WASHINGTON, DC — In addition to voting for president and vice president of the United States in the Nov. 3 general election, voters in Washington, D.C., will choose a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives; at-large member of the D.C. Council; member of the D.C. Council for wards 2, 4, 7 and 8; U.S. senator; U.S. representative; at-large member of the State Board of Education; member of the State Board of Education for wards 2, 4, 7, and 8; and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.
LaJoy Johnson-Law, a 32-year-old parent support specialist, is running for the Ward 8 seat on the State Board of Election.
As part of its coverage of the 2020 election, Patch has asked candidates in select races in D.C. to fill out a questionnaire to describe why they think they’re the best person to fill the job they’re running for.
State Board of Education for Ward 8
Myself and my daughter, 9 years old
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Master’s in Public Administration (MPA)
Parent Support Specialist at Advocates for Justice and Education for 2 years, Education and Disability Advocate -Nearly a Decade
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
The single most pressing issue facing public education is the absence of a collaborative plan for the education ecosystem that privileges deep partnerships with families, teachers and government agencies on behalf of our students, and this is what I intend to do about it.
If elected, I want to help families advocate for their children to ensure THEY are in a position to make decisions with stakeholders for all of our children. I would hope that the board includes more families when drafting and proposing resolutions. We should prioritize increased family engagement, access to mental health initiatives, trauma informed training, and special education resources.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
We must condemn all forms of systematic racism and oppression. My heart and my prayers are with the families of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other souls we have lost to racism. We must demand respect and justice for all Black Lives—especially for our children.
What are your thoughts on the campaign to “defund” the police?
(An Educational Perspective) My thoughts on Police in schools: I want all of our children, teachers and staff to be safe in schools. For a comprehensive solution to decrease law enforcement in our schools we must ensure that we have the appropriate and equitable resources in the schools such as behavioral techs, mental health professionals, social workers and evidence- based restorative practices to support our students, teachers, families and schools. It is imperative that we all are a voice to increase trauma-informed, mental health and social workers in the schools.
In addition, we must ensure that we are centering school culture and I believe the families, principals, teachers and students, should make this safety decision for their school. SROs should be a community resource to the schools and surrounding community. Police should not stand in the gap because our schools do not have the funding to pay for mental health, social workers and trauma informed workers. As a city our priority should make sure that all of our schools have the resources to be safe and we all need to address the harm that is and has happened and have a weaning off approach to police in schools.
What are your thoughts on the state and national response to the coronavirus pandemic? Do you favor such measures as limiting operation of non-essential businesses or restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a nationwide mask mandate?
Coronavirus and Education (Schools): Our schools should only open when it is safe for everyone. We should have a Caregiver/Families-centered approach that will ensure we design a strategy that will meet families’ needs and ensure deeper student engagement. When schools partner and design solutions with families to address their concerns — our children thrive. I would continue to urge that the DC Government “look at the science” and make ethical health-centered decisions when moving to reopen schools. Ward 8 residents continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and bear the brunt of this pandemic. We should only open when it is safe for everyone.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am the only candidate that has a holistic perspective running for the Ward 8 SBOE seat. The State Board of Education is a policy making body and it is important to have a technical policy making aspect—in which I possess a Master’s degree in Public Administration (Public Policy). I also have been involved in my community in various aspects, such as serving as a Ward 8 Education Council Parent Member, I am the Ward 8 Democrats: Issues and Legislative Affairs Committee Co-Chair, DC’s Thrive-By-Five Coordinating Council Parent Member, Appletree Early Learning Public Charter School former board member, Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) board member, University of Phoenix DMV Alumni Association Chapter President and a Rocketship Public Charter School parent leader. But most importantly, I am a Mother—an African American Mother. There are no Families of color with school age children on the SBOE and that must change. We have to honor families—especially in light of COVID19. Families should and deserve to be at every decision-making table. I am the only candidate running for the Ward 8 State Board of Education that has a school age child—a school age child that has multiple learning and health disabilities. Ward 8 has the highest number of children in the city of DC and I believe it’s time for families to represent our children, schools and community. I am a teacher, policy maker, advocate, community activist but most of all, I am a Mother. I’ve gained vast experience of working with leaders in all high stakes arenas, political, private, public groups, senior authority and constituents on matters large and small.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
There are no families of color (Black Parents) on the SBOE and it’s time for that to change. Parents are subject matter experts and often are not included in education policy making decisions for their children. There is no education system without families and children. Our children and families should be first. The campaign is also focusing on advocacy for resources towards mental health and special education. Also, I would like to strengthen the state parent engagement/involvement standards to include collaboration across DCPS and DC Charter Schools.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
-Ward 8 Education Council Parent Member
-Ward 8 Democrats: Issues + Legislative Affairs Committee Co-Chair
-DC’s Thrive-By-Five Coordinating Council Parent Member
-Appletree Early Learning Public Charter School former board member
-Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) board member
-University of Phoenix DMV Alumni Association Chapter President
-Rocketship Public Charter School parent leader
-Master’s in Public Administration
I am a City wide advocate on education issues that has been recognized by the Washington Post, Washington City Paper, WAMU, The Washington Informer and Washington Family magazine. I have testified before the DC City Council, State Board of Education and Deputy Mayor of Education on special education, at-risk funding, and school-based mental health policies. I have nearly a decade of experience in disability, education, and health advocacy that directly impacts DC public school students and families and serve as the parent support specialist at AJE, that collaborates with all families and educational stakeholders in the city. I also presented a petition on reopening schools in DC post COVID-19 that was signed by over 70 community members to the Mayor, DC Council, OSSE, DCPS, PCSB and other education advocates. As a mother, I know I can handle this position—we are fighting for our community, schools and our children.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
If elected, an accomplishment in my first term would be to change the state parent engagement standards, collaborative family, school and community advocacy, change the DC Star school rating system to be informed by a balanced scorecard of measures (including the addition of indicators to make it simpler and easier for families that have children with disabilities to evaluate the level and kind of supports each school possesses), and create with the cooperation of OSSE a disability resource hub for schools (LEAs), families and students.
Why should voters trust you?
Ward 8 voters should trust me because, as proud as I am of my community, advocacy and educational accomplishments, my proudest title I hold is: MOM. I am Abria’s mom. I am a Mother first. I will be fighting for all of our children and families in Ward 8. Ward 8 has the most children in the city and I am fighting for every child, just like I am fighting for my own—this is not about politics, this is about our children, their education, their futures in higher education, employment, careers, aspirations, and their dreams.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
There must be transparency with public dollars that affect all DCPS and DC Charter Schools. We are all families who are taxpayers, just like all the other wards in DC. Why are we not represented? There are no Black parents of school age children on the SBOE, however, we pay taxes and our schools and community do not receive the respective proportion of appropriated resources we deserve. There are statistics that bear these facts out…
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
I will be serving my full term
The best advice ever shared with me was:
My mom and a good friend told me: “Tell your TRUTH! Do not be ashamed of your TRUTH! Nobody can take away your TRUTH!”
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am a loving, caring, passionate, mother, friend and confidant. I strive to help everyone, no matter their circumstances. I am a fighter for our children. We are all in this together. I will never stop fighting for my community. I love Ward 8.