She had been in the trenches, an embattled member of the Fairfax County School Board, and felt that candidate Glenn Youngkin, who had convened a meeting to talk about public education in Virginia, wasn’t getting what Elizabeth Schultz—not one to sugarcoat the truth—called “the red meat.” “We aren’t getting to the heart of the issue,” Schultz remembers thinking.
Schultz noticed that several others at the meeting, apparently on Schultz’s wavelength, were darting glances towards her and gesturing towards the mic. “I eventually took the microphone and I asked [Youngkin] several questions,” Elizabeth Schultz recalls. Schultz made it clear that progressive ideology dominates too many school boards in the state.
Clearly impressed with what he was hearing, Youngkin pointed at Schultz. “Could you please talk to him?” Youngkin asked, singling out a member of his entourage. “Him” turned out to be Jeff Goettman, the former COO of the Export-Import Bank, who was running Youngkin’s campaign and is now Chief of Staff to the Governor of Virginia. “I predicted that night that the election would turn on one issue, education, and that the outcome would be decided in Northern Virginia,” says Shultz. And that is how Governor Glenn Youngkin met Elizabeth Schultz. Youngkin named Schultz Assistant State Superintendent of Public Instruction shortly after being inaugurated.
Schultz’s most famous fight on the Fairfax County School Board came in
2015 when she was the sole member to vote against the school board’s
move to require sex education classes include gender identity and
A conversation with Schultz, who radiates energy, is fast-paced and full of ideas. She is the mother of four boys who have attended both public and Catholic schools. Schultz has always been interested in education but it was the battle to close the Clifton Elementary School (two of her sons went there) that inspired her to launch a campaign for the Springfield seat on the Fairfax County School Board in 2011. Schultz campaigned for more transparency, including making public the school board’s finances. She won and quickly emerged as a champion of parental rights.
Schultz, who was called a “common sense” conservative by local WMAL radio host Larry O’Connor, scored a number of early victories. One early success was having Honors level courses restored in Fairfax County. “That was one of the first issues I tackled,” she says. “It was a ‘hands-across-the-aisle’ endeavor. I was allied with a Democrat friend on the school board.” Why are Honors and gifted and talented programs so important?
“If all kids are in the same classroom,” she explains, “the teacher can’t differentiate between the highest performer and those with the greatest needs and respond appropriately to either group. High-performing kids should be in competitive classes and go on to competitive colleges and get out and do things like find the cure for cancer.”
She also spearheaded a campaign to ensure that graduates who were going into the military were recognized at graduation ceremonies, though she ruefully mentions never having managed to get Veterans’ Day on the school calendar as an official observation. She waged a successful battle to eliminate half-day Mondays that had been in place for 43 years that were ostensibly for teacher planning. The change resulted in increasing the hours of schooling and bringing Fairfax County schools into compliance with state accreditation requirements.
Schultz’s most famous fight on the FCSB came in 2015 when she was the sole member to vote against the school board’s move to require sex education classes to include gender identity and the adoption of transgender policies. Although she lost this battle, she won the hearts of concerned parents, who gave her a standing ovation. “Schultz is used to being on the losing end of votes as the mostly liberal board’s brash and loquacious conservative, but she reveled in the rare public appreciation as hundreds of parents in the audience applauded her stance,” the Washington Post reported. The story was headlined, “The Outspoken Conservative Riling the Fairfax County School Board.”
“I often feel like I’m cutting the path through the jungle with a sickle,” Schultz told the reporter. “I’m not going to go along to get along. . . . My voters aren’t going to care how often I get together and have lunch with my fellow board members. It’s: ‘What did you accomplish? What did you do?’ That’s the record that is far more meaningful to me.”
Schultz then won re-election to a second term to the FCSB in 2015 amidst the rolling out of the battle on transgender and transparency issues, along with adding two more conservative colleagues to the board.
Schultz learned a lot on the Fairfax School Board. “I was on the hot-dog-making side of things, having spent eight years in the tenth largest school system in the United States of America,” Schultz recalls of her service in Fairfax County. “The budget went from a $2 billion budget to around $4 billion now. That’s more than the GDP of some nations on Earth. And the magnitude of the decisions we made seemed often to be lost on the school board. And I found that partisan politics reigned in every decision and the inverse relationship of the organization chart, which should have put the people at the top, then the school board, then the superintendent, was inverted. They acted as if the superintendent were in charge and then the board, and then the people were somewhere down below. I wanted to change that—to put the people on top.
“You see in Fairfax a microcosm of what’s happening in education across the nation because there are the 800-pound gorillas in education—Los Angeles, Fairfax, Houston, and the Clark County school boards. You have these behemoth school divisions that once they go a certain direction, it’s as if it’s used as an imprimatur by other school divisions who don’t have the resources or who just say, oh well, if Fairfax does it, then it must be good. There is very little time spent on actually looking at what’s the academic impact of what we’re doing, what’s the return on investment?”
