In recent years, partisan politics has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and Virginia’s public education realm is no exception. Once pillars of local community engagement, school boards have become battlegrounds for political ideologies. This trend is detrimental to the quality of education and undermines the essence of local control that the Virginia School Boards Association was founded upon.
VSBA, with its 131 members, stands as a testament to the diversity of voices in Virginia’s educational landscape. It is a membership-driven association, and it’s crucial to remember that not everyone will agree on every issue within this diverse group. That’s the beauty of local control; it allows communities to tailor their educational policies to their unique needs. However, the growing influence of partisan politics threatens this principle.
Our society is becoming increasingly polarized, and this division has seeped into the decisions made by school boards. Issues that should be rooted in the best interests of our children — like curriculum choices, school safety and teacher training — are now being colored by political affiliations. School boards that find common ground to advocate for education are villainized and smeared for not aligning with the status quo. This shift jeopardizes the core mission of education: to prepare our students for a successful and inclusive future.
VSBA has steadfastly upheld its commitment to neutrality, refusing to take sides in the culture wars that have gripped our nation. This stance is not a recent development but a principled approach transcending political administrations and party control of our legislative branch. VSBA works to advance Virginia’s public education system in areas of common purpose with administrations and lawmakers of both political perspectives. We oppose policies from each party that attempt to remove local control from our school boards. This is not a sign of weakness but a testament to VSBA’s dedication to fostering an environment where every voice in the communities represented by local school board members can be heard and respected.
Education should be a unifying force, not a dividing one. It should provide a platform for diverse perspectives to coexist, fostering critical thinking and empathy in our students. When partisan politics seeps into our classrooms, it erodes this foundation and replaces it with discord and division.
As Virginians, we must remember the importance of local control in education. It allows us to tailor our schools to the unique needs of our communities, promoting inclusivity and progress. Partisan politics has no place in our school boards, and we must work together to ensure that our educational system remains a beacon of unity and opportunity for all students.
In a time when it’s easy to be swayed by the currents of division, let us stand firm in our commitment to the principles upon which VSBA was founded. Let us prioritize our students’ well-being and future success above all else. It’s time to put aside partisan politics and focus on what truly matters: providing the best education for the next generation of Virginians.
David Woodard is president of the Virginia School Boards Association