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Youngkin, denying race affects students, pushes forward with education agenda

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks while his wife, Suzanne, listens after swearing in his Cabinet at the Mansion at the Capitol, Saturday Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber/AP
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin speaks while his wife, Suzanne, listens after swearing in his Cabinet at the Mansion at the Capitol, Saturday Jan. 15, 2022, in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Youngkin and Education Secretary-designate Aimee Guidera outlined preferences for how race is considered, or not considered, in the new administration’s approach to education.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Youngkin denied the effect that racism has on Virginians.

“To actually teach our children that one group is advantaged and another is disadvantaged simply because of the color of their skin cuts across everything we know to be true,” said Youngkin, who went on to quote Dr Martin Luther King.

Government data shows a wide disparity between how white and Black students are treated and represented in Virginia schools. Black students, especially Black girls, are much more likely to face discipline in schools. Black students are also underrepresented in gifted programs and Advanced Placement courses, according to a March 2021 memo from the African American Superintendent’s Advisory Council.

Youngkin’s first executive order argued that some schools are teaching what he called “divisive ideologies” when it comes to race.

"Virginia parents want our history – all of our history, the good and the bad to be taught. And they want their children to be told how to think, not what to think," Youngkin told Senators and Delegates in an address Monday. "That’s why we should not use inherently divisive concepts like Critical Race Theory in Virginia. And why we should not be teaching our children to see everything through the lens of race."

Guidera echoed that in remarks to the House Education Committee Monday.

“We also want to work together to make sure that we're taking divisive ideology and politics out of the classroom,” she told lawmakers.

Youngkin’s order defines divisive ideologies as those teaching students that “one race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith is inherently superior to another race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, or faith,” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race, skin color, ethnicity, sex or faith, is racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously.”

House Republicans have also sought to define “divisive ideology” in new legislation. A spokesperson for speaker Todd Gilbert told reporters Monday that those definitions came from a bill in Idaho. Education Week reported that Idaho’s legislation closely resembled model legislation from Citizens for Renewing America, an advocacy group headed by a former Trump administration official.

A Youngkin administration spokesperson didn’t respond to a question about his comments on Fox News or the origin of the language in the executive order.

Guidera and House Republicans have also indicated that they would bar Virignia’s selective Governor Schools from considering race.

Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), the chair of the Education Committee, sponsoreda bill that would prohibit the schools from gathering demographic information during the application process unless required by federal law.

“It matters to make sure that we send messages, that we, that the schools have criteria that say we're going to return merit to that. And that also means that it's colorblind,” Guidera told the committee Monday.

An investigation by the Richmond Times-Dispatch found that White students were accepted to a Richmond Governor’s school at a rate four times greater than Black students.

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

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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