If you are gruntled (don’t hear that word much, do you?) with governance of the Arlington school system, never mind, but if you are disgruntled, the Arlington County Republican Committee would like to talk to you.
The party is putting out its annual call for candidates with a focus on the School Board, as Democratic incumbent Barbara Kanninen has opted not to seek a third term and the Arlington County Democratic Committee is facing pointed internal and external questions about what role it should play in candidate vetting.
The School Board election “presents a unique opportunity for a determined and disgruntled parent to make a significant impact in Arlington Public Schools,” the GOP said in an e-mail to its rank and file.
The missive may have been a victory of hope over experience; Republicans in Arlington traditionally have had little success in finding School Board candidates to support, and the last time a non-Democrat sat on the dais was from 2000 to 2007, when Republican Dave Foster served two terms.
Though school board posts across the commonwealth are officially nonpartisan (per state law), political parties have the ability to “endorse” candidates rather than formally nominate them. For years, the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) has used that power to maintain (with the exception of Foster) a monopoly on the five seats.
When true independents have challenged the Democratic endorsee in general-election races, Democrats generally have won more than 60 percent of the vote.
But hope springs eternal.
“Arlington parents expect a top-tier public-education system, and it’s clear the status quo offered by the ACDC-endorsed School Board is failing students,” the GOP said in a statement. “The ACDC-backed School Board is in lock-step with the failed education establishment that has left millions of children behind since March 2020.”
Using a caucus to winnow candidate selection, as Democrats have, “undermines the intent and spirit of non-partisan School Board elections and the integrity of the so-called nonpartisan body,” Republicans said in a statement.
In the “strange bedfellows” category, the Arlington County Republican Committee has echoed criticism of the Democrats’ endorsement caucus leveled recently by the Arlington branch of the NAACP.
The NAACP called on Democrats to either scrap the caucus entirely, or reform it to provide a more level playing field for a broader array of prospective candidates.