AUGUST 18, 2022
Former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s former Virginia Secretary of Education is blasting Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s majority on the state board of education for pausing on moving forward with proposed history and social science curriculum standards.
“The Republican-controlled VA State Board of Ed voted to stonewall the revised history standards which dozens of historians and thousands of Virginians worked on,” former Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said. “Youngkin wants to suppress black and brown voices.”
The Board gathered Wednesday for its first meeting with Youngkin’s 5-4 majority.
But after 7News revealed errors in the proposed policy, Youngkin and his state superintendent of public instruction, Jillian Balow, expressed concern.
“We don’t want the public having to say there’s a typo here,” Balow told 7News. “You’ve said succession instead of secession, or you’ve omitted George Washington from this particular area, and it’s supposed to be here and it isn’t. We just want a draft that is free of those types of errors.”
The proposed update would have stopped calling George Washington the “Father of our Country” and James Madison the “Father of the Constitution” on history standards of learning.
Now, Youngkin’s administration wants to pump the breaks to see if more errors are in the 400-page policy before the board moves forward on the proposed policy. That’s why Balow recommended the board not move forward on the proposed draft policy for now. Balow also wants to give Youngkin’s five new board members time to review the policy.
“We want the best standards and we are on our way to get there,” Balow told 7News.
Youngkin’s Secretary of Education, Aimee Guidera, issued the following statement supporting Youngkin’s education strategy.
“Governor Youngkin is committed to having the strongest history standards in the country. Our goal is to teach all of our history—the good and the bad. The extra time afforded by the State Board of Education ensures the draft we share during this stage of parent and community comment is as complete, cohesive, and well organized as possible so that the final review is productive and gets us the results our students deserve. We appreciate the extensive work to capture Virginian’s voices over the past two years of the standards development.”
But, several people voiced opposition to potentially delaying the process, including Qarni.
“I am very impressed with the care and thought that has gone into this revision,” said Dr. Ed Ayers, a Professor at the University of Richmond. “Teachers are eager to have the SOLS I hope you will proceed with the first review as scheduled.”
Balow said reviewing the review will not delay the SOL process that’s currently laid out.
On Monday, 7News spoke to Qarni who supports the draft policy.
“From the onset, this [Youngkin] administration has really come across as anti-public education,” Qarni told 7News on Monday.
Qarni led the State Department of Education when Northam started the process of changing the history SOLs. Qarni said the Northam administration had a keen interest in changing the historical standards.
“These proposed changes, if they go through, as is, will really separate apart in the best possible way to take a holistic perspective and really teach our history because they both provide a balance between depth and breadth,” said Qarni. “And then they also create a system where [a] variety of perspectives can really be understood and comprehended. And teachers can really work with students to really understand their local communities, but also have a nice global perspective and connect the dots.”
“Virginians hired me to restore a culture of high expectations and excellence in education where lowering standards and using misleading averages of student achievement are discarded. The SOL results released today demonstrate that prolonged school shutdowns undeniably exacerbated the learning loss experienced by Virginia’s students, and the very best anecdote is in-person education. This is a chance for our entire education system to work together to close the achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged and younger learners that arose during school shutdowns. There’s no time to waste, the success of Virginia’s students depends on it. My administration is committed to working with parents, teachers, and the Board of Education to raise standards and create a transparent accountability system that drives improvement and sets grade-level achievement as the goal for every child,” Gov. Youngkin said.