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Education is local, not national

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), based in Alexandria in northern Virginia, is a federation of state school board associations across the United States. It “advocates for equity and excellence in public education through School Board leadership.” Further, it “desires to create a better understanding of the importance of school boards.” It is classified as a not-for-profit organization.

On Sept. 29 of this year, NSBA President Viola Garcia and Interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven wrote a letter to President Biden entitled “Federal Assistance to Stop Threats and Acts of Violence Against Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other School District Officials and Educators.” This was a six page letter, but the highlights are as follows:

  1.  America’s public schools and its leaders are under an immediate threat.
  2. NSBA requested federal law enforcement and other assistance “to deal with the growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation across the nation.”
  3. There must be safeguards in place to protect public schools and dedicated education leaders.
  4. Many public school officials are also facing physical threats.

NSBA indicates it is writing “on behalf of our state associations and the more than 90,000 school board members who govern our country’s 14,000 local school districts educating more than 50 million schoolchildren.” Further, NSBA states that “as these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous acts could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

Also in this letter, NSBA requests a “joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education and Homeland Security.” It asks for assistance from the FBI’s National Security Branch and its Counterterrorism Division.

The main issue with this letter is that state school board associations were not consulted on its contents and did not agree with its statements and requests. The Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) has stated as such.

VSBA is highly regarded and represents all 132 school divisions in Virginia. In an email  to Virginia school board members dated Oct. 6, VSBA’s president and executive director stated that it was not consulted on NSBA’s Sept. 29 letter, did not provide information, and was not informed it was being sent. VSBA supports the constitutional authority of local boards to manage and control public schools in Virginia. It believes that parents play a vital role in that important function.

All too often the Virginia General Assembly passes laws regarding public school-related topics without a thorough review and without consulting with those education professionals who are in schools everyday. Those laws are then referred to local school boards who are forced to adjust or make new policies to conform to those new state laws.

Parents should stay involved with their children’s education, work with teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members. In the case of state law, the place to go is directly to members of the General Assembly. One on one fact-based conversations are much more effective than making a grandstanding appearance on television.

ROBERT N. HOLT is a graduate of Franklin High School and Virginia Tech. He currently serves as vice chair of the Franklin City School Board. These words are his own and not necessarily those of that school board.