The ugly pandemonium that drove the Loudoun County Public Schools board into a closed session this week presents a cautionary note for the City of Falls Church to avoid a repeat. It’s all but certain that this year is going to be filled with a lot of tension about the schools here, given that eight candidates have qualified to seek election to the board this November. The high number is to fill four of the seven board seats and includes the almost unprecedented fact that no single incumbent is seeking re-election.
It is clear that the combination of factors posed extraordinary stresses for the board in the last year, first from the pandemic and some noisy parent discontent over the board’s handling of it, and then from the unanimous board decision, in the context of an aroused national sentiment to address racial injustice, to change the name of two of the City’s schools away from individuals who owned slaves in the American revolutionary period.
We now are on the verge of the official adoption of the new school names. As of July 1, George Mason becomes Meridian and Thomas Jefferson becomes Oak Street. We both like this and think it’s appropriate.
But it remains to be seen how contentious this will be in the 2021 Falls Church School Board election.
It is a national phenomenon that many Republicans are using trumped-up opposition to the teaching of so-called “critical race theory” (CRT) to drive a cultural wedge against progressive policies, including doing so by cloaking ideological prejudices in the context of local elections. How many of the eight candidates for School Board here are Republicans? Normally, this is not an issue, but in the wake of the Trump years, it has to be. There has been no letting up on the national frenzy Trump incited in his regrettable four years in office, culminating in the riot at the Capitol on January 6. So, yes, is it a relevant question in a local non-partisan election, at least this year.
Opposition to CRT is one clue, even though some thoughtful conservatives have gone public finding the issue valid. These include Michael Gerson, the former George W. Bush speech writer and now Washington Post columnist whose June 22 column this week is entitled, “I Am a Conservative: Systemic Racism is Real.” Then there is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who in tweets Wednesday said of CRT, “I do think it is important for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and widely read…our military members come from the American people and it is important that our leaders, now and in the future, do understand it.”
That’s very contrary to the rants of GOP Senator and 2024 presidential aspirant Josh Hawley and usual suspects at Fox News who use it to demonize Democrats and by so doing sink themselves deeper into the despond of racism.