To the editor:
The Alexandria Times editorial endorsements underestimate the egregiousness of City Council’s refusal to fund school resource officers as an aggression against the nonpartisan nature of our elected school board and its autonomy.
The four City Council members voting to take school resource officers out of the budget inserted themselves into a decision that is and has historically been the elected School Board’s. City Council is treating the elected School Board the same way council would have decades ago treated an appointed school board and today treats the Traffic and Parking Board or the BAR – boards it appoints and properly can and sometimes does overrule.
But, because the School Board is an elected, co-equal body, the four City Council members voting to effectively overrule the board’s decision on school resource officers have misused their discretion. If they get away with it this time, this will not be the last time City Council meddles in the province of our elected School Board.
Your voter guide reveals this as their implicit intent. Councilor John Chapman’s answer about the city’s greatest area of need post-COVID is “ensuring kids return to five-day in-person learning,” a determination for the elected School Board to make.
In some nearby places, the political parties make school board endorsements, effectively turning nonpartisan school board contests into partisan ones. Unless council reverses its 4-3 vote to defund school resource officers or transfers funding for school security into the school board’s budget, it will continue subordinating the School Board’s autonomy.
Elected School Board advocates strove for two decades to overcome legislative resistance to electing rather than appointing school boards in Virginia, until finally the legislature acceded and Gov. L. Douglas Wilder signed the new law almost 30 years ago. Even still, advocates had to gather petitions signed by 10% of registered city voters to trigger a referendum and drum up voter support to pass it.
Elections are a blunt instrument for the public to express its will, but it is the only instrument we have. And the only way voters can send a message that we respect our School Board and want to preserve its independence is to vote out of office Canek Aguirre and John Chapman. They should not be substituting their judgments for those of the School Board, which painstakingly sought public input before reaching its decision and whose members the voters elected to be in charge of schools.
Instead, Aguirre and Chapman should be running for the School Board – they still have time to do so before the filing deadline – where, if they win, they can vote to discontinue school resource officers.
-Dino Drudi, Alexandria