by Holly Hazard, cross posted from 4publiceducation.org
Pundits cast Virginia’s Tuesday general elections as a referendum on abortion rights. It was more than that. Further down the ballot those votes also sent a strong message to those trying to disrupt public education: listen to parents. Parents who came out to vote in Fairfax, Loudoun and even Spotsylvania, the epicenters of vitriol and fantasy, voted with a resounding “no” to candidates who focused on anti-CRT, book bans and transphobia. Parents overwhelmingly voted for moderate candidates campaigning on safe schools, feeding hungry kids and supporting our teachers.
After almost four years of vile accusations of racism, pedophilia, incompetence and more, voters in Fairfax rejected the lies and returned Rachna Sizemore Heizer, Melanie Meren, Ricardy Anderson and Karl Frish to the School Board, along with a sweep of all pro-public education newcomers. Rachna Sizemore Heizer said “Today, Fairfax County resoundingly rejected the GOP’s divisive politics and relentless attacks on our schools, students and staff, and stood strong in support of public education. It has been a tough four years on the school board, but we’ve stood strong knowing the majority of Fairfax County shared our values of an excellent education in a welcoming and inclusive environment. Now on to work making our great schools even better for every child.”
Spotsylvania County, with one of the most “toxic” school boards in the Commonwealth, flipped from MAGA extremist to centrist, teacher-focused sanity. Carol Medowar, a newcomer to politics, and part of the wave that flipped the Spotsylvania school board, stated “I’m just so happy for the students, families, and educators who really get to breathe a sigh of relief for this race. It’s a huge flip on the Spotsy school board.”
In Loudoun County, the genesis of the politization of public education education, pro-public school supporters held their ground in a clear referendum on Youngkin’s plan to dismantle public schools, drive out teachers and humiliate trans-kids. The acrimony and chaos of the last four years drove every member of the prior school board out of the race. However, the new board, with all new members, will maintain a strong pro-public school majority, despite Youngkin’s concerted, last minute attempt to influence the race. According to Loudoun public school advocate Andrew Pihonek, “a brand new school board will be a breath of fresh air for many in Loudoun.”
Albermarle-Charlottesville followed the same trend as Loudoun, Fairfax and Spotsylvania, rejecting candidates who tried to re-write our history and ban books.
If Glenn Youngkin and his minions truly want to listen to parents, now is their chance. Parents across the Commonwealth, in their first opportunity since his election to send a clear message, have rejected fear-mongering, white-washing, transphobia, sabotage and lack of civility. The question is no longer will we listen to parents, but will he? As Carol Medowar, successful Spotsylvania candidate, pleaded a few weeks ago, “Let’s make school board meetings boring again.”