While they’re not receiving as much attention as some of the races for the General Assembly, there has been a lot of drama taking place in races for Fairfax County School Board. In addition to Elizabeth Schultz’s controversial remarks about how the Holocaust is taught in schools and the roll Jews play in politics (see here and here), there have accusations flying around about conspiracies involving the Superintendent supposedly “colluding” with Democrats to get them elected, claims that liberals supposedly want to bus students all over the county in the name of diversity, Republican incumbents simply not being able to attend full school board meetings, and a long list of other things.
With that in mind, the Republican candidates for the Providence district seat and the three at large seats held a forum at Mantua Elementary School last night. The forum was supposed to cover a wide variety of questions, but it was clear from the outset that it was designed to further the conspiracy theories about school busing and boundary changes. The organizers of the forum, for example, gave the Republican candidates pre-written questions that touched on this topic. This was clearly a setup for them to simply bash the current school board members and the One Fairfax policy as they’ve been consistently doing on the campaign trail.
That being said, there were several questions that were hyper localized and dealt with the larger issues through the frame of how they impacted Mantua Elementary, Frost Middle School, and Woodson High School. One question focused on how these schools are projected to be overcrowded within the next five years, for instance, and the candidates were asked if they’d consider changing boundaries to help address the issue. Andi Bayer somehow decided this was a perfect opportunity to sidetrack into how “we like America” and shouldn’t be subject to “an authoritative board.”
“We make choices, but that’s why we like America. Let’s be quite honest, I don’t care where you buy a home and I don’t care why you bought the home, but that was your decision to make,” Bayer said as part of her long winded answer. “You should not have an authoritative board changing” how you decide where to live.
Of course, Bayer didn’t stop there as she needed to remind people that “this is America” while also suggesting the school board is taking enormous amounts of public funds and is refusing to engage with the public about how it’s spent. She claimed we haven’t a school board that listens to us “for decades.”
“They want your money, they get your vote, and you hear nothing. You hear crickets. So this is unacceptable to me,” Bayer claimed. “This is America. These are our schools, we fund them.”
The rant is only fully appreciated if you actually listen to it, so here’s the audio:
It should be noted that the question was about how the school board could potentially deal with overcrowded schools, but still maintain the neighborhood school aspect of Mantua Elementary and other local schools. The question was clearly designed in a way to promote an answer somewhere along the lines of “we won’t change boundaries,” but Andi Bayer’s answer took it in all sorts of different directions in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to suggest the Democrats were somehow un-American. During the course of her response, however, she never actually came close to answering the question.
This wasn’t the only time that one of the candidates appeared to go off on a tangent about how the school board supposedly doesn’t represent the public. Throughout this year’s campaign, Republicans have been claiming their voices aren’t being heard because Democrats have had “super majorities” ever since the school board became an elected position back in the 1990’s.
While Ben Tribbett (aka Not Larry Sabato) has already addressed how their claims about the size of Democratic majorities is wrong, it’s also very interesting that they bemoan the outcome of the electoral process considering how Republicans at the national level are talking about election integrity. While refusing to be concerned about Russian interference in our elections, after all, it’s now their claim that the impeachment inquiry is really just an attempt to circumvent the 2016 presidential election.
With all that in mind, it apparently was Priscilla DeStefano’s turn to rant about how Democrats keep getting elected and supposedly don’t listen to what people have to say. She also randomly decided this was the opportunity to criticize the school board’s decision to have menstrual supplies in female restrooms, which has been something that Elizabeth Schultz and other conservatives have also been throwing fits about both at school board meetings and on the campaign trail.
Here is her full rant about that topic just in case you’re interested:
Of course, anybody who’s been watching the various races for Fairfax County School Board realizes it’s actually the Republicans who have been bringing partisanship into the conversation whenever possible. Just last week, for instance, Andi Bayer told the audience at a League of Women Voters forum that LGBT students are the “loudest special interest group” and we should “stop wasting our time” on protecting LGBT students from bullying and discrimination. At tonight’s forum, she continued that line of thought by repeatedly saying Democrats are only paying attention to “special interests.”
Bayer’s also managed to imply Democrats were using diversity and mental health issues as a way to “victimize” people. At a Arab American Candidate Night a couple weeks ago, she said “we’re out to victimize each other and we’re out to victimize our children.” And tonight she added to that by saying we’re investing too much money in mental health and are creating a “child utopia.”
All in all, this forum was par for the course in terms of the rhetoric used by the Republican candidates for the Fairfax County School Board. Perhaps the most obvious difference was that this was the worst attended forum I’ve been to so far this election cycle. While most forums in Fairfax have literally had overflow crowds, this one only attracted a handful of people (though Elizabeth Schultz did manage to show up even though she can’t manage to show up to school board meetings on time).
The low attendance numbers might have been due in part to the League of Women Voters having an extremely well attended forum in the district last week, but there were also a fair amount of questions coming in about the way in which the forum was organized. Invitations apparently went out to the Democratic candidates so late, for example, that all of them had already committed to other events. Even Priscilla DeStefano had to leave halfway through the event.
Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear some of the various ways they launched attacks against Democrats and the school system’s staff. With that in mind, I’ll have a few more posts soon about some of the answers the candidates provided to other questions.