|Dalia Palchik (center) at the Merrifield Fall Festival.|
The school board race in Mason District is not getting much attention, as the incumbent Sandy Evans, is running unopposed, but the contest in Providence is drawing some heat over the LGBT issue.
The incumbent, Patty Reed, did not vote to expand Fairfax County Public Schools’ nondiscrimination policy last spring to add gender identification as a protected class, while challenger Dalia Palchik vows to fight for the rights of transgendered students.
For Mason District, the key issue is maintaining low class sizes in schools with large numbers of high-needs students, including those in English as a second language programs and those eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. That’s especially urgent, as the school board is struggling to close a huge, looming budget deficit.Evans strongly supports maintaining needs-based staffing.
When asked whether she supports maintaining needs-based staffing, Reed said, “honestly, I haven’t formed an opinion yet.” She wants to see more information on the budgetary impact and the costs and benefits of these programs.
Regarding the budget, Reed said, “everything is on the table. The only thing not on the table is teacher compensation.” She believes it’s important for teacher pay in Fairfax County to be comparable to that of other nearby school systems.
Palchik stressed the need to balance the needs of all students and the need to keep class sizes low and also calls for less standardized testing. She would address the budget shortfall by exploring innovative approaches and looking for new revenue sources, including partnerships with businesses and nonprofits.
Reed said she did not vote for the nondiscrimination policy on transgendered students because the board should have had more information on the number of students affected and a cost and benefit analysis before making a decision. Reed noted that she did vote in the past to add sexual orientation to the board’s nondiscrimination policy and anti-bullying rules.
Palchik, who supports the policy on transgendered students, said, “I’m very much supportive of protecting students and staff including the most vulnerable.” The “hateful language” at the school board meetings where this was discussed underscores the need to have policies to address bullying and harassment of LGBT students, she said. “This is the civil rights issue of our time.” Evans voted in support of the policy, which was adopted 10-2.
Reed, who’s served on the school board since 2009, says her biggest advantage is experience. She has been endorsed by the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the two teacher unions, Class Size Counts, and the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC).
Class Size Counts is a parent advocacy group pushing for lower classes throughout the county, which could result in larger classes in schools that serve large numbers of high-needs students. TVC, classified by the Southern Policy Law Center as an extremist hate group, opposes what it calls “the national transgender movement” opposes efforts to protect LGBT people against discrimination and harassment.
Palchik was endorsed by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and a slew of Democratic politicians. Evans isn’t endorsing either candidate.
Some have pointed to Palchik’s job – as a Spanish and French teacher in an elite private school in Washington, D.C. – to claim she is out of touch with FCPS realities. She says her own experiences as an immigrant – from Argentina at age 6 – and a student in English as a second language programs and eligible for free and reduced-price school meals helps her relate to that population. She attended Mantua Elementary School, Frost Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.