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Saturday, August 13, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionLetter: Democrats need to abandon School Board caucus

Letter: Democrats need to abandon School Board caucus

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Editor: As an Arlington Public Schools’ parent and lifelong Democrat, I am frustrated by the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s (ACDC) endorsement of candidates for School Board. 

Under Virginia law, this office is expressly nonpartisan, as the ACDC Website acknowledges: “Because the School Board is nonpartisan under state law, a partisan primary can’t be held . . . Arlington Dems historically have used the caucus process to identify the Democratic endorsees for School Board.”

As Arlington overwhelmingly votes Democratic, this “endorsement” is determinative of the outcome, since a candidate cannot have a realistic chance without the ACDC endorsement. Indeed, every School Board member since 2004 has been endorsed by the ACDC.

There is also the Orwellian practice of mandatory loyalty pledges required of School Board candidates in order to secure the party endorsement, as well as by those required of voting in the caucuses.

ACDC must stop this unethical and shameful practice. This stranglehold precludes diversity of opinion and minority representation, and perpetuates a “herd mentality” when issues of vital importance to our public schools conflict with the policies of the Democratic Party.

The most egregious example of this was the 2020 candidacy of Symone Walker. As a federal employee, she was the only candidate unable to receive the ACDC’s endorsement. 

Notably, she also was the only School Board candidate or member to speak out on arguably the most important issue in APS recent history: how to safely return our students and faculty to school. (It seems only nonpartisan individuals feel free to advocate for their constituents: APS students.)

Partisan School Board endorsements erode our values. Along with other Arlington Democrats, I call on the ACDC to cancel the proposed 2021 School Board caucus and allow voters to decide the best candidate in November.

Sheila Kelly, Arlington

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