In recent years, the Richmond Public School (RPS) Board has played a significant role in shaping the leadership of Virginia’s capital city. Following the endorsement of Kamala Harris for president by Superintendent Jason Kamras, RPS school board members have made a series of high-profile endorsements with far-reaching consequences for local and national politics.
The dominoes began to fall in June, when first-term school board member Liz Doerr announced her support for Jennifer McClellan in the Virginia governor’s race. McClellan, a state senator and former school board member herself, would become the first Black woman to serve as Virginia’s governor if elected in November.
Doerr’s endorsement of McClellan set off a chain reaction. School board member Jonathan Young threw his support behind Terry McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor seeking a second term, citing McAuliffe’s record of support for public education.
Then, in July, school board Chair Linda Owen endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lee Carter, citing his commitment to ending school privatization and increasing funding for Virginia’s public schools.
The RPS Board’s endorsements have not gone unnoticed by the candidates themselves, who have been quick to tout their education credentials and outreach to Richmond’s students and families.
These endorsements, while not necessarily representative of the entire Richmond community, carry significant weight for RPS families and voters. Richmond has a long history of school segregation and underfunding, and the current board has made improving equity and access to quality education a top priority.
More broadly, these endorsements signal the growing power of public education in political discourse, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools continue to grapple with the social, emotional, and academic effects of a year and a half of virtual and hybrid learning, the opinions and priorities of educators and school leaders are more important than ever.
As the November elections draw closer, it remains to be seen how these endorsements will shape the outcome of the gubernatorial race and other down-ballot contests. Regardless, the RPS Board’s endorsement domino effect is a reminder of the critical role that education plays in politics at the local and national levels.