A little over four years ago, I encouraged everyone to support Laura Jane Cohen for Fairfax County School Board. At the time, I wrote:
…I’m really into candidates who are policy wonks, who have both expertise and the burning passion/energy/dynamic to do a great job, and who I believe have the political chops to *win* in November. In this case, I’d argue that Laura Jane Cohen strongly qualifies on all counts.
Second, when I sat down with Cohen a few months ago, I was incredibly impressed with her passion for and knowledge of education policy, Fairfax County public schools, etc. Basically, when Cohen gets going on the topic of education, she just bubbles over with enthusiasm, probably could talk for ten straight hours on the subject! Bottom line, why is Cohen running? As she puts it, because she is a “firm believer in public education and its vital role that it plays in how people turn out to be as human beings.”
Third, Cohen has a lot of relevant experience, including coming from a long line of educators, working as a pre-school teacher, substitute teacher, PTA president at her kids’ elementary school and with – as she says – “two awesome Fairfax County Public School kids.”
Fourth, Cohen has a particular focus on special education (she notes on her website that she has a child with a learning disability, and that in trying to navigate the FCPS system, she realized that “many kids fall into those gaps and really lose out on the educational experience they deserve”). Cohen argues that “we’ve really put a burden on our special ed teachers in particular…the kind of support that we give them is lacking.”
More broadly, Cohen argues for “treat[ing] our teachers like the professionals that they are, [which] means pay that gives that gives them a livable wage, hopefully better than that, but making sure that their benefits are not on the table every year as a chopping block to balance our budget.” Cohen adds and important point, that there needs to be a focus on and support for not just teachers, but “ESPs”- education support personnel (e.g., custodians, office staff, instructional assistants) – including paying them enough so that they don’t have to work “two or three jobs additional jobs just to stay above the poverty level.”
Last but not least, I believe that Laura Jane Cohen is the best choice for Democrats to defeat the odious (gun nut, anti-LGBT, you name it) Elizabeth Schultz this November. That’s absolutely essential, and it’s not going to be easy, but I’m confident that Laura Jane Cohen can get it done – go Laura Jane!
All of those things turned out to be accurate. For starters, and crucially, Laura Jane Cohen went on to overwhelmingly win the Democratic endorsement to then to defeat the aforementioned odious right-wingnut (Elizabeth Schultz, who now works for Glenn Youngkin – disgusting!). Then, barely into her first time holding public office, Laura Jane Cohen ended up dealing with more than she probably ever bargained for, namely the COVID pandemic. The bad news is that the pandemic caused many deaths, as well as learning loss for kids. The good news is that smart, serious leaders like Laura Jane Cohen knew that the correct answer was exactly this combination – “I Want Kids to Learn and I Don’t Want People to Die” during the pandemic – goals which she worked tirelessly and effectively to achieve.
Since the reopening of schools and the winding down of the pandemic, Laura Jane Cohen’s been busy helping to fight back against Glenn Youngkin’s assault on public schools, the teaching of African-American history, etc. For instance, see Audio: Fairfax County School Board Members Stella Pekarsky and Laura Jane Cohen Rip “Absurd” Legislation to Ban Teaching of “Divisive Concepts”, in which Cohen asked the exact (rhetorical) question that should be asked: “Should a nurse practitioner and a cyber security expert decide educational curriculum?” (the answer, of course, is no) Cohen also had to deal with this “recall petition” idiocy by right wingers (it was dismissed, as it obviously should have been, given that it was totally bonkers).
Now, Laura Jane Cohen is running for the Virginia House of Delegates, vowing to “stand up to….Youngkin and the far right to defend public education, reproductive freedom, voting rights.” I strongly endorse her for that job – and for that mission of standing up to Youngkin’s far-right lunacy. Not surprisingly, given her background, Cohen’s #1 priority will be protecting public education, including “ensur[ing] that every child receives a world-class education in inclusive public schools…empower[ing] our librarians & teachers to decide which books are best for our students…mak[ing] sure our kids are taught accurate & reflective history…work[ing] to increase teacher & staff pay, address staffing shortages, & fund universal PreK & workforce development.” Other top priorities for Cohen include:
- “Prevent Gun Violence. A longtime Moms Demand Action volunteer, Laura Jane will fight to prevent gun violence and stop the NRA. She will work to strengthen Virginia’s secure storage and ‘red flag’ laws, disarm domestic abusers, require microstamping and childproofing for new handguns, and prohibit high-capacity magazines, untraceable ‘ghost guns,’ and assault-style weapons.”
- “Defend Abortion Access. Laura Jane will fight to defend abortion access and ensure Virginia’s constitution explicitly protects reproductive freedom. She’ll also fight for comprehensive insurance coverage for reproductive health services, including family planning, abortion care, and prenatal and postpartum care for all Virginians.”
- “Take Bold Climate Action. Laura Jane will fight to boldly address the climate crisis and chart a course for a resilient clean energy future. She will fight to speed up Virginia’s move to 100% carbon-free electricity, transition diesel transit and school buses to electric alternatives, meet the needs of communities impacted by environmental injustice, reduce energy consumption, and invest in green workforce development.”
- “Stand Up for LGBTQIA+ Virginians. Laura Jane will fight to ensure LGBTQIA+ Virginians enjoy the same rights as everyone else. She will work to repeal the ban on same-sex marriages from Virginia’s constitution, encourage the full implementation of LGBTQIA+ protections in Virginia schools, and enact explicit gender identity-affirming policies and coverage funding in Virginia Medicaid.”
- “Support Virginia Workers. Laura Jane will fight to defend the rights of workers to unionize by repealing right to work laws in Virginia. She will work to expand paid sick leave to all workers, apply prevailing wage laws more broadly, and increase safeguards to support workers filing unpaid wage complaints.”
- “Provide Quality, Affordable Healthcare. Laura Jane will fight to ensure every Virginian has quality, affordable healthcare. She will work to preserve Medicaid expansion, boost enrollment, lower prescription drug and surprise out of pocket costs, increase access to and funding for mental health services and substance use disorder treatment, and provide adequate paid sick, family and medical leave.”
- “Preserve Our Democracy. Laura Jane will fight to protect voting rights and strengthen our democratic institutions. She will work to expand legislative oversight, restore voting rights, enhance open records laws, and enact commonsense campaign finance reform.”
All of which are EXACTLY the right priorities to have – Laura Jane Cohen “gets it.” So, between now and June 20, if you are a voter in HD15 (Burke/Fairfax), make sure you vote for Laura Jane Cohen in the Democratic primary (she has two opponents). And keep in mind that in an overwhelmingly “blue” district like this one, the June 20 primary effectively IS the election, since whoever the Democratic nominee is will almost certainly win in November. So…vote now – for Laura Jane Cohen!
P.S. Others endorsing Laura Jane Cohen include Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA11), former Virginia Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Fairfax County Chair Jeff McKay, Clean Virginia, Everytown for Gun Safety, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, etc.