By Chris Croll
There has been a lot of noise in our community these past few months about public education. The volume of that noise has been amplified by the national news media who reward the loudest screamers with appearances on prime-time TV. So, why the kerfuffle, and what is really going on in our schools?
Spoiler alert—the issues actually have nothing to do with education, your kids, or our schools. These “campaigns of outrage” are orchestrated political moves to instill fear in parents in the hopes people will “vote for change” this November. This effort is ultimately an attempt to shift Loudoun from voting blue (Democratic) back to red (Republican).
Fortunately, most Loudouners are politically savvy and are not easily duped by campaigns based on misinformation. But when you are busy living your life, and you hear these messages over and over again on local and national news, it is sometimes hard to differentiate fact from fiction.
As a political independent, and former School Board member, here is my take on what is really going on.
When you hear people say, “Get Critical Race Theory (CRT) out of our schools,” you are hearing an attempt to discredit the legitimate work LCPS, and other school divisions are doing to create less hostile, more inclusive academic environments for students of color. Some politicians are trying to turn “equity” into a dirty word synonymous with White oppression. This is simply not the case. Equity, as it relates to public education, is about giving all students opportunities to be successful in their academic careers.
I served on the first LCPS Equity Committee. I also personally received the foundational elements of the “Equity at The Center” training many of our LCPS teachers receive. I have also had in-depth conversations with the current and former LCPS Superintendents about the equity work the school division is undertaking. I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, that CRT is not being mandated, taught, or otherwise applied in any of Loudoun’s public schools.
When you hear people say, “Recall LCPS School Board members,” you should know that these efforts are being led by political operatives paid by well-funded political action committees. These people want your name, email address, mailing address, and other contact information so they can add you to their constituent database. If you sign a recall petition, expect your mailbox to be overflowing with political ads leading up to the November election. If you give your phone number on a recall sheet, you will likely receive texts and robocalls asking for your money, your vote or both. The School Board recall effort is not about holding elected officials accountable, it is about building a voter database.
When you hear people say, “Test scores are down so LCPS is failing our kids,” know that, because of the pandemic, some test scores are down in Loudoun, and across the country. This has less to do with ineffective teaching or a poorly run school division than it does with the inherent disadvantages of prolonged distance learning. Everyone took a hit from Covid. LCPS has shared plans with the public related to providing additional curricular and mental health supports for the 2021-2022 school year. I would expect any dips in student performance to be corrected in the coming years.
The latest battle cry of the conservative political machinery in our community appears to be, “Everyone is leaving Loudoun because our schools are so bad.” The people spreading this rhetoric hope that voters will panic at the perceived threat of decreasing home values and will vote in support of change candidates. The truth is that many home values in Loudoun have increased in the past two years, and some have experienced double-digit growth. Our public schools are a big part of the appeal of living in Loudoun County.
In summary, LCPS students are getting a world-class education in schools that are more inclusive than they ever have been before, teachers are working hard to fill in any learning gaps resulting from the pandemic, and there are more people who want to live in our community than there are homes to house them. My advice to busy Loudouners? Ignore the noise. Loudoun County is thriving.
Chris Croll is a writer, empathy activist and communications consultant. She sits on the Board of the Ryan Bartel Foundation, a youth suicide prevention nonprofit. Croll lives in Leesburg with her husband and two teenage boys.