School Board Wants to Ram Through a New ‘Equity Policy’ Without Public Engagement

Mark Spooner | Fairfax Schools Monitor

The Fairfax County Public School System (FCPS) revealed a proposed “Equity Policy” on June 14. No prior draft had been released. Nevertheless, FCPS scheduled it for discussion at a work session on June 21 and for a final vote on June 26. See “New Equity Policy — FCPS Schedules Key Vote with No Time for Public Engagement,” June 16, 2023. At the work session yesterday evening, the Board confirmed its intent to rush the policy through next week.

Background to Last Night’s Work Session

Promptly after the proposed policy was released last week, a group of thirty-three citizens asked the Board to defer final consideration in order to provide time for public review and input. The letter noted that the proposal was vague, broad and potentially problematical in many respects. See HEREAn additional letter was sent to the Board on June 19, spelling out some of the serious issues posed by the draft. See HEREThe questions include these:

  • Why is an “Equity Policy” needed at all, given that FCPS has already adopted the equity-based One Fairfax policy and, just a week ago, an equity-based Strategic Plan?
  • Why is the term “equity” defined in the proposed policy in a way that’s more vague, open-ended and controversial than the definition in the Strategic Plan?
  • The proposed policy vows to eliminate “disproportionate outcomes,” without defining the term. It could be construed to mandate equal-outcomes-for-all, regardless of actual achievement. Why isn’t the term defined clearly?
  • Despite the fact that FCPS has placed “equity” at the core of its mission in recent years, the draft asserts that the current system embodies policies and practices that “normalize and perpetuate” inequitable outcomes. What are these policies and practices, and why hasn’t FCPS eliminated them before now?
  • Why can’t FCPS alleviate concerns about its intent in enacting the policy by making clear that “equity” does not support adoption of controversial practices such as modifying grading systems to disguise differences in actual achievement and using classrooms to promote controversial concepts such as “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” etc.?
  • How would the Equity Policy affect the Strategic Plan and other FCPS policies and priorities? The problem here is that the proposal doesn’t focus on the needs of all students, and yet it is phrased as the most important of all FCPS policies, driving all decisions, and prevailing over the scores of other, existing policies.
  • What is the intent of the “school funding” provision in the draft policy? The proposal states that an FCPS priority will be to “provide differentiated distribution of resources and access to facilities based on students’ needs and driven by elimination of predictability of outcomes.” Why is this language needed, given that the Strategic Plan already addresses the issue with different language? What are the legal and other implications of providing “differentiated access to facilities” to different identity groups? If the number-one priority in school funding is to eliminate differences in outcomes, how will the “non-marginalized” groups be affected?
The June 21 Work Session

The School Board met yesterday evening to discuss the proposed policy. It was hoped the meeting would begin with a discussion of why the timetable is so frenetic, but that didn’t occur; the FCPS staff and Board members proceeded as if it was a given that they are on track for final approval a few days from now.

Only 90 minutes was allocated to cover fundamental questions and drafting suggestions. This ensured there wouldn’t be time for a full discussion. The first 15 minutes were consumed by a slide presentation by the FCPS equity staff. Several slides were designed to convey the impression that the public had been intimately involved in developing the proposal. This was highly misleading because the general public had almost no role at all. The FCPS equity staff may have worked closely with “equity” insiders, but people who might have concerns about such a policy were almost entirely shut out. No mention was made in the presentation of the fact that a draft policy hadn’t been made available until last week. (Note: I was invited in January to be a member of an “equity policy steering committee,” but it wasn’t a real committee, and it didn’t do any steering. I was a token member of a fifty-person, non-diverse group. The “committee” had only two perfunctory Zoom calls in February/March, prior to any draft being prepared. When I asked for a list of my fellow “committee” members, the request was denied, and I had to file, and pay for, a Freedom of Information Act request to get the names of the members. The two Zoom calls were the end of my involvement, and despite being a member of the “steering committee,” I didn’t see any draft of the policy until a few days ago.)

After the slide presentation, the Board members each spoke with three-minute time allocations, making suggestions about possible amendments. Some comments touched upon some of the issues identified above, and it was agreed that a new draft should be prepared.

But here’s the rub: The Board didn’t alter the schedule for final approval, which calls for a final vote of this coming Monday, June 26. The staff was directed to come up with a new draft within 24 hours. The new draft will presumably be given to the Board members for their review over the weekend. There was no discussion about whether, or how, Board members could demand further discussion or changes if they are not fully pleased with the equity staff’s new draft.  Nor was there any discussion of making the new draft available to the public.

After the meeting adjourned, I approached the Board’s Chair, Rachna Sizemore-Heizer, and the school Superintendent, Michelle Reid, and asked why there is such a rush to push the proposal to a vote on June 26, rather than deferring it to the next meeting on July 13 or thereafter. Dr. Reid responded, “Because we’ve spent a year developing it.” When I pointed out that the public hadn’t seen any draft until last week, Dr. Reid and Ms. Sizemore-Heizer reacted with surprise. They conveyed the impression to me that they had been taken in by the equity staff’s assertion of public involvement at all stages. I next asked whether, and when, the new draft would be publicly available, and the Superintendent said she’d have to get back to me about that.


The process adopted by FCPS is outrageous. It displays disdain for the legitimate concerns of non-insiders. Despite assurances given when the process began a year ago, FCPS made no effort to involve a broad swath of the community in order to develop a policy that would receive widespread support.  Additionally, the draft policy was withheld until schools were letting out for the summer, when public attention would be elsewhere. And it was scheduled for adoption under a schedule that left virtually no time for public engagement; no time to fully digest it, or to discuss it with other interested citizens, or to meet with elected representatives, or to have public forums.

It’s beyond the pale that the FCPS administrators and the School Board are ramming this sensitive policy down our throats in this manner.

Retired attorney Mark Spooner is the editor of Fairfax Schools Monitor, where this analysis was first published on June 22, 2023.

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