The San Francisco Unified School District used over half a million dollars in funds meant for facility improvements to fight lawsuits over its decision to cover a mural of George Washington.
"I want them to put the money back," Citizens Bond Oversight Committee Chairman Rex Ridgeway said of how the school district spend the money, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "They’ve been using this as a slush fund as far as I’m concerned."
At issue is the district spending $525,000 in a battle to cover up a mural at Washington High School of the nation's first president, which the school board claimed is "offensive and demeaning to Native Americans and African Americans."
However, the decision was opposed by a school alumni association, who filed the lawsuit that was eventually settled when the district agreed to pay the association $345,000 in addition to the $180,000 to its own lawyers.
San Francisco Unified School District lawyer Danielle Houck claimed that the school's funds were used for legitimate purposes, arguing that bond funds "allow for remediation of health and safety risks," which included the mural because it "is a part of a school building [which] ’caused psychological harm to students.'"
The funds used on the legal battle were also only a small percentage of the $744 million total in bond funding the district receives, but Ridgeway argued that is the "principle" behind the spending that is at issue.
"I’m not saying I’m not for correcting wrongs; I’m a Black man," he said. "But is it a proper use or improper use of bond funds for the construction rehabilitation of these school buildings? My position is no."
The SFUD school board has been the subject of controversy in recent months, with parents and organizers garnering enough support in February to hold a recall election that ousted three Democratic members of the board over claims they were prioritizing "woke" politics over quality learning.
Former Board of Education President Gabriela López, one of the members who lost the recall election, claimed critics of the board and its decisions were "aligned" with White supremacists.
"So if you fight for racial justice, this is the consequence," López tweeted at the time. "Don’t be mistaken, White supremacists are enjoying this. And the support of the recall is aligned with this."