The Old Dominion is ground zero for the fight to take back America’s public schools from the “woke” Left.
Decisions being made by school boards in Virginia have made headlines because they have been an example of what is happening in districts across the nation. Cultural marxism and woke ideologies have not only been at the forefront of state and national politics, but they have also entered America’s schools.
A Win in Loudoun County
Loudoun County, Virginia has been in the spotlight around the world in recent years for the problems in its public schools. Former Superintendent Scott Ziegler was accused in 2021 of covering up the rape of a female student by a transgender student in a school bathroom. His denial of this rape was during the time that the school board was debating the implementation of policies that would permit transgender students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of their choice. Ziegler was brought up on multiple criminal charges after a scathing grand jury report, and he has already been found guilty of retaliation against a teacher who testified to the Virginia Attorney General’s special grand jury.
Not long ago, in 1980, Loudoun County was a rural area with a population of only 57,000. Due to the urban sprawl of Northern Virginia, it has grown into one of the largest counties in Virginia—in 2020 its residents numbered over 420,000. It is also the richest county in the nation with a median household income of $156,821 in 2022. While Loudoun was once a very conservative area, that has changed with the growth of the population.
All 9 seats of the Loudoun County School Board were up for reelection this November. The current board is comprised of 8 liberals and 1 conservative, only two current members ran for reelection (both Democrats) and they both lost. Even the current liberal vice-chair of the board was replaced with a conservative. After this election, there will now be 6 liberals and 3 conservatives that will take over the Loudoun School Board in 2024. This was a huge win for conservatives in a very blue county.
Win Some, Lose Some
Another school board that has been in the news is Goochland County, a small district just outside Richmond. One board member, Angela Allen, had been critical of transgender students using the bathrooms of their choice, stating on social media that she’d learned that “students are allowed to use restrooms different from their biological gender. Is this our community’s expectation?”
The other four members of the Goochland County School Board were not happy that Allen was expressing her views in this manner, and the board voted to censure her and reportedly made slanderous comments about her. Allen has since sued those 4 board members for defaming her character.
In the most recent November election, Angela Allen was the only member who retained her seat. She will be joined by four new conservative board members and will likely become the chair of the board. Allen’s courage to take a stand against the liberal bullies is a great model for other conservative school board members who often face attacks when they don’t agree with the leftist majority.
Spotsylvania County Public Schools (SCPS) is a midsize division 60 miles outside of Washington, D.C. This year, the school board flipped from red to blue. This was another district embroiled in the culture wars plaguing schools across the nation. It was one of the first divisions in the state to address sexually explicit materials in school libraries, even taking a vote to prohibit such books. However, after some concerns about how the board implemented the policy they quickly reversed their decision. The meetings seemed chaotic at times with the board chair even attempting to limit citizen comment.
With help from the media, the far-left members of the community gained a foothold in the narrative that the board was trying to ban books—rather than the reality that the purpose was to protect minors from sexually explicit content. The book banning narrative that has been portrayed by the media may have given influence to the outcome of the SCPS school board elections. Unfortunately, most media outlets don’t publish the fact that the media themselves would not be able to quote parts of the books in question—because it would be prohibited by the FCC due to sexually explicit content.
Every conservative candidate running for SCPS school board was also behind in fundraising—in one district race the Democrat raised 20 times more than his opponent—nearly $20,000 compared with the $1,000 raised by the conservative. Conservatives in SCPS and across the state need to regroup and start focusing now on school board elections for the coming years.
Make School Board Races a Top Priority
Gov. Youngkin’s PAC, Spirit of Virginia, has raised more than $26 million since 2021 for electing conservatives, but according to the Virginia Public Access Project only $22,750 from the PAC went to school board candidates.
School Board members have a large amount of control over what happens in schools in their districts, and in the 2021 elections the issue of education was the hottest topic. Yet leaders at the highest levels still do not seem to recognize the importance of school board elections.
Out of the nearly 400 school board races in Virginia in November of 2023, approximately 90 seats went unopposed with only one candidate filing to run. Another 19 seats had no candidates on the ballot.
Conservative school board candidates face an uphill battle because the Left has had control over the education issue for decades. These candidates need help from other elected leaders to gain name recognition and to raise funds. Some school board members will use their position as a steppingstone to higher office, so it’s important we pay closer attention to who’s elected to these seats.
While there are signs of some local Republican Party committees getting behind conservative school board candidates, many seem to look at school board elections as an afterthought. It is time for conservative leaders to not only speak about the importance of education, but to also take action in 2024 and beyond.
Victoria Manning is the vice president of Students First VA and an elected member of the Virginia Beach School Board