Mar 14, 2022 - News

Local educators resist Youngkin's criticisms of classroom instruction

Glenn Youngkin, center, is seated at desk signing executive orders, surrounded by cabinet.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s attempts to remake classroom instruction in one of the nation’s top public schools systems are facing a revolt.

Why it matters: In a rare show of unity, a group representing all of Virginia’s 133 school district superintendents denounced the Republican’s attacks on school curriculum and his ‘tipline’ to complain about educators.

  • In a letter to the state last week, the superintendents called for the elimination of the controversial tipline and slammed Youngkin for rolling back diversity and equity measures in schools.
  • The superintendents said that Youngkin’s targeting of equity measures can “set public education in Virginia back many years.”

Catch up quick: The letter came three weeks after the Youngkin administration published a report claiming evidence of “discriminatory and divisive concepts” in state public schools.

  • The report was in line with the governor’s complaints about critical race theory. His first executive order in office sought to stamp out “inherently divisive concepts” taught in schools.

What they’re saying: “It’s clearly a consensus among educators that the governor’s strategy of trying to turn parents against each other is counterproductive,” said University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth.

  • Youngkin’s moves have resulted in urban liberal school districts and rural conservative districts unifying in opposition through the letter, written by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

Virginia Education Association president James Fedderman said the tipline and “gutting of the state’s equity measures” were “pure political theater.”

The other side: The head of the Virginia Department of Education, Jillian Balow, said “the letter fails to reflect the good faith efforts” made by the Youngkin administration “to keep open productive channels of communication” with local school leaders.

  • The superintendents had said they were not consulted before Youngkin’s actions.

Flashback: One month into office, Youngkin unveiled a tipline for people to email the state their complaints about “divisive” topics being taught in schools.

  • Democrats and some parents quickly condemned the move. Soon after, Youngkin’s office denied public records requests filed by Axios and other outlets requesting copies of all emails sent to the tipline, claiming the emails were “working papers and correspondence” of the governor’s office.

The governor’s office did not respond to questions over whether it planned to end the tipline.

Zoom in: In Fairfax County, board chair Jeff McKay told Axios that Youngkin’s actions were unlikely to change classroom instruction.

  • “Never once have I seen or has a parent complained to me about something they think is ‘inherently divisive,’” said McKay, a Democrat with two children in public schools. “I don’t even know what it is that’s trying to be fixed here.”

Paige Hopkins contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Mary Washington University.


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