During a forum at Mantua Elementary School on Sunday, candidates for the Fairfax County School Board were asked about where they thought there was wasteful spending in the school system’s budget. Andi Bayer, the Republican running for the Providence seat, took an interesting route as she lambasted the school system for spending money on teacher training, conducting studies that help improve the school system’s effectiveness, and mental health services for students.
For those who don’t know, school teachers in Fairfax County are required to take various professional development courses throughout their career in order to make sure they’re always familiar with the best ways to help educate the students in their classrooms. Andi Bayer, however, says we “waste tax dollars on training” our teachers and blames this on colleges that prepare teachers. This blatantly ignores how we want our teachers to have the best training possible, especially when you consider there might be new information out there for a teacher who graduated from college more than a decade ago (or even longer in many cases).
Her rant about teacher training didn’t stop there as she specifically highlighted how minorities tend to do worse on the tests required to receive a teacher’s license. A license is required by most school systems before a teacher is employed and many even require it for some of their substitute teachers, which means teachers in Fairfax will have received an acceptable score before being hired. It therefore wasn’t quite clear why she was highlighting the performance of minorities since it wasn’t a conversation about achievement gaps or something like that. Nonetheless, Bayer definitely took a moment to highlight the performance of minorities.
Another interesting aspect of the rant was how it included her expressing opposition to the school system conducting studies. As I’ve been attending these forums and going to school board meetings, I frequently hear folks from both sides of the aisle claim we should be using data to ensure we’re using the most effective programs possible.
Despite making all these claims, Elizabeth Schultz, the Republican who represents the Springfield District on the school board, missed an entire detailed presentation from teachers, parents, experts, students, administrators, and others about FCPSOn earlier this month. This prevented her from hearing some crucial data and other information about how technology is used to increase the ways students can access course curriculum. It appears as though Andi Bayer is joining Schultz in her indifference to receiving data as she told the audience studies are a waste of money and are only used to help promote certain “agendas.”
“This board spends a lot of time on hiring outside groups to run all of these studies” Andi said. “And those studies, they run them until they agree with what their agenda is.”
Despite all this being disappointing, the worst was how she finished her answer regarding waste in the school system’s budget. As we’ve heard Republicans constantly discussing how an increase in screen time is impacting students’ mental health (which is a concern they’ve raised about FCPSOn) and how mental health is a factor in gun violence, Bayer included mental health as an issue where she believes the school system’s wasting money.
“Mental health is another big issue,” Bayer claimed. “We’re going to be spending a lot on mental health.”
“So after the Parkland shooting, we did these studies,” she continued throwing in a reference to the studies she earlier claimed only promoted the current school board’s agenda. “We wanted safer schools. We have no bullet proof glass. We have no new things for door locks. We spend it on mental health.”
“We’re paying right now for a child centered utopia,” Bayer concluded in remarks that are similar to those she’s said at previous events. “We’ve gone a little bit of a different path. We need to be focusing the money back to the programs, back to academics, and not on name changes.”
It should be noted that the name change issue seemed to be thrown in there at the last moment in a desperate attempt to rally her base of supporters who want to have the county’s schools named after white supremacists who served in the Confederate army. It also was an interesting addition since the rest of her answer didn’t discuss the issue, but instead was saying we spent too much money on things like teacher training and mental health.
For those who are interested, here’s a recording of her full answer to the question: