of the city’s largest landowners; San Francisco investors have a vested interest in privatizing public land. “They saw an opportunity in a moment of crisis when we were all trying to provide students and teachers with basic safety measures… When we saw a crisis, they saw a business,” Lara said.

Rock, who has donated more than $500,000 to recall efforts, has also funded school board elections in more than Ten different states has given 12 million To rent school groups across the country. San Francisco is one of the only metropolitan areas in the United States that does not have a large charter school presence. The past five years have seen a significant expansion of public school privatization in Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. The charter school industry is a booming business, and Lara said SFUSD is “ready for industries looking to profit from public institutions.”

A 2017 US Department of Education study found “There are no measurable differences in average reading or math scores in the National Assessment of Education Progress’ among public and charter school students. So far Despite these findings, the charter school industry Deserves $54 billion as of March 2021. The number of schools and the size of the industry have grown at a rate of 5 percent each year since the study was released.

The remembered board member Collins has spoken out against school privatization, SF Weekly says, “The charters circumvent local control. We have little power to fix things and hold them accountable.” Council as a whole made clear his position at charter schools in 2020 when members voted to deny the district’s request to hire a reopening expert due to his prior experience with charterers.

Sachs, another investor, was too sincere About his financial support for the failure of Newsom’s recall in 2021. He has no direct connections to charter schools, but he has invest In countless San Francisco-based startups that may be looking to expand their businesses. Sachs also expressed his opposition to unions in the dozens of tweetsseveral in response to UESF Demanding COVID-safe measures like vaccinations and rigorous testing before returning to in-person teaching last year.

Lara, a member of the UESF, said the city government has blamed the union countless times for the failure of the state government to provide safety for workers and the Board of Education to support union members during their campaign. “We have seen that the people who are lining up against this board of education are inextricably linked to the privatization, the charter moves, and the mayor’s office, which we have not felt supportive of before,” Lara said.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) Contributed More than $25,000 for the recall effort. Roberts Fung believes the company’s interest in funding the recall could stem from the fact that San Francisco was trying to buy PG&E and create a utility company after city officials found PG&E Customers who charge excessive fees in 2021. “This is an example of what PG&E feels like a bargain to be able to make about $30,000, and maybe pick the people who will eventually be on the Board of Supervisors,” said Roberts Fung.

According to opponents of impeachment, these factors show that this election was not just about the decisions of individual board members, but instead reflects the larger issue of money’s role in politics. “We’re over spending 40 to 1, and the recallers spent about $20 for each voter they take to the polls,” said Roberts Fung. “On the one hand, this means that billionaires can buy impeachment elections, but on the other hand, it means that there will be a more level playing field in November.”

All three positions withdrawn from the board will be on the ballot in November, and turnout will likely triple in the no-confidence vote. Both Lara and Roberts Fung believe that San Francisco voters have shown their dedication to progressive board nominations in years past. However, Lara says the only way to ensure more democratic elections in November is to “build the dream of a good public education” and “continue to build trust between families, teachers and students.”

Claudia Dardol is a staff writer in Vanguard’s Office of Social Justice and a student at the University of California, Berkeley.

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