San Francisco school board recall election: what you need to know

San Francisco voters will be asked to decide whether to recall three members of the city's school board in an election on February 15.

In most years, the members of the board for the San Francisco Unified School District are flying under the radar. But through a series of controversies concerning the public school system, attention has been ratcheted up on the officials who are fighting to hold onto their positions. 

Critics have said the district mishandled the pandemic by waiting too long to reopen schools for in-person learning. The SFUSD also has faced a severe $125-million budget shortfall, leaving it in a precarious position as enrollment dropped. Last year, the city attorney sued the district over its failure to reopen schools,

The board had also taken up a plan to rename dozens of schools that honored historical figures, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, saying that such individuals were associated with slavery, racism, and other forms of oppression. That plan was dropped after the board was castigated for expending energy on this project while failing to reach an agreement that would return students and teachers to classrooms.

Another divisive move came last February when the board decided to replace the academic-based admissions process for Lowell High School with a lottery. The board said the move was made to create a more diverse student body at what many consider the crown jewel of the city's public schools. But critics, including alumni groups, lambasted the board for not being transparent. A judge agreed, saying the board violated the law.

Opponents of the recall, however, say that it's a poor use of taxpayer resources to stage a recall when the regularly scheduled vote on board members will be held in November. 

"Having an election in an unusual time will mean that fewer San Franciscans will have their voices heard," Julie Roberts-Phung, one of the organizers with the "No School Board Recall" campaign, has previously aid to KTVU.

What's on the ballot?

Voters are asked whether to recall three members of the San Francisco school board before the end of their terms. The three board members facing a recall are San Francisco School Board President Gabriela Lopez, Commissioner Allison Collins, and School Board Vice President Faauuga Moliga. 

Collins, who is Black, may be the most well-known of the members due to disparaging tweets she aimed at Asians that prompted calls for her resignation. She was stripped of her position as the board's vice president, prompting her to file an $87-million lawsuit. A judge tossed the suit last summer.

Each member is voted on individually in the recall, so it's possible that all, some, or none of the three members could be removed from their positions.

The four other school board members were not eligible to be recalled because they had not served enough of their terms yet. 

Besides the school board vote, there is also a vote to fill the vacant state Assembly seat in District 17 and the county assessor-recorder position, which is a nonpartisan office. 

What happens after the recall vote?

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who has expressed support for the recall, will appoint new school board members if voters support the recall to serve the remainder of the 4-year term.

If the recall fails, the members serve out the remainder of their term.

The next school board election is scheduled for November 8, 2022.

What is the deadline to register?

The deadline to register to vote in San Francisco was January 31, so it's too late to request a mail-in ballot. 

But if you still want to vote, you can register in person at the voting center in City Hall, which is open for early in-person voting, and at your assigned polling place on Election Day.

As a reminder, some non-citizens are eligible to vote in the recall.

Where do I vote?

Voters who requested absentee ballots will have their vote counted if it is postmarked no later than February 15. They may also return their ballots in the 34 drop boxes scattered around the city. Click here to see a map of the ballot box locations.

If you plan to vote in person on Election Day, you can find your registered polling place on the Department of Elections website.

Voters can also drop into the City Hall Voting Center for early, in-person voting through February 14. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. It will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.