Fairfax County: A School Board Election that Truly Matters

by James A. Bacon

The implementation of social-justice policies in public schools is gaining momentum in urban and suburban school districts across Virginia. Nowhere is the trend more evident than in Fairfax County, which administers the state’s largest school system.

The Democrats’ social-equity agenda has inspired a spirited resistance this year. Republican School Board candidates contend that the Democratic-dominated board intends to re-engineer the racial and income mix of the county’s public schools by re-drawing school district boundaries, even if it means busing some children to distant schools.

Fanning fears is the “One Fairfax” policy adopted by the board that “provides a framework to advance equity.” School board members and senior administrators have made clear their intention to apply the “One Fairfax” lens to the next redrawing of school boundaries.

Ideological Progressives have many attributes, but humility is not one of them. Despite a decade’s worth of policies promoting diversity and inclusion, the racial gap in academic achievement in Fairfax schools has gotten worse, not better. But Progressives are doubling down on failed policies: What’s needed, they insist, is more of the same. The likely consequence will be more of the same — an even wider chasm in academic performance. Progressivism is the problem, not the solution.

The gap in racial performance has been an issue in Fairfax County for 20 years or more. However, the best efforts of schools to address the disparities in educational outcomes have proven fruitless. The table above shows the percentage pass rates for English and Math Standards of Learning (SOL) tests for Fairfax County broken down by ethnicity and race. Asians set the benchmark for academic achievement in Fairfax, as they do throughout Virginia.

Ten years ago, the gap in English SOLs between Asians and other groups was notable but did not look insurmountable — a 9.8 percentage-point differential between Asians and Hispanics, and a 13.4-point differential between Asians and blacks. (The Asian-white gap was a modest margin of 2 percentage points.)

By the 2018/19 school year, the gap had become a yawning chasm. The Asian/Hispanic gap in English had widened to 23.4 percentage points, and the Asian/black gap had widened to 24 percentage points. The Asian/white gap also widened to 4 percentage points. (The gaps in math SOLs were comparable.)

These numbers must be interpreted carefully. The SOL tests and standards were revised significantly several years ago, with the result that pass rates fell across the board — for all groups and in all regions of the state. The decline was most marked among lower-performing groups, and the racial gap also widened statewide. Accordingly, it would be premature without deeper analysis to hold Fairfax County school officials responsible for the widening gap in their school system. But it is fair to say that a decade of Progressive social-equity policy has done nothing to narrow the gap.

Desperate to find a solution to racial inequity, Progressives in Fairfax County, as in the City of Richmond and elsewhere, can think of no better solutions than to demand more state money and to fine-tune the racial balance of the public schools. Vaguely citing “studies” and “research,” they hope to find the magic mix that will improve the performance of blacks and Hispanics. Many Fairfax parents are understandably upset that their kids might spend an extra hour traveling back and forth from school during the county’s notorious stop-and-go rush hour.

Even worse, there are no assurances that social engineering will make the slightest different to the supposed beneficiaries. When you misdiagnose the cause of a social problem — in this case, a reason for the academic underachievement of blacks and Hispanics is an insufficient number of white and Asian classmates — the remedy based on that misdiagnosis is bound to fail, and may well do active harm. If Democrats retain control of the School Board, Fairfax County will learn this lesson the hard way — assuming the Progressives who run the county schools are capable of learning anything at all.

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17 responses to “Fairfax County: A School Board Election that Truly Matters”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m impressed that the GOP has managed to field candidates for most if not all the positions… something the Dems don’t manage to do as much.

    The question in Fairfax is do the people – the voters of Fairfax tend towards the Dem policies of the GOP opposition to those policies?

    I don’t see the Dems as “doubling down” as much as I see them acknowledging that past attempts have not worked and they are continuing efforts towards finding more effective policies.

    Which is better – continuing efforts or opposition that says essentially “we cannot fix it, so stop trying”?

    I see almost nothing from the GOP on these issues other than race-tinged complaints and “ideas” and advocacy for more private schools for those that can afford it or use public funds but have no accountability like public schools are required to do.

    I just don’t see answers from the GOP…. do voters in Fairfax see answers from the GOP?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      The people of Fairfax generally couldn’t tell you the Dem policies vs the GOP policies. Sure, there is a certain percentage of people who educate themselves on such matters but most don’t. Larry, the turnout for an off – off year election is dismal across Virginia – something like 31%. But this is what The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond wants – they want to operate under the radar. Sadly, the School Board and Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County seem to have adopted the same approach.

