Virginia superintendents group pushes back against Gov. Youngkin’s tip line, content policy

The group says the policies could set back public education many years

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File) (Steve Helber, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

School leaders across Virginia came together to challenge an interim report that was released by Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration on Friday, Feb. 25.

In the 30-day report, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jilian Balow outlined “divisive concepts,” including critical race theory, and revoked myriads of policies, programs and resources in the state that the administration deems discriminatory.

That same day, Youngkin released the following statement on the report:

All Virginia students should have the opportunity to receive an excellent education that teaches all history including the good and the bad, prioritizes academic excellence, and fosters equal opportunities for all students. Our Virginia students should not be taught to discriminate on the basis of sex, skin color, or religion and VDOE policies should certainly not recommend such concepts. There is much work to be done, but I am encouraged that Superintendent Balow is proactively reviewing policies and practices around the Commonwealth. This is the first step in improving Virginia’s education system, restoring high academic expectations, equipping our future generation to be career or college ready, and providing equal opportunities for all Virginia students. As your governor, I will continually stand up for students and parents and look forward to signing the largest education budget in Virginia’s history.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin

On Thursday, March 10, Howard B. Kiser, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, sent a letter to Balow, voicing the collective concern of superintendents throughout Virginia. The Virginia Association of School Superintendents is a 12-member board and nonprofit professional organization that represents all 133 superintendents in Virginia.

In the letter, the group said the administration did not seek division superintendents nor other stakeholder groups for input before the report was published, adding that they weren’t consulted before the administration moved to rescind several policies, programs and resources that aimed to improve student success in underserved communities.

It stated that “gross assumptions” were made in the report and even pushed back on a portion of Balow’s report advocating for “equal opportunity” rather than “equitable outcomes” in schools.

“Your use of ‘equitable opportunities’ in lieu of ‘equitable outcomes,’ without considering those factors that impact student achievement in underserved communities, can set public education in Virginia back many years,” the letter stated. “Quality education in Virginia has to be more than providing opportunities and hoping for the best. Virginia’s accountability system relies heavily on student outcomes, not opportunities.”

The organization went on to express its disagreement with the notion that divisive concepts have become widespread in Virginia school divisions along with the administration’s goal to “restore excellence” in Virginia, explaining that it “implies an inaccurate assessment” that schools are less than.

“Again, by most measures, Virginia ranks near the top and surpasses most states throughout the country,” the letter reads.

The letter also faults Youngkin’s tip line, which allows parents to report their child’s school if they suspect that critical race theory or divisive practices are being taught in the school.

“The administration can be a catalyst for positive stakeholder relationships through messages and actions. A tip line for parents to report divisive content to the Governor impedes positive relationships; therefore, the tip line needs to be terminated,” Kiser stated in the letter.

Balow released the following statement in response to the letter, NBC29 reports:

“The letter fails to reflect the good faith efforts of which the Secretary and I joined the conversation. The specific requests listed in the letter are actions that the Secretary and I offered to the superintendents as a way to keep open productive channels of communication that could lead to partnership and ensure we are serving all students in Virginia.”

Overall, the superintendents are hoping to foster a better relationship with the new Republican leadership in the future and called for regular meetings with the administration and a “mutual respect of each other’s goals” moving forward.

Read the full letter that was sent to Balow here:

About the Author:

Jazmine Otey joined the 10 News team in February 2021.