Academics, arts, parents and teachers—added together, they equal a successful learning environment for students, said Larry Fishtahler. A candidate for school board, Fishtahler hopes those elements will also add up to a victory in November.
In his bid to oust incumbent board member Dave Foster, Fishtahler’s platform focuses on those main components. In academics, Fishtahler shares his opponent’s opinion that small classes create better learning opportunities.
“It doesn’t take any real insight into education to know that that’s an important factor,” he said. But Fishtahler also says teachers much individualize instruction for each student.
Fishtahler openly criticizes requirements from the federal No Child Left Behind Act and even downplays the importance of Virginia Standards of Learning tests, which determine whether schools earn state accreditation and ultimately whether students receive diplomas.
“Great education for each child is not designated as passing those stupid SOL tests,” he said. “SOL’s are the lowest common denominator. We have to aim a lot higher than that.”
Without immediate, close attention to the arts, students could lose creative outlets in the future, he said. Fishtahler wants to improve school internet use to help keep parents better informed.
HE’S PUSHING A plan he calls “Teachers for Tomorrow,” which he says could help attract the most qualified teachers through 10-percent, yearly salary increases, differentiated pay for the most talented teachers, improved health and retirement benefits and more opportunities for professional development.
Despite his focus on benefits for teachers, Fishtahler wasn’t able to win support from the Arlington Education Association, who instead endorsed Foster.
Fishtahler is backed by the Arlington County Democratic Committee and the other four current school board members, who all ran with the endorsement of the Democratic party.
Fishtahler has two children in Arlington Public Schools and his wife is a teacher at Yorktown High School. Fishtahler has experience teaching fourth grade and at the community college level.
He has volunteered with APS for 12 years, serving on the Advisory Council on Instruction, Minority Student Achievement Committee and the County Council of PTAs.
FISHTAHLER’S OPPONENTS are proud not to have Democratic endorsement, or Republican endorsement for that matter. Foster’s rallying cry has been that there is no Republican or Democratic way to educate young people. The incumbent boasts bipartisan support.
Fishtahler defends his decision to seek endorsement. “I’m sorry, but there are differences between Republicans and Democrats on education policy,” he said.
In recent weeks, Fishtahler’s camp has lashed out more at Foster’s anti-partisanship message. “He says he’s an independent. I question that,” said Fishtahler.
“I hate to point fingers first,” said Dan Steen, ACDC chairman. “But in terms of judging politics, Dave has endorsed a number of Republican candidates along the way.” School board endorsements aren’t new, Steen said — the ACDC has backed a candidate in every school board election.