Karl Frisch has worked in political communications for most of his career, crafting the campaign messages of candidates and organizations across the country. Now at 41, he’s running for office himself.
Frisch, who is on leave from his position as executive director at consumer watchdog group Allied Progress, is hoping to represent the Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia.
He’s running against Republican Andrea Bayer, and if elected, he’ll become the first openly gay member of the board.
Frisch, a Democrat whose partner is a teacher in Fairfax County, says he first became interested in working with the school board after attending a board meeting a couple of years ago. The contentious meeting Frisch attended focused on policies for LGBTQ students and staff.
“I heard things that were just vile, and I saw kids cry at the school board,” Frisch told the Blade in an interview on March 1.
After witnessing the meeting, he decided to become more involved in politics on the local level. He ultimately became part of a successful effort to change the sex education curriculum in Fairfax County to include LGBT identities and teach older students about PrEP for HIV prevention.
His interest in running to become a member of the school board himself results from issues that stretch beyond the LGBT community, though.
“One of the things I like about Karl…is he’s not running to be the LGBT person on the board. He’s running to make sure that there’s a level of fairness and equality of opportunity for students,” Bryan Graham, a gay voting member of the Providence District Democratic Committee, told the Blade.
“When you love a teacher … you’re following all sorts of issues whether you want to or not,” Frisch said.
He says his platform centers on “equity,” or a desire to “level [the] playing field for everybody.”
Part of that means ensuring all students in Fairfax County have access to an advanced curriculum.
“Schools like [The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology] are getting every opportunity under the sun,” Frisch said. On the other hand, “You’ve got some schools where the advanced curriculum programs aren’t even available to many students.”
Frisch’s platform also suggests an increase in teacher pay and a 25-year construction cycle for the county. The 37-year cycle the school system currently operates on has pushed students out of their regular classrooms and increased class sizes, Frisch said.
“We have two elementary schools in the Providence District that…are covered with portable trailers,” he said. “So we need to find a way to quicken the speed of the construction cycle.”
Frisch says establishing a 25-year cycle comes down to money. He plans to “push Richmond to provide more money and also give county supervisors local funding authority.”
Beyond shifts in the construction cycle and expanded access to advanced courses, Frisch is proposing what he calls a Green New Deal for Fairfax County Schools. He hopes to increase the use of solar power in the school system and ensure the county is more “aggressive with the greening of our campuses during construction projects.”
Frisch would serve a four-year term on the board alongside 11 other members, if elected.
In the lead up to November, he says his campaign strategy is to meet as many voters as possible.
“I plan on knocking on thousands of doors between now and November,” he said.
The Victory Fund, a political action committee focused on increasing the number of LGBT elected officials, is hopeful about Frisch’s chances in the race.
“Karl is doing a lot of the necessary work…to win, and we’re very excited about that prospect,” Sean Meloy, the political director at the organization, told the Blade.
“I have a nearly 20-year record of putting equity into action,” Frisch said. “I think that gives me a unique insight into the needs of students in our district.”