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Youngkin makes education secretary his first cabinet pick

Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin speaks to the media after a transition luncheon in front of the Governor's Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber
Glenn Youngkin made education a centerpiece of his campaign for governor.

Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin announced Monday he chose a data policy consultant, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, to serve as Virginia’s next Secretary of Education.

“Aimee will be a critical partner in restoring expectations of excellence; overseeing a record education budget to invest in teachers, facilities and special education; rolling out innovation lab and charter schools; and standing for a curriculum that prepares Virginia’s children for a dynamic future and removes politics from the classroom,” said Governor-elect Youngkin in an press release.

Guidera, an education consultant who focused on data in schools after founding and heading the Data Quality Campaign, will have to tackle major learning loss during the pandemic in addition to implementing Youngkin’s agenda.

Youngkin made big promises on education and criticized how America’s history of racism could be taught in schools during the campaign.

Kris Amundson, as the head of the National Association of State Boards of Education, worked with Guidera at the Data Quality Campaign.

“You know, when we worked together, it was no secret that she was a Republican and I was a Democrat,” said Amundson, who represented parts of Fairfax county in the House of Delegates. “I have always found her willing to do is to say, ‘you know, what is it that kids need? And can we prove it?”

In the statement Youngkin said she will also be a critical partner in overseeing a record education budget and that she’d help roll out charter schools. Amundson said she wasn’t aware of the Data Quality Campaign working on school choice.

“See, there is a case where that's something the governor ran on, so obviously you would expect that the secretary will have some responsibility for seeing if that can be brought into practice,” she said. “The one thing that the Secretary of Education has as a bully pulpit”

A spokesperson for the Virginia Education Association in an email said they are not commenting on the cabinet pick at this time.

Youngkin also promised to raise teacher salaries. Thursday, outgoing Governor Ralph Northam presented his final budget which included a 10% raise for teachers and law enforcement employees. In comments to the press afterwards, Youngkin didn’t commit to sticking to or meeting that amount.

“The absolute magnitude of the rates we are continuing to understand, because some of them are new to us,” he said. “The principle is absolutely correct, and we have called all along for increases in teacher pay for increases in compensation for all law enforcement.”

Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, the speaker-designee, issued a statement on Guidera’s nomination Monday.

"When Republicans said we would make education a priority for the upcoming General Assembly session, it wasn't empty rhetoric. We heard parents loud and clear,” he said. “Governor-elect Youngkin's nominee for Secretary of Education has a record of supporting innovation and high educational standards, and will serve Virginia students well.”

Guidera has issued reports advocating for public benefits for needy students also, such as state-supported pre-K programs and “public benefits to ameliorate poverty brought on by or exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Youngkin will also appoint a Superintendent of Public Instruction. James Lane, who came to the position after serving as a superintendent in Goochland and Chesterfield, is leaving the Department of Education at the end of the year. That position must be held by an educator.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Read the full announcement here

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Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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