As election day approaches on November 2nd, many localities are preparing for local and regional races to vote in new governors, state representatives, township officials, and school board members. Across the country, local elections have turned into contentious political battlegrounds to advance the agendas of national leadership as much as those of community members. In an era of hyper polarization, local elections have become high stakes flashpoints that reflect broader controversies.
在费城西北部切斯特郡（Chester County）的Tredyffrin/Easttown (T/E)学区，一些社区成员正走出他们的舒适区，进入当地政界。其中包括第一次参加政治竞选的Deana Wang王峰，她正在竞选校董事会成员。
In the Tredyffrin/Easttown (T/E) School District, just Northwest of Philadelphia in Chester County, some community members are stepping out of their comfort zones to enter local politics. This includes Deana Wang, a first-time political candidate who is running for school board.
Deana Wang is a first-generation immigrant from China who moved to the United States in young adulthood. She settled in the T/E School district in 2009 with her husband Eric and two children, Aaron and Shania, to benefit from one of the best school districts in the region. As a long-time and engaged member of the community, Wang decided to transform her dedication to service into running in the local school board election.
在5月18日举行的初选中，以共和党候选人身份参选的王女士在第2区（Region 2）以87%的得票率击败了候选人Robert Singh，获得了压倒性的胜利。由于T/E学区允许跨党派投票，她在民主党的选票上也赢得了21%的选票。现在，她正在争取选票，以获得第二区在董事会中的唯一席位。
During the May 18 Primary Election, Wang, who is running as a GOP candidate, won the Republican vote in a landslide in Region 2 with an 87% vote over candidate Robert Singh. She was also on the Democratic ballot as T/E allows for cross-party filing. On the Democratic ballot, Wang won 21% of the Democratic vote. Now she is on the ballot for the single Region 2 seat for the Board of Education.
Like many first-generation immigrants, Wang aspired to the “American dream” and long ago decided to engage in her community and explore service and leadership opportunities. Wang has experience serving the Asian and Asian American communities in the US going back 20 years to her graduate school days as a student leader. More recently, she held roles as the Parent Teacher Organization Chair at a local Chinese school and co-founder of the Chinese American Parent Association at T/E School District. As a regular attendee at school board meetings and her children’s school events, Wang knew she could take on the challenge of having a bigger role in the community, and a role that would represent both Asian American residents and T/E residents as a whole. “That is what is beautiful about the American Dream: to be educated and to work hard. So I wanted to bring that value and provide that influence to the entire T/E community.” Her dedication to service is partly inspired by her son, Aaron, who is currently serving our nation as a West Point University cadet. “This is probably running in our veins to be community servers,” Wang says.
Although a registered Republican candidate, Wang doesn’t see education as political. As an immigrant who moved to the US at 23 for grad school, Wang does not have “strong political sides to take on” as she came from China, where there were no opportunities to engage in politics at all. Coming to the United States, Wang realized governing was something that was a team effort, especially when it comes to children’s education.
Those who were raised in the political battlegrounds of the United States have seen education and local matters elevated to new fronts of division. One of the most prominent issues in local education lately has been the discourse over whether Critical Race Theory (CRT) should be taught in schools. One fundamental disagreement over the issue is what exactly CRT is and whether it is truly being taught in schools.
批判种族理论是由德里克•贝尔（Derrick Bell）和理查德•德尔加多（Richard Delgado）等法律学者在20世纪70年代创立的一种学术理论，它把种族视为一种社会结构，种族压迫障碍导致了各种各样的公平障碍。与大多数民主党领导人和选民不同的是，右翼官员和个人认为批判种族理论背后有险恶的动机，并声称它已不恰当地从学术界渗透到小学课堂。这个问题已经在全国各地的地方和州一级浮出水面。在我们地区，它已经导致了激烈的辩论，包括在离T/E学区不远的凤凰城（Phoenixville）等城镇的董事会上，引发了激烈的争吵。
An academic theory founded in the 1970s by legal scholars such as Derrick Bell and Richard Delgado, CRT analyzed race as a social construct, and that racially oppressive barriers have led to various obstacles to equity. While in contrast to most Democratic leaders and voters, right-leaning officials and individuals ascribe sinister motives behind CRT and allege that CRT has inappropriately expanded beyond academic circles into grade school curriculums. The issue has surfaced in local and state levels across the country. In our region, it has led to acrimonious debate, including screaming matches at board meetings in towns like Phoenixville, not far from T/E.
在宾州，批判种族理论不在公立学校的课程范围内，但个别地区可将有关主题作为课程的一部分。虽然T/E学区还没有在学校实施批判种族理论的教学，但他们有一个名为“太平洋教育集团”(Pacific Education Group)的第三方供应商，为教职工提供多元化、公平和包容(DEI)课程。为了最终将研讨会扩展到学生，该学区于2018年聘用了DEI项目，其目标是“与教育组织建立持续的伙伴关系，改变信仰和行为，这样所有种族的人都能达到他们最高水平成就，过着他们最有自主权和最有力量的生活”(tesd.net)。这个项目受到最多的诟病是，它的教学内容很模糊，让家长们好奇到底教授了什么。以及关于DEI项目的各个方面是否是基于批判种族理论的疑问。
In Pennsylvania, CRT as originally defined is not included in the public school curriculum. Individual districts can implement aspects or related topics as part of curriculum development. While the T/E district has not implemented CRT into its schools, they do have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program taught to teachers and staff through a third-party vendor called Pacific Education Group. With the plan to eventually extend the workshops to students, the DEI program was hired in 2018 by the district with the goal to “engage in sustained partnerships with educational organizations to transform beliefs, behaviors, and results so people of all races can achieve at their highest levels and live their most empowered and powerful lives” (tesd.net). The common complaint with the program is that the teachings of it are vague in description, leaving parents to wonder what is going on behind school walls. And there are questions as to whether aspects of DEI training are grounded in CRT.
在宾夕法尼亚州，《阳光法案》（Sunshine Act）规定，任何公共机构，包括学校董事会，都必须举行公开会议，做到信息透明并与社区共享。并且，“公众有权利出席机构的所有会议，并见证机构的审议、政策制定和决策”。根据学区的规定，家长可以直接与学生的老师或校长联系了解课程。然而，当包括Deana Wang在内的T/E学区公众询问DEI项目内容时，学校董事会通过电子邮件告知这些信息无法分享，因为他们已经与太平洋教育集团签署了保密协议。由于学校向教师或学生讲授的内容缺乏透明度，居民缴纳的税款是如何使用的也不清晰，使得T/E学区的家长们感到愤怒，纷纷询问这一项目的教学框架。
In Pennsylvania, the Sunshine Act states that any public agency, including school boards, must have public meetings where information is transparent and shared with the communities, and it is to be the “right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of agencies” (Pennsylvania Sunshine Act). According to the district, parents can find out about the curriculum by contacting the students’ teacher or school principal directly. However, when the public of the T/E district, including Deana Wang, inquired about what was taught in the DEI program, Wang said the school board conveyed to her via email that they could not share the information since they had signed a nondisclosure agreement with Pacific Education Group. Angered by perceived lack of transparency over what was being taught to teachers and/or students in schools and how residents’ tax dollars are spent, parents of the T/E district are left inquiring about the pedagogical framework of this program.
This lack of transparency is a leading factor that led Wang to enter the election for school board. With T/E as a top district in education, Wang and other parents saw the silence as unacceptable, especially during the tumultuous climate of a global pandemic, fractious political discourse, and the unfamiliarity of virtual and hybrid learning. The lack of communication between the school district and families manifested in many ways, one in the form of fiscal opaqueness. For the past 17 years, the T/E school district has seen rising property taxes, with no explanation on where the additional funds have gone.
In 2019, the T/E School District was investigated for an accounting error of $1.2 million from Special Education invoices. Despite the million-dollar difference in budget, which was brought to attention in multiple school board meetings, parents of the district received no explanation as to where the money went and how the error would impact the budget for the upcoming school year. Serious miscommunications such as these inspired Wang’s promise to be “transparent in operation and accountable to [T/E] residents” in her election campaign.
Located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, the T/E district has a very diverse student population. At 23.3%, almost a quarter of the student population of the T/E school district is of Asian descent. Deana Wang feels that she has a responsibility and an opportunity to be a role model for civic engagement to these students and their families. First generation immigrants of Asian descent rarely run for political office, and doing so can be a positive change for communities like T/E. If elected, Wang wants to introduce more aspects that Asian families value into the community through education, such as putting education first and becoming active engagers in community happenings. “Asian people are known to cherish education for their children’s future.” Her election would also hopefully inspire more Asian American families to involve themselves in school and community events.
Of course, Wang also aims to represent the community as a whole regardless of ethnic background. As an involved community member who is dedicated to service, she tries to lead by her campaign motto: “The better unified the community can be [means] greater children we can raise for the world.” At the end of the day, the T/E district cannot thrive if it does not include families of all backgrounds in their process.
The backdrop of local politics has become ruthless, with individuals sharing their uncensored opinions to get what they want. In Philadelphia, Jewish immigrant Diana Leygerman received a plethora of anti-semetic comments and even saw a hate website against her campaign for local school board. Those who opposed her campaign were tying their dislike of her political opinions to her identity and religion, resulting in a hurtful narrative for immigrants running for local offices.
Asian immigrant communities are no exception to the hurtful narratives and stereotypes that continue to escalate in politics. Wang emphasizes her desire for the Asian community to understand that if they wish to change that stereotype, they should consider stepping out of their comfort zones to speak publicly in order to provide an authentic counter-narrative and create a more welcoming community for all children. “If society does not see us as our true character, then our children will be the ones who will be misjudged.” Wang encourages Asian American parents to take small steps by participating more in local school board meetings, leaving the comfort zones of their homes to voice their opinions publicly, and volunteering in their local schools.
至于今年地方选举的结果，美国人只能希望在11月2日这一天，他们的声音能被听到。关于种族、宗教及个人身份的破坏性叙事现如今常常成为焦点。在这样的情况下，地方选举为Deana Wang这样的勇敢的公民提供了机会，让他们在美国的民主投票竞选活动中扮演他们应当扮演的角色。您可以在 www.votedeana.com 了解Deana Wang和她的竞选运动的更多信息。
As for the outcome of local elections this year, Americans can only hope their voices are heard on November 2nd. With destructive narratives centering on race, religion, and personal identity often taking center stage, local elections provide an opportunity for courageous citizens, like Deana Wang, to assume their role in America’s democratic voting process. You can learn more about Deana Wang and her campaign at www.votedeana.com.