Arlington has been electing its School Board members since the 1990s. But it turns out that, strictly speaking, the community may not have the power to do so.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) aims to make everything nice and legal.
“I view it as more a technical change than anything else,” Hope said of a bill he is patroning to clarify Arlington’s ability to elect School Board members.
Turns out that when the General Assembly allowed localities to have elected school boards – rather than have members appointed by the community’s governing body or a judge – the authority didn’t make it into the part of the Code of Virginia dealing specifically with Arlington’s county-manager plan of government.
Hope checked with the state’s Division of Legislative Services, whose staff advised him that it needed to be changed.
School Board Chairman Barbara Kanninen referred an inquiry on the matter to Linda Erdos, the school system’s assistant superintendent of school and community relations. Erdos said school officials believe Arlington’s ability to hold School Board elections is covered in other sections of the Code of Virginia.
“I guess it doesn’t hurt to have the added affirmation via Del. Hope’s bill, but we believe that the current system that we follow is already legal,” Erdos said, noting that the school system was checking with its lawyers on the matter.
Arlington in the immediate post-World War II era had been permitted to elect its School Board, a power no other Virginia jurisdiction at the time was given. Elections were held in 1947, 1951, 1953 and 1955, but then the legislature stripped that power and Arlington reverted to appointed School Board members. The county resumed electing its School Board members in 1994.