      I am confident that if the majority of voters in Fairfax County understood what was being planned by the prog-libs on the School Board there would be an uproar. In fact, there has been something of a very localized uproar …


      Read the article. The School Bard member is very busy denying that there is any plan associated with One Fairfax. But what are we to make of that?

      The adoption of One Fairfax was the start of a major shift. The words in One Fairfax seem reasonable and innocuous. However, they aren’t either. They are akin to the grunts and oinks that feral pigs use to communicate among themselves before stampeding off through a farmer’s corn field destroying everything in sight. Like the feral pigs with their oinks, the prog-libs believe that only they can understand the coded calls for action in the One Fairfax decree. However, some of us who have lived in NoVa for decades have developed an advanced understanding of prog-lib behavior and the prog-lib codes.

      The first step toward another attempt at forced busing by the prog-libs is to bring the prog-lib mob to attention with innocent sounding words that can easily be mistaken for the usual virtue signaling. That’s One Fairfax.

      The second step is basically “lying through your teeth” by claiming that the words of One Fairfax that were written, edited, studied, discussed and adopted mean nothing. No action will accrue from One Fairfax. That’s where Jane Strauss and other dissemblers are today. Of course, it’s always helpful if the dissembler is retiring from elected office. That way there is no collateral damage when the lies are uncovered.

      The next step is to wait until a normal and typical event like reviewing the school district boundaries vs population shifts occurs. That’s when the One Fairfax screed will be dusted off and waved around like a bloody shirt. The matter has already been resolved! The need for another attempt at forced busing has been defined by the One Fairfax document. It’s set in stone. Settled policy. Let the busing begin!

      Now, the half assed RPV could do something with this if they wanted to do so. There are more than enough conservatives, libertarians and independents who could exactly what the prog-libs are trying to do if it were brought to their attention. And they wouldn’t be happy. However, it’s buried in the Connection newspapers and the RPV is busy dreaming about next year’s shad plank festival. If there were television commercials right now in NoVa those commercials wold make a difference. A difference not only in the county elections but in the state elections as well. All the Hillary lovers and never Trumpers can use local and state elections to express their opinion of the president without concern so long as they don’t know about the BS being planned by the School Board of Supervisors. However, if forced busing becomes an issue in the immediate future – you might see a very different outcome on election day. But that would require RPV competence and that just ain’t going to happen.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    In the business world, when a leader doesn’t produce results, the leader is generally fired. Ditto for an outside consultant, law firm, accounting firm, etc. If policies and programs designed to narrow a test score gap between certain groups and other certain groups doesn’t work, those in charge of the policies and programs should be fired. And the public should know who was fired and why.

    And why don’t school board members who supported the failed policies and programs resign and not run again?

    Personally, I’m going to enjoy all the Democrats freak out when their kids are assigned to schools across the county. It will be just like the Democrats who screamed when a group home for teens with mental and emotional problems opened in their neighborhoods. It’s easy to be progressive when someone else pays the price.

  3. I suggest get used to social, society, and idustry engineering in Virginia. Liberals can no longer tolerate a non-liberal agenda. It will be the success or failure of the liberal apporach that dictates longer term election results. My guess is a rocky ride.

  4. I suggest get used to social, society, and industry engineering in Virginia. Liberals will no longer tolerate a non-politically-correct agenda. It will be the success or failure of the liberal apporach that dictates longer term election results. My guess is a rocky ride.

  5. I am surprised that the tepidness of Larry’s response. Apparently, even he sees the futility of the Dem’s efforts in Fairfax. The choice between “continuing efforts” and “opposition” would seem to be a false choice. If the Republicans don’t say what they would do, neither do the Dems, other than “continuing efforts”. Where do any of the Republicans say that they can’t fix it?
    A pretty vague response, Larry.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well, it IS vague because the governance in NoVa is BLUE BLUE BLUE – no matter what DJ or others say.

    I’m NOT THAT BLUE – believe it or not but one would be a fool to deny the fact, the REALITY that NoVA is BLUE!

    And NoVa is not the only place in Virginia any more…

    I do NOT think the folks that vote Dem in Va are really in support of “far left” policies but rather a rejection of the GOP and it’s policies – like opposing MedicAid Expansion or their hard core stance on abortion or gun rights or immigration.

    There’s really not much to vote FOR – for the GOP in Virginia unless once wants the Virginia Way Status Quo and not even DJ wants that!

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: false choice –

    nope.. I think for the Dems that they realize that what they THOUGHT would work – has not but they still accept the reality that we’re not where we want to be yet.. that there are still unresolved problems…and so they’re not going to walk away and/or adopt the GOP viewpoint.

