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The Right Note: Questions for Our Leaders

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Two weeks ago, Arlington Public Schools abruptly reversed course and decided to start the school year with all virtual learning.

As a reminder, in a June school survey 73 percent of Arlington parents indicated they would be comfortable sending their children back with safety protocols in place. As of mid-July, approximately two-thirds of parents had already signed their children up for the hybrid in-person model.

APS announced they would re-evaluate the decision for October and beyond. According to the APS website, they are committed to resuming instruction in the classroom “as soon as possible.” With that in mind, it is time for APS to answer the following:

  1. How does APS plan to measure the impacts of the all distance learning model on academic progress?
  2. What specific COVID-19 related metrics will the APS use as a basis for a decision to return to in-person instruction and how will those be communicated to students, parents and teachers?
  3. What guarantees do parents have that APS will not reverse course on a future reopening decision that meets the metrics, supporting scientific studies, and CDC and Virginia Department of Education guidelines at the behest of the Arlington Education Association?

Last week the Arlington County Board voted to join the lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s move to exclude those without lawful immigration status from the apportionment count. It took less than one minute to pass. It was not on the agenda. There was no real debate about why Arlington should join one of multiple lawsuits. There was no mention of how much it might cost the Arlington taxpayers.

For those who do not follow constitutional terms of art for a living, apportionment is the way states are allotted seats in the United States Congress. It has a corresponding impact on the Electoral College.

Constitutional experts on both sides have argued, and will continue to argue, whether this move will withstand Supreme Court scrutiny. If it stands, however, it would not impact how states can use Census data to draw congressional or state legislative districts. The Virginia Code says we have to use the most recent decennial population figures from the Census. In other words, Arlington would not lose any strength of representation in Congress or in Richmond unless the Democrat-controlled General Assembly changes the rules.

Excluding those without lawful immigration status from apportionment also does not impact the overall Census count. The Census Bureau is continuing the effort to count everyone, including the use of in-person visits beginning in August. As federal programs use population counts not apportionment, Arlington’s $50 million annual assistance for transportation, housing, emergency services and school lunch programs will see no impact from the change.

You may agree with the decision to join the lawsuit. You may not. But why were our County Board members unwilling or unable to spend even one minute each articulating the rationale for a decision to join a congressional apportionment lawsuit prior to taking a vote?

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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