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Autumn Looijen, co-founder of the Recall SF School Board campaign, said Saturday on CNN’s “Smerconish” that the firing of three San Francisco school board members was over “incompetence,” while others have argued the vote was a condemnation of progressive politics.
“It was about incompetence,” Looijen said after host Michael Smerconish asked if the school board recall was about “ideology or incompetence.”
Parents accused the three ousted school board members, Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez and Faauuga Moliga, of skewed priorities. While public schools remained closed even as city officials deemed in-person instruction safe, the members were advocating for renaming 44 school sites deemed to be offensive.
Looijen said she believed everyone was in favor of renaming the schools and closing the opportunity gap, but those should not have been the highest items on the agenda.
“And the problem was that this work wasn’t being done in — at the right time. You know, the house was on fire, and they were busy, you know, changing the name above the door. And we’re like, ‘Hey, we got to go take care of the fire first. And then we’ll do the renaming. We all want to do renaming, just not right now,'” Looijen said.
Co-founder Siva Raj said that “kids from disadvantaged backgrounds” fell the furthest behind. Raj and Looijen have kids in different school districts. Looijen’s kids were back in school and Raj’s were not.
“His high schooler did not go back to school all year long. It was just frustrating. It was unfair,” Looijen said earlier in the segment.
Raj said his son, “who used to be an honor student,” had fallen to rock bottom with is grades and was “borderline depressed.” He said he was one of the many kids dealing with mental health issues.
“Getting him back to some sort of an in-person learning experience was important. And the school district did not prioritize that. And I think the real challenge here was the total disconnect between what we were seeing on the ground, the struggle and the suffering we were seeing in our own homes with our kids and the school districts on dealing this, even acknowledge that this was a problem,” Raj said.
Smerconish noted that the local story has garnered a lot of national attention, before asking, “What’s the message?”
“The message is you got to do your job because the best social justice, good education is the best social justice,” Looijen said. Raj added that after speaking to so many residents, the one thing that was clear was that people expect their leaders to put their kids first.
“The only ideology that matters is the one that makes the biggest impact on their educational outcomes,” Raj said.
Smerconish asked the couple what was next and if they intend to recall any of the other members. The confounders of the recall campaign said that first they intend to find the right candidates to replace those who were just recalled.
Some saw the school board vote as a wake-up call for Democrats. Donny Deutsch, host of “On Brand with Donny Deutsch” said last week that the vote proved Democrats have to step away from the “super-wokeness.”
The LA Times and Newsweek both warned California Democrats that the school board election could indicate similar results in the midterm elections.
“San Francisco school board recall is a wake-up call for progressives,” Newsweek’s headline read. The LA Times warned that the outcome in November could be “very bad” for Democrats.