Archives for category: Virginia

Virginia’s new education leader avoids the press and the public, but she is accessible to rightwing think tanks. She recently spoke at the American Engerprise Institute, where she outlined her goal for the state’s students: job readiness. Aimee Guidera comes from the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign. She did not speak about preparing students for citizenship in a democracy. She did not speak about imbuing students with a love of learning. She focused only on meeting the needs of employers.

Virginia NPR reported on her appearance:

Virginia’s top education official says the state is “resting on our laurels” when it comes to educating public school students.

In a forum hosted by a conservative think tank last month, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said her top goal is preparing students for the job market.

“We are reorienting everything to how is education geared towards preparing people for the jobs of today and of tomorrow,” she said.

Guidera has kept a low profile since Gov. Glenn Youngkin named her to be Virginia’s education secretary in December. But in a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Guidera laid out her plans in more detail.

The former CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, an education reform group, pushed back on claims the administration was attempting to censor history. She said her team would push past “culture wars,” which Youngkin’s critics say were fermented by the governor.

Instead, she said she plans on focusing on meeting three “benchmarks”: creating students that are ready for “family-supporting jobs” and who are civically engaged, recruiting and retaining employers attracted by the commonwealth’s talent pool and growing the state economy.

Steve Ruis doesn’t like lies. And he understands that some lies are worse than others. This Breitbart lie, he writes, is a giant whopper.

A young man tragically took his life in Virginia. His mother went to the local school board and said he killed himself because of COVID isolation and “critical race theory.” Breitbart said so.

But what Breitbart did not say was that the young man graduated high school before COVID closed it down. And that CRT was not taught in his school.

And there is more.

Thanks for Donald Cohen of “In the Public Interest” for drawing my attention to this important victory in Virginia.

Members of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) mobilized to repeal an attack on their newly-won right to bargain collectively as a union. Unions offer a path to a secure middle-class existence. We need them now more than ever.

AFSCME members in Virginia are rejoicing in their success in protecting collective bargaining rights for local public employees across the commonwealth.

Their actions helped persuade the Virginia Senate to first defeat anti-worker bills filed in the Senate and, in February, to block House-passed anti-worker bills.

Members celebrated on Feb. 21 after the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted to defeat Del. Kathy Byron’s bill, which would have repealed a 2020 law that empowered localities to give their employees the freedom to collectively bargain for a contract.

Since taking effect last year, Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 582 and Sen. Dick Saslow’s SB 939 have triggered a slew of collective bargaining ordinances. In Northern Virginia, AFSCME members began organizing during the pandemic and helped pass the first collective bargaining ordinance in April in the city of Alexandria. Arlington County soon followed suit in June.

Luis Velez Sr., an Arlington County construction management specialist and a member of AFSCME Local 3001, recounted the spring and summer he began organizing for collective bargaining rights.

“As a resident of Alexandria, I was proud to stand with Alexandria city employees as they won a strong collective bargaining ordinance. I was even more excited, a few months later, as an Arlington County employee when we passed our own collective bargaining ordinance,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do as our localities continue to recover from the pandemic and we are stronger when public employees are respected, have a voice on the job, and strong unions to advocate for the communities that we serve.”

The 2022 legislative session saw two versions of a total repeal of collective bargaining, and a series of bills introduced by Del. Nick Freitas that would have chipped away at collective bargaining and union rights. These bills sought to redefine a union election, eliminate automatic dues deductions and force employees to pay for any time and resources employees used while engaging in union work like representation during work hours. Freitas also wanted to dictate how and what localities could include in their collective bargaining ordinances and agreements.

Harlie White, a traffic and lights technician for the city of Alexandria, submitted written testimony twice.

“I stand in opposition to any bill that would repeal my collective bargaining rights and take away my freedom to join a union,” he said. “I am glad Senator Dick Saslow was willing to protect the 2020 law that empowers localities to give public service workers the freedom to join a union, and local municipalities the autonomy to enact union agreements as they see fit.”

The threat of losing collective bargaining mobilized AFSCME Virginia activists. Aside from testifying via Zoom and submitting written testimony, many sent letters and called their delegates and senators to make clear how important collective bargaining rights are for public employees, especially as cities and counties slowly recover from the pandemic.

Charlotte Malerich, an Arlington public library assistant, wanted Virginia elected officials to understand that chipping away at rights meant employees would lose their voice on the job.

“My co-workers and I need actual, concrete support: sick leave, child care, flexible schedules, teleworking for the things we can do at home …  and PPE for things we can’t do at home,” she said, referring to personal protective equipment. “And we need to have a voice at work to tell our managers what those needs are. Collective bargaining and union rights give us that freedom.”

Sometimes common sense prevails over craven politicians.

A judge in Virginia on Friday handed down a temporary ruling that seven school districts could keep their mask mandates in place — a setback to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who had signed an executive order making masks optional in public schools.

Last month, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Hampton, and Richmond Public Schools filed a lawsuit against Mr. Youngkin, who had issued the order on Jan. 15, the day he took office. The order went into effect on Jan. 24. Together, the seven districts serve more than 350,000 students.

On Friday, Judge Louise DiMatteo of the Circuit Court in Arlington County granted a temporary restraining order to the school districts while the case makes its way through court. The judge said that Mr. Youngkin did not have the power to override local school board policies on mask mandates. The districts involved in the suit issued a statement on Friday saying they were “pleased” with the ruling.

“The order allows schools to continue to protect the health and well-being of all students and staff,” the statement said. “While the legal process on this matter continues, today’s ruling preserves the existing policies and practices in Virginia school divisions, which include masking requirements.”

Macaulay Porter, a spokesman for Mr. Youngkin, said the governor was “going to appeal.”

“The governor will never stop fighting for parents’ ability to choose what is best for their children,” Mr. Porter wrote in an email. “The governor often said that this is not a pro-mask or anti-mask debate. It’s about parents knowing what’s best for their child’s health.”

Governor Youngkin’s own children attend private schools that mandate masks.

The Washington Post reports that more than half the school districts in Virginia are defying Governor Youngkin’s order to eliminate mask mandates.

Youngkin boasted on a conservative radio program that only a small percentage of districts were not complying with his belief that masks should be optional.

But a Washington Post analysis shows that