Commentary: Don’t Let Big Money Steal Our Schools

By Matt Alexander

I’m a parent with 20 years of experience as a San Francisco public school teacher and principal. Since the pandemic started, I’ve visited dozens of schools and talked with hundreds of parents, students and educators. This is the toughest year I’ve ever seen, with so many young people behind in their education and suffering from mental health challenges. 

I know how rough things are for parents and kids right now. But recalling three of my colleagues on the San Francisco Board of Education – including two women of color and the first Pacific Islander elected official in the City’s history – is only going to make it harder to address these challenges. Let’s put our kids first and work together rather than supporting a divisive, politically driven recall effort.

The truth is that this recall is being driven not by public school parents, but by big money interests that want to steal our democracy.

Recall backers have raised over $1,100,000 – an astronomical sum in local school board politics. In last year’s school board race, my colleagues and I were allowed to accept a maximum donation of $500 per person, and we each spent around $45,000 to run grassroots campaigns; that’s what school board elections are supposed to look like.

But in a recall election, there are no local campaign contribution limits. So one man – billionaire venture capitalist Arthur Rock – has donated $400,000 to the recall effort. Rock has a history of attempting to buy local school board elections for candidates who want to privatize public schools. He lives in San Francisco, but last year he poured tens of thousands of dollars into the Oakland school board race to support pro-charter school candidates. He’s a “Lifetime Director” of Teach for America, a group that puts well-meaning but unqualified teachers into low-income classrooms. 

After Rock, the next biggest recall backer is David Sacks, another venture capitalist who also gave over $100,000 to the recall campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom. Sacks is the co-author of a book called “The Diversity Myth: Multiculturalism and Political Intolerance on Campus,” in which he wrote that a “multicultural rape charge may indicate nothing more than belated regret.” And he recently hosted a fundraiser here in San Francisco for COVID denier and Republican presidential hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

If you vote to recall my colleagues, you’re supporting a political power play by these billionaires against the most diverse school board in San Francisco history. If the recall succeeds, the voters don’t get to choose replacement Board members; they would be appointed by a scandal-ridden City Hall that’s been at the center of corruption charges.

In November, my three colleagues will be up for re-election. At that point, you can judge their performance, compare them to the other candidates and decide whom to vote for. That’s how the democratic process is supposed to work. The School Board should be chosen by the voters. Let’s reject pay-to-play politics by conservative billionaires and vote no on the recall. 

Matt Alexander has lived in the Outer Sunset for over two decades and is a member of the San Francisco Board of Education. 

10 replies »

  1. Commissioner Alexander adds insult to the pain already inflicted on San Francisco families by the School Board’s failure to listen to them. The record 80,000 San Franciscans who signed recall petitions weren’t fooled or bought off by out of town Republican schemers. The February 15 recall is about the Board — including Alexander — failing to focus on safe opening and budgetary responsibility. The Board, in violation of the Brown Act, has tried to tear down Washington High murals, Lowell High admission requirements and the names of 44 schools and didn’t start to address structural budget deficits until forced to by the State Department of Education. The recall is supported by a broad spectrum from Matt Gonzalez to John Burton to Quentin Kopp and by both SF natives and the newest newcomers who are eager to cast their first vote for the recall of Commissioners Collins, Lopez & Moliga on February 15.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Myself and my middle class family living here in SF would like to personally thank Arthur Rock and David Sacks for their contributions. The inept and divisive tactics of Collins and Lopez are straight from the Trump playbook. They have done far more harm than good, they need to be removed in order for our school system to get through these tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a parent who has been part of this recall effort from the start I can say without a doubt that it has always been. He can lie and say that it isn’t, but it is, and has been from the very start. This board has failed kids and families so badly I’d be surprised if they win support from even 20% of parents.


  4. As a San Francisco public school parent who has lived in the Richmond District for almost two decades, I appreciate Commissioner Alexander’s leadership and him calling out the funders (who don’t even have children in San Francisco public schools). The last thing the West Side needs is downtown money from people who are not members of our communities trying to influence our elections.

    Commissioner Alexander is correct in his analysis that the last thing San Francisco needs is for a a scandal-ridden City Hall that’s been at the center of corruption charges appointing people to the school board. We have a general election in November 2018, and as a parent, I feel that parents and all San Francisco voters should have a say in who oversees my child’s schools district and that school board members should not be political appointees.

    I see Matt Gonzalez mentioned in the replies. If Matt were to run for political office today, I would not support him. Matt has a poor track record when it comes SFUSD schools. He is not a parent, and one of the reasons he lost his 2003 election is because he opposed Prop H at a time when the school district had no credentialed art teachers, five physical education teachers for its 78 elementary schools, 21 librarians and only a handful of nurses and counselors. We now have nurses in almost every schools, credentialed art teachers, P.E. teachers for every school. https://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Prop-H-asks-city-to-help-fund-schools-Measure-2817753.php

    This recall election is costing taxpayers *$3.25 million* and there is a general election in November 2022! Vote NO on all three school board recalls.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a 30 year veteran of SFUSD and a former Lowell Social Studies teacher, I applaud Commissioner Alexander for his defense of democracy and for exposing of the money coming from billionaires that is corrupting our electoral process.

    I have 2 boys that graduated from SFUSD schools and have lived in SF for over 45 years. Never have I seen such an attack on School board members who earn a whopping $6000/year for their service.

    Clearly, there are many problems that our schools encountered with the worst pandemic our country has endured in over a century. Take a minute and put yourself in the commissioners shoes and you will realize that the challenges of making a top quality public school system in SF are enormous and there are no simple solutions. As the Apprentice, Trump got joy from firing people. The two biggest funders of the recall are Trump supporters. Let’s fire the money interests rather than attacking our commissioners who are trying their best to improve our schools.
    Rick Girling


  6. As a parent of 2 SFUSD grads, and as a pro public school advocate for over 30 years and a Democrat – I fully support the recall. We are in an emergency and need leadership on the school board who will help restore faith and trust in our public schools and who understand public school funding. The 3 who are up for recall have shown they cannot be trusted to make really important decisions that will impact our public school children for years to come – including selecting a new superintendent, creating a new student assignment plan…
    Sandra Halladey
    Co Founder of Parents for Public Schools (for identification purposes only)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Notably, neither Mr. Alexander nor any of the anti-recall commentators can think of a thing to say in defense of the performance of the 3 school board members subject to the recall reflection. Instead, they attack certain donors. That says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Is this a joke? Over 80,000 SF voters from all walks of life signed the recall petitions and Mr. Alexander, whose kids benefited from Lowell’s selectivity before he voted to dismantle it, is seriously arguing that some Republican operatives hoodwinked Mayor Breed, the former chair of the California *Democratic* Party, and a broad coalition of other elected Democrat officials?

    With all due respect, Mr. Alexander, you’re next.

    Liked by 1 person

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