33-year-old Ashley Carter has worked on political campaigns and spoken on panels across the country about the importance of young women running for office, but she never thought she would be the candidate herself.
That all changed on Nov. 8 when Carter was elected to the D.C. School Board, replacing incumbent Mary Lord, a liberal who has held the seat for almost a decade.
In an interview with Red Alert Politics, Carter explained what influenced her to run for office. At dinner one evening, Carter’s neighbors told her they were thinking about moving to the suburbs when their young daughter reached school age because they felt D.C. public schools were unacceptable, and private schools were too expensive.
“It shouldn’t be that way; we shouldn’t be giving away our residents to Maryland and Virginia when we can change our schools here,” Carter said. “I’m thinking about starting my own family,” she added, “it became something that I needed to do.”
Carter has spent time volunteering for a number of local nonprofit organizations with the goal of increasing literacy skills among children, women, and low-income families. Her full-time job is Grassroots Director for the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), a policy organization with a goal of improving the lives of women and families.
However, as a conservative woman running for office in an area that Hillary Clinton won by over 90 percent, Carter said the election was an “uphill battle” and she faced a lot of “trash talk.”
After speaking at the RNC on behalf of IWF, she was labeled a Trump supporter by many of the District’s die-hard Democratic voters.
“I was surprised myself that I won,” she said.
It appears that in some local elections, D.C. residents were looking for change. Carter spoke with constituents across the District who her predecessor hadn’t reached. “Their voices had been ignored,” she said. “Being involved and having a presence showed people it’s time for a change. It’s local…it’s non-partisan.”
Carter takes office on Jan. 2, and she has three top priorities for the next four years. The first, and most important, is to raise the high school graduation rate. Washington, D.C. currently has the lowest graduation rate in the country at 69 percent.
“On a test – 69 percent – that’s failing,” Carter said. “Our students deserve better.”
Carter hopes to move D.C. schools towards the national average high school graduation rate, which is 83 percent.
Carter also hopes to provide more individualized attention for students by bringing in trained volunteers and nonprofit organizations to help teachers close the achievement gap.
Another priority is to provide more career and technical education resources to help students get career-ready (not just college-ready), in a time where too many students are entering a tough job market with high levels of student loan debt.