In compliance with an executive order by the Youngkin administration, the Virginia Department of Education recently released a report repealing several policies and programs aimed to further equity initiatives in schools.
In a letter sent on Friday to Governor Youngkin and Education Secretary Aimee Guidera, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow specified which diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives would end in schools. Balow said she was acting in accordance with Youngkin’s initial executive order, which prohibits teaching “inherently divisive concepts” such as “Critical Race Theory and its progeny.”
Balow explained in the letter that the program repeals are just the beginning of revising Virginia’s education system.
“Discriminatory and divisive concepts…have become widespread in the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and in Virginia school divisions,” Balow wrote. “We will need to proactively review policies, practices and pedagogies around the state.”
According to The Washington Post, the programs that are being rescinded or evaluated were put in place by the previous Virginia governor, Ralph Northam. One of the programs was “EdEquityVA,” a framework that sought to eliminate racial discrepancies in the education system.
Other programs that have been rescinded are “Teaching 9/11” and Virginia Math Pathways Initiative, although the latter program has evaluations still underway.
Balow condemned EdEquityVA for suggesting readings from Ibram X. Kendi and Gloria Ladson-Billings, who Balow called “critical race theorists who have moved [critical race theory] into education.”
The Northam administration’s programs sought to “dismantle any and all forms of inequity in Virginia’s public education system,” such as alleged disproportionate discipline of black students. Northam’s programs pushed for cultural competency training and antiracist education, which is defined as acknowledging “that racist beliefs and structures are pervasive in all aspects of our lives.”
The new Youngkin administration doesn’t believe these programs are beneficial to students.
“All Virginia students should have the opportunity to receive an excellent education that teaches all history — the good and the bad, prioritizes academic excellence, and fosters equal opportunities for all students,” Youngkin shared in a recent statement. “Our Virginia students should not be taught to discriminate on the basis of sex, skin color, or religion and VDOE policies should certainly not direct such concepts.”
Many critics have blasted Governor Youngkin’s efforts, such as the Virginia Parent Teacher Association and the Virginia Education Association.
“VEA is quite frankly outraged and appalled by the steps taken by Governor Youngkin to take work rooted in educational excellence and throw it out by the wayside for blatantly political motivations,” said VEA President James J. Fedderman.
On the flip side, parents like Elicia Brand in Loudoun County believe the previous administration’s programs were harmful. Brand believes Youngkin is keeping his promises to parents like her who are alarmed by divisive concepts like CRT.
She was especially excited to see the Virginia Math Pathways Initiative go, explaining that it holds back certain students to even out the achievement gap.
“That’s discrimination,” she shared. “What they should be doing is lifting up all students.”
The Youngkin administration report is directed at state-level education policies, but it is unclear if audits of “divisive concepts” will be completed at the local level.
According to Youngkin’s executive order, another report should be underway in about two months that will search for any “necessary executive and legislative actions needed to end use of all inherently divisive concepts in public education.”
What do you think about the Youngkin administration rescinding these programs?