In the school board election, voters’ decisions should come down to “experience and effectiveness,” said incumbent school board member David Foster.
“I’ve accomplished the things I promised to work for,” said Foster, who is seeking reelection to a second term.
Foster has been the main proponent of making class-size reduction a priority for the school board. Foster’s opponent, Larry Fishtahler, criticized the board member’s focus on class size. While small classes are important, said Fishtahler, they’re not a “silver bullet.”
Foster also succeeded in making the ability to speak and understand English a goal of county preschool programs.
While Virginia school board races are, by law, non-partisan, Foster is the only official in Arlington that didn’t win office running as a Democrat, or with Democratic endorsement.
He faced an uphill battle on some issues during his first term. When he initially made a motion to create a citizen’s advisory committee on the school budget, Foster couldn’t find a second. Eventually he convinced the other board members, and last year the board voted unanimously to found the Budget Advisory Council.
That type of success helped Foster earn the support of the Arlington Education Association, which endorsed the incumbent in his bid for reelection. “We felt he has worked gracefully in that minority status,” said AEA executive director Marjorie McCreery.
Foster is a native Arlingtonian, and the only current member of the board with children in Arlington Public Schools.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, Foster handled a controversial issue when board members approved new textbooks for the Family Life Education program, including sexual education.
In lengthy debates, Foster questioned some material in a supplemental ninth-grade text, and opposed in-class demonstrations of contraceptive use. He found an ally on those issues in fellow school board member Mary Hynes.
Foster’s opponents have criticized his stance on the textbook. “By doing that, he said that effectively we shouldn’t be presenting kids with options about contraceptives and about protecting themselves,” said Mike Lieberman, Fishtahler’s campaign manager.
“They don’t understand the issue,” said Foster. “I did not vote against the program or the textbooks, and I invite my opponent, if he feels strongly about it, to bring a condom demonstration to the next debate and share with the voters what it is he supports. There’s no doubt who’s in the mainstream on that one.”
FISHTAHLER HAS also criticized Foster’s opposition to a controversial lawsuit over busing students to improve ethnic and racial diversity. One of Fishtahler’s campaign fliers claims Foster “campaigned against using funds to defend diversity in our schools.”
Foster’s supporters call the claim ridiculous, and say Foster’s opposition to the lawsuit helped save money being spent on a losing battle. “He was just going with the law,” said Darnell Carpenter, a volunteer on the Foster campaign.
Carpenter, who is black, said Foster’s record on supporting minority students is unassailable. “Dave Foster is for a more comprehensive strategy to decrease the minority achievement gap,” he said. “He’s a breath of fresh air on the school board.”