    There is no silver bullet answer. But the current status quo is not acceptable either. It’s like traffic congestion … you don’t walk away because it’s stubborn and not easily addressed.

  8. The GOP is doing much in Fairfax County, despite the difficult communications terrain. On this particular issue, take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iM4AfGQqTWE.
    “Balancing” the racial mix in the schools will certainly remove the inter-school SOL performance differences, but there is no data to show that it will do anything for the racial differences. In fact, for a poor student to be put in a class with outstanding students could cause much frustration for the poor student — who might act on his frustration.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Right point, wrong medium. The GOP needs to take this to the airwaves via TV commercials not just add another video to the billions already on YouTube.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        yeah, I think when the GOP takes to the airwaves – they actually appeal to their base and turn off those who you’d think they want to attract and add to their “base”.

        If the GOP were actually serious about attracting independents – they’d not only exploit the Dems weaknesses – they’d come up with better approaches that would WIN over folks. So, for instance, they’d advocate tax credits for schools that would take low-income students AND they would provide similar standardized testing transparency.

        You can’t win by attacking the other sides flaws…you have to present a better way…..

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think an honest question is – is there REALLY … equal opportunity for kids REGARDLESS of who their parents are or their socioeconomic status?

    Should that be the goal of public education?

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Equal potential opportunity? Yes. Equal odds of capitalizing on the opportunity? No.

      Clarence Thomas’ native tongue is not English. He grew up speaking Gullah. Now he’s a long serving US Supreme Court justice.

      Had you known Mr Thomas as a child I’m sure you would have cited him as a person who lacked opportunity. Fortunately, Clarence Thomas apparently didn’t see it that way himself.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Mr. Thomas was not a product of the public school system – He lived with his maternal grandparents…. who apparently were not poor.

        The thing to not get tangled up in – is looking an individuals who “made it” despite odds against them. There are always unique individuals who “beat the odds”.

        The question is – looking at a demographic and comparing that demographic to another – for instance do both demographic produce a typical histogram of low, high and medium outcomes?

        Does one demographic get put into the criminal justice system at a higher percentage than another?

        Does one demographic produce more college grads than another?

        do you attributes such differences to “individuals” or to characteristics of culture or race for the group?

        so we go back to the question – what is the difference between Equity and Equality and is that the job of public schools or not?

        Some people – apparently more than a few in urban areas that vote Democratic are persuaded there is an issue.

        You can disagree with them but if you are running as a candidate to represent them – then what is your goal?

        We can call each other snowflakes or leftists or prog-libs or the current favored pejorative of the day… but at the end of the day- who gets elected and why and who does not and why?

        I just don’t think it’s an accident that NoVa votes blue and I do question how the GOP intends to win votes in NoVa and other urban areas that vote blue.

        You have a choice – either represent voters who you may not agree with or try to convince them to vote for you then try to impose your own beliefs on them with your legislative work.

  10. If you want to see the criticisms plus proposed solutions, see http://www.fcta.org/Pubs/Reports/2019-10a-fac.html on the county
    http://fcta.org/Pubs/Reports/2019-08a-fac.html on the schools

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    The schools KNOW that associating schools with neighborhoods perpetuates demographic separation of kids by income levels.

    The funny thing is that people ARE willing to “bus” their kids to a Charter or “special” school that offers more opportunity for their kids.

    AND – people will even MOVE to be closer to a school that has the academic or sports programs that benefit their kids!

    so “busing” has become a “bad” word in one regard but it’s a “good” word if it brings goodies !!

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    Kids of low-income, less-educated parents are at-risk for ending up like their parents – even IF they have normal IQ’s and are equally capable of achieving high competency in reading, writing and math/science.

    And we KNOW this EARLY ON when they first start school and fall behind in the early grades K-3, and we ALSO KNOW if they are in a neighborhood school that serves low-income neighborhoods that the risk is high that they will not escape that fate.

    NOW, listen to the GOP running in blue-voting urbans areas talk about schools and what should be done.

    Is that what most non-GOP voters believe will fix the problem and will be won over?

    It’s NOT what the GOP’s base “believes” or what most Conservatives believe – it’s what do voters believe – if you want their votes. Is the GOP really serious about winning in the urban areas?

    Surely there are school systems in the country that hew to GOP/Conservative principals – right? Most of rural USA is governed by Conservatives, right? So are there some schools in rural USA/VA that are operated according to Conservative beliefs/principles that can serve as creditable “models” for GOPs that are running for office in typically blue-voting regions to advocate for – to win over voters from the Dems?

    Where am I wrong on these questions?

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