Schultz ultimately paid for her outspoken advocacy at the ballot box. She was defeated for re-election to a third term on the school board in 2019, at a time when outside monies were flowing into the Commonwealth Attorney’s and other Fairfax County races. Schultz served as an official in the U.S. Department of Education and later became Deputy Director of Education Technology. Schultz signed on as a Senior Fellow at Parents Defending Education, a grassroots organization that works, as the name implies, to empower parents just as Critical Race Theory was coming into greater prominence.
Leave it to Elizabeth to notice a generally overlooked facet of the move to introduce CRT into Virginia schools. “It was in my second term on the FCSB that a rewritten history curriculum was unveiled,” she says. “It started, very significantly, with fourth-grade history. So, why would the Fairfax County School Board staff, in the tenth largest school system in the United States start with fourth-grade history? Well, that’s because in Virginia fourth-grade history is Virginia History. It’s the history of the Commonwealth.
“The history of Virginia is the history of our nation, because the birth of our nation took place in Virginia,” she continues. “You cannot get away from that—we were established here on religious liberty, and then our nation was born and we freed ourselves in the Commonwealth from the tyranny of a king; to attack Virginia history, to denigrate Virginia history is to denigrate our country. Rewriting the fourth-grade history course was the opening salvo to where they were headed with CRT.
“And I found that partisan politics reigned in every decision and in the
inverse relationship of the organization chart, which should have put
the people at the top, then the school board, then the superintendent,
[but which was] inverted. I wanted to change that—to put the people
“If you have a Leftist school board that is operating not based on a mindset of doing what lifts an individual through education, and helps the personal economy of a child to ready them to be productive and happy citizens, but rather focuses on a Leftist set of values, we see the path we are headed down. It has rapidly expanded in the time since I’ve left the school board and it’s why taking back control of your local school board is so important.
“It’s the community’s responsibility to rise up and say ‘this is not what we endorse, this is not what we want for our children. We don’t want our children to see another individual in terms of the color of their skin color.’ And, unfortunately, that has been greatly perverted by this effort in Critical Race Theory.”
To debunk the claim that CRT isn’t taught in public schools, Schultz penned an op-ed for the Fairfax County Times headlined “Yes—There Is Critical Race Theory in Our Schools.” Schultz noted that the Fairfax County School Board had spent $44,000 purchasing and promoting the work of Ibram Kendi, a purveyor of CRT (this included a one-hour presentation by Kendi himself, at the bargain basement rate of $20,000).
Although she grew up all over the country, Schultz is partly driven in her work by her deep love for Virginia, where she was born and her family has roots. Her mother grew up in Richmond. Schultz jokingly describes her parents’ union as a “mixed marriage” because her father hailed from Brooklyn. They met when both were students at the University of South Carolina, after which her father became a Navy officer. “I lived in Hawaii as a young child, in South Carolina, and I lived in Rhode Island several times as my father attended the Naval War College,” Schultz says. “So, I grew up in New England, and then in the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and on the West Coast, so I had a lot of exposure to different environments, cultures, and people.”
Coming from a devout Catholic family, Elizabeth still drops phrases from the old Baltimore Catechism into conversation. Elizabeth graduated from high school in San Diego but she had already fallen in love with James Madison University, which she visited when her family was stationed in Northern Virginia. She earned a B.S. in political science as well as history. While at James Madison, she met her husband, who was studying for a business degree. They began dating after graduation. He works in the field of cyber security.
Elizabeth became interested in politics at James Madison, something she had been keenly aware of throughout her father’s military career, both at home and abroad. She became active in the College Republicans and co-founded a Young Republican Club in Harrisonburg before graduation. Later, after settling in Fairfax County, and while raising her family, she and a dozen other women founded the Republican Women of Clifton.
Elizabeth Schultz has taken courageous stands—often as a minority of one. If you ask her what gave her the wherewithal to do this, she tells you about her youngest son, who was born in 2008. “My fourth son was born extremely premature,” she says. “He was born in my second trimester at just 25 weeks. He was what’s called a micro-preemie. He weighed 800-some grams and was a little bigger than a dollar bill. He ended up spending 4.5 months in the NICU at Fairfax Hospital.
“I was often there, 16, 18, 20 hours a day, and that orients you very quickly as to what’s important in life. It’s not that I didn’t have a compass before he was born, but coming out of that experience, you know that you have been through the fire. You know why you are here, and it focuses you that there is an ultimate purpose. The important thing is to serve with integrity. Some people have called me brash. I just felt it was my duty to be both pragmatic and forthright; that is what people are owed.”
Virginia parents are fortunate to have in Elizabeth Schultz a champion who—like her boss—recognizes that parents, not bureaucrats, know what is best for their children.
We know that you will enjoy meeting this gutsy woman (with non-apologies to Hillary and Chelsea) who puts Virginia’s parents first.