Collective Bargaining for Loudoun's Teachers: An Off-Beat Take
I am not a member of the Loudoun Education Association (LEA), the labor union for teachers in my county. They are currently clamoring for collective bargaining with the Loudoun County School Board (LCSB), which ambition I unreservedly support. I’ll be speaking at their rally today, at 5:30, at the public school headquarters, and at the board meeting to follow.
When I spoke at the previous school board meeting on January 10th, I suggested that beyond bargaining over wages, hours, and working conditions — the usual meat-and-potatoes of union concerns — the Board ought to consider the greater contribution the LEA could make. I want to expand upon that here.
After marriages to two teachers (not simultaneously), I am deeply convinced that teachers’ understanding of problems in schools surpasses that of administrators, by a long shot. I’m also convinced their knowledge and expertise goes well beyond that of their immediate supervisors (principals and vice-principals).
In Loudoun and Virginia, however, something bigger is at stake — the long-run integrity, quality, and progress of our public schools and universities, as well as national politics writ large.
The unmasked threat can be seen in the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. With his strictures on instruction in subjects pertaining to LGBTQ and race, DeSantis’s intent is clear: to settle a black cloud over discussions of equality in terms of gender-identity and race. His policies have been justly called “Trumpism without Trump.”
Here in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin owes his own election in 2021 to similar MAGA themes, particularly the amped-up panic over transgender students using girls’ bathrooms and the purported (actually non-existent) teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Now he and his cronies are stoking up a new bogus scandal over the supposed “War on Merit” in Fairfax County schools (next door to Loudoun County).
Do we really have to explain this? Anybody can walk into a girls’ bathroom and commit a crime. Crimes are committed by persons of every sexual persuasion and gender identity. If a left-handed Armenian was arrested committing an axe murder, would we need new laws to guard against the Lefty Armenian Axe-Murder Danger? I think not.
In another demagogic vein, our governor is ginning up potted regulations for history instruction. Suffice to say that actual micro-management of his inane precepts is well beyond that of any omnipotent authority. The real Orwellian danger is that it will encourage apprehensive parents to complain about something their child told them, quite possibly in bowdlerized form, that the teacher purportedly said in class, with negative professional consequences for the teacher. In short, the prospect is the Floridization of Virginia public education. Note that community colleges and universities would not be exempt. In Florida’s public universities, course offerings are being trimmed of topics addressing racism.
At the previous LCSB meeting, an extended public segment was devoted to the nourishment of gifted and talented students. It should be noted that these students’ prospects for admission to selective universities are jeopardized insofar as Virginia’s public schools’ standards are degraded, Florida-style. Moreover, it would not advance such students’ academic careers were they to stand in a college class and suggest the Civil War was not about slavery, or that Jesus and his disciples walked with the dinosaurs.
The upshot is that Board collaboration with the LEA brings potential policy advance and political benefits to students, parents, teachers, and the Board. More broadly, the desirability of Loudoun County as a place to live, reflected in its property values, depends in great part on the reputation of its school system.
Meanwhile, in Madison County, just a two hour drive away, the school board proposes to ban books by Toni Morrison, Anne Rice, and Stephen King from its high school library. Imagine you are an admissions officer at an elite college and you come upon an application from Madison County, Va. In Duval County, Florida, a ban has been placed on books entitled “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates” and “Dim Sum For Everyone,” among many others.
Trump confidant Steve Bannon says the road to MAGA power runs through school boards. The purple state of Virginia is one that national Democrats can ill afford to lose. Loudoun and Fairfax are Democratic strongholds in Virginia, with votes offsetting a multitude of small, rural, white counties that provide lop-sided majorities to the most extreme Republican candidates.
The issue of collective bargaining in LCPS is just one thread in a bigger garment. If pulled, further unraveling follows. This is what my campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates is about.