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Progressive SF parents form group to counter national conservative education discourse

A group of Oakland Unified School District teachers, parents, students, and supporters protest a proposed privatization of public schools. | Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group via Getty Images

Another San Francisco education advocacy group has entered the chat. 

Pushing back against recalls and privatization, a group of local progressives affiliated with a Bernie Sanders organization, Our Revolution, has launched a group focused on education. Announced on Monday, the SF Education Alliance identifies as “proudly left-leaning, anti-racist, anti-fascist, anti-carceral, pro-union.” 

Organizers say the group formed primarily to ward off the privatization of public schools by pushing for a fully funded school system both for K-12 schools as well as  City College of San Francisco. 

While the alliance is local, it also intends to campaign to advocate on the state level to reform Proposition 13, California’s 1978 property tax measure that’s bane of education funding, and push for wealth taxes.

Noah Sloss, a public school parent in San Francisco and organizer with the group, pointed to the reactionary politics that erupted in the city since 2020 as a motivating factor for creating the alliance. Covid brought divisiveness around school closures, equity initiatives and, eventually, led to the ouster of three school board members. 

“It’s a response to what’s been going on with education in the city for the past year or so, especially around the recalls,” Sloss told The Standard. “We see public education as inherently political. We see issues of education in need of fundamental change.” 

The education alliance does not plan to run candidates or campaign in local elections at this time, Sloss said. Instead, the group is looking to create policy changes by educating community members and tapping them for input. 

It also seeks to be an activism group around schools and youth more broadly. Recently, the politics of education in America has taken a turn to the right. Conservative groups have dominated the discourse by aggressively banning books and curriculum around racism, sexuality and gender—particularly in Florida. 

“We’re not immune from those national trends and movements,” Sloss said. “Public education is one of those few parts of lives that hasn’t been disrupted and privatized. There’s always a need to be very vigilant.”

Sloss said the team is keeping a close eye on Oakland, which moved to close several schools that were largely reversed under a new board, but the fates of those campuses are still uncertain.  

School board member Alida Fisher, a self-identified ally of the group, was expected to formally introduce the group at an Our Revolution virtual meeting on Monday. 

“This is a perfect example of why this advocacy is so important and has to be bigger than San Francisco,” Fisher said. “A lot of the work and call to action is going to be figuring out how we push back from a national perspective from these really conservative narratives we’re seeing.”

A photo from "4-Point Plan to Win" section of the San Francisco Education Alliance website. | RJ Mickelson/The Standard

Locally, moderate-leaning education groups that formed during the pandemic supporting the recalls are increasingly moving into the election landscape. SF Parents Coalition, a nonprofit group formerly known as Decreasing the Distance that pushed to reopen schools, endorsed candidates and the 2022 recall. More recently, it sought applicants for a boot-camp program to recruit potential candidates for the Board of Education, which has four seats up for a vote in November 2024. 

The couple behind the historic and heavily funded school board recall last February, rebranded as the SF Guardians, launched an academy earlier this month to train people to “bring change through the political process.” State Sen. Scott Weiner, former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez and Supervisor Joel Engardio—who was heavily involved in the recall—will be on tap to teach the political newcomers. 

“People who are good at running things are not always good at winning elections,” Siva Raj, an SF Guardian co-founder, said in a press release. “Our goal is to find the former and teach them the latter so they can win elections and run our city much better.”