The Loudoun delegation to Richmond debriefed the School Board on its legislative agenda on Wednesday, and officials spoke out against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s attempt to cut short the terms of board members.
A bill sponsored by Del. David Reid (D-32) sought to make largely technical updates to legislation last year to implement staggered terms for Loudoun County School Board members. That bill passed the House of Delegates with a 100-0 vote, and the senate with a Senate with 39-0-1 vote, before Youngkin’s suggested amendment that would cut short those elected terms by one year, causing School Board elections both this year and next.
Reid reviewed the process that had originally been requested by the School Board with the Legislative and Policy Committee, and called Youngkin’s amendment “unconstitutional” and “nongermane.”
“I think what has happened is this has gone way beyond the political issues that were going on that the governor was using and has now really crossed the line and gotten into the undermining of democratic principles,” Reid said.
He said that his colleagues in the Democrat-controlled Senate assured him that the bill would not be supported in that chamber.
“Hopefully that will be the final outcome,” he said.
Many of the representatives brought up the polarized discourse surrounding education. Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87) said he’s never seen education politicized in the way it is right now.
“I think it has had nothing but a negative effect so far on school systems, on parents, teachers and administrators,” Subramanyam said.
School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) thanked the delegation for pursuing staggered terms for the School Board and criticized Youngkin’s proposed amendment.
“I think what we saw was the exact opposite, moving away from local control to the Governor’s control,” Morse said. “The School Board unanimously pushed back on that we do not support that. Obviously, the Loudon County electorate selected us to serve a four-year term and we intend to continue that, so thank you very much for that.”
If Youngkin’s amendment were to succeed, it would shorten the terms of seven elected public officials in a locality he lost by nearly 10 points. Two School Board seats are up for grabs on the 2022 ballot in a special election. Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) will seek election to the seat he was appointed to in October 2021. Tom Marshall (Leesburg) was appointed to his seat in December 2021.
Last week news broke that a special grand jury had been impaneled in Attorney General Jason Miyares’ investigation into the School Board’s handling of a sexual assault scandal. The scandal invigorated an existing effort to remove progressive School Board members from office. The board members were also involved in a private Facebook group where, critics argue, they broke open door meetings laws.
Youngkin released a statement through Spokeswoman Macaulay Porter.
“The last few years signified some real challenges with the Loudoun County School Board. So, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, my Amendment gives parents the ability to elect their school board this year, one year earlier than it was stated in the original legislation. This election can reflect the will of parents and it’s a chance with my amendment to do that right now, this November.”
The proposed amendment and the special grand jury were heralded as wins for School Board critics. Youngkin’s office declined to be interviewed on the amendment.