CAA leads efforts to eliminate the sunset clause in the Immigrant Parent Voting Ordinance, which extends the right to vote in Board of Education elections permanently to immigrant families in San Francisco. 

San Francisco, CA — This afternoon, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Immigrant Parent Voting Ordinance in a historic move to make non-citizen voting permanent in Board of Education elections. As a co-founding organization of the Immigrant Parent Voting Collaborative, as well as a longtime advocate for Chinese immigrants, CAA is thrilled to learn that immigrant families will continue to be heard in matters concerning their school-age children. 

In 2016, CAA was a leading proponent of Proposition N, the Charter amendment that made San Francisco the largest city in the United States to give immigrant parents the right to vote. Since then, immigrant parents have voted in three elections — taking part in decisions regarding academic placement, budget allocations, curriculum development, and other matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Board of Education. 

This ordinance will make that right permanent, guaranteeing better representation for the 16,900 English learners (including 6,000 Chinese speakers) in the San Francisco Unified School District, who account for 27.7% of the student population. It will also serve as a progressive model for civic engagement in immigrant communities throughout the United States — one that ensures the views of all families are taken into account. 

“We are ecstatic at the unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors to make permanent the right of all parents in the school district to choose their representatives on the SFUSD Board of Education,” said CAA Policy Manager Eva Poon. “All SFUSD students, regardless of their family’s immigration status, deserve to have their needs advocated for by the Board of Education. A vote equals a voice for parents. CAA is proud to have been part of this decades-long community-led effort to empower immigrant families in San Francisco. Our work continues in ensuring that immigrant families know about and make their own decisions on exercising this newly permanent voting right.” 

“I had no prior knowledge of the U.S. education system until my participation with non-citizen voting,” said CAA Outreach Specialist Joyce Li, whose two children attend SFUSD. “Since the campaign in 2016, I have learned to be actively involved at school meetings, to express my own concerns and suggestions, to enhance my self-confidence, and to effectively communicate with others in this space. Non-citizen parents have an essential role and voice that represents a large portion of the student population in the SFUSD. By making this right permanent, immigrant parents will have the power to influence and make decisions that would reflect their children’s educational needs, while cultivating themselves to become engaged community leaders. Many parents in our community are still not familiar with the structures and policies of the school district or the important role that the Board plays, so continued outreach is crucial for this permanent right.”

CAA’s experience defending the rights of English learners dates back to 1974, when we represented the plaintiffs in Lau v. Nichols, a historic case in which the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed access to bilingual education for immigrant children in the U.S. Since then, our organization has joined forces with community leaders and elected officials representing a broad spectrum of immigrant communities to advocate for fair and equitable school admissions, improved language access, and more comprehensive safety measures in San Francisco public schools.

After the passage of Proposition N, CAA also joined calls to invest in targeted outreach strategies to educate qualified individuals of their newfound voting rights. With the passage of the Immigrant Parent Voting Ordinance, we must continue investing in strategies to resource immigrant families with in-language materials and voting information, ensuring that their views are represented in our public schools. 

Parents will be able to vote as soon as next February, during the upcoming Board of Education recall election. Community members can visit the San Francisco Board of Elections website to learn about their eligibility to vote.