During last year’s General Assembly session, the Loudoun County School Board sought and won state authority to transition to staggered terms starting next year. On Monday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin amended an update to that bill, seeking to trigger snap elections for all nine School Board members this fall, cutting short the terms of seven elected officials by one year.
Youngkin’s office declined a request to for an interview about that action.
The amendment comes amid the Attorney General Office investigation into the School Board’s handling of a sexual assault scandal that occurred in two Ashburn high schools and two members face removal petitions in Circuit Court. Spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita declined to comment on the status of the investigation.
The School Board sought the transition to staggered terms to ensure continuity following the 2019 election when only two of nine elected members had prior experience. That passed last year. This year, House Bill 1138, largely a technical amendment to that legislation before Youngkin’s amendment, passed the House of Delegates with a 100-0 vote and the Senate with 39-0-1 vote.
In a statement on April 12, Del. David Reid (D- 32), the bill’s patron, called Youngkin’s amendment “another attempt by some Republicans to subvert our democracy and hold it hostage to a right-wing minority.” Reid has not responded to an interview request.
Under Virginia law, the amended bill would become law with a majority vote among members present in both houses. If two-thirds of members in both houses vote to oppose the amendment, the original bill becomes law. If neither action occurs, the original bill returns to the governor’s desk.
In Loudoun, a county which Youngkin lost in November 2021 by nearly 10 points, local elected officials are speaking out against the amendment.
Two seats were already bound for the ballot this fall in special elections, as Andrew Hoyler (Broad Run) and Tom Marshall (Leesburg) were both appointed to their seats in 2021.
Hoyler, who is running for election in the fall, shared his shock over Youngkin’s action on Twitter.
“I was extremely surprised with the news this morning regarding forced elections for all school board seats this November, as opposed to just my seat and Mr. Marshall’s seat. Despite my differences with my each of my colleagues, I do NOT support Governor Youngkin’s amendment,” he wrote.
Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian), one of the School Board members facing a removal effort, also released a statement.
“Tens of thousands of parents cast their ballots in the 2019 election. I believe any attempt to undermine their votes and voices will be seen as a political effort that only serves to create more chaos, which I think hurts the students in our school division. The best interest of the children and their families will continue to guide me,” she wrote.
Meanwhile Democrats on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors also objected in a press release.
“By adding this unnecessary amendment to a simple administrative bill, which was requested by the Loudoun Board of Elections at the behest of the Loudoun County School Board, Governor Youngkin is opening the door for any future majority and Governor to undermine local elections and local control,” it reads. “The members of the Loudoun County School Board were elected to serve 4-year terms, and they should be allowed to serve the full duration of their terms. We continue to seek ways to work with the Governor, and his party on substantive issues that will benefit Loudoun County. Now that the Gubernatorial campaign is complete, we look forward to Governor Youngkin… governing.”
Representatives from Youngkin’s office declined an interview request. A spokesperson shared a prepared statement attributed to Youngkin instead.
“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,” it reads.
The possibility of November 2022 elections comes as the School Board announced four Town Hall meetings to connect with members of the public.
The town halls will be held on April 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at both Tuscarora High School and Briar Woods High School, and on April 19 from 7 p.m. – 9 pm. at Stone Bridge High School and Dominion High School.
This story was updated Tuesday, April 12 at 3:40 p.m. with additional comment.