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.
Sarah Mehrotra, 28, is a data and policy analyst at The Education Trust. She is running for the Ward 2 seat on the State Board of Education.
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.
Ward 2 Board of Education
Democrat (SBOE is nonpartisan)
Virat Gupta, Partner
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Hamilton College and Harvard Graduate School of Education
Data & Policy Analyst at The Education Trust
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
The single most pressing issue facing Ward 2 is overcrowding of our middle schools and this is what I intend to do about it.
We need a new middle school in the eastern end of the Ward.
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?
I support Black Lives Matter. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, have made us sharply focus on racism that has always existed in American society and in schools. As students are in school, they are not only grapping with distance learning and the pandemic, but also this renewed focus on racism. My priority is making sure that students have adequate access to mental health supports and making sure our schools are culturally responsive and our curriculum is purposefully uplifting voices of those who have been historically left out of the conversation.
What are your thoughts on the campaign to “defund” the police?
One form racism has taken in schools is increasing police/SRO presence in schools where predominantly students of color attend. SROs contribute to over-criminalizing students and the school-to-prison pipeline. Instead of punitive establishment in schools, we should implement restorative justice programs, such as in Oakland Public Schools, encourage nonviolent resolution of conflict, and allocate funding for more school guidance counselors.
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?
Yes, I favor a nationwide mask mandate.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am the only candidate who works in K-12 education and the only candidate who has been a classroom teacher. I have dedicated my career to education; as an education researcher at SRI International, I examined evidence-based approaches to improving early literacy and numeracy. At the Education Trust, I examine ways to increase teacher diversity and support diverse teachers in the classroom. I am also a published researcher in education.
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
A couple key issues include first making sure every student leaves first grade able to read. Early literacy is key to success, not just for school but for life. Second, research shows that a strong and diverse teacher workforce is a critical equity issue for an increasingly diverse student body. I will hit the ground running to build strong pipelines of teachers.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I am a published education researcher – I will bring my deep knowledge of K-12 education to SBOE (https://edworkingpapers.org/sites/default/files/ai20-274.pdf). I have my Master’s degree in education policy – I understand the deep complexities of school finance, accountability, and assessments. Finally, now more than ever, we need an expert to get our schools back on track after the pandemic. I have read dozens of reopening plans from districts across the country and have the experience to set Ward 2 schools up for success.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
Immediately making sure every student in DC has access to a laptop and reliable internet.
Why should voters trust you?
First, I have been a teacher. Second, I cared about education before there was an opportunity to run for office.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
I believe that all schools – traditional public schools and public charter schools – should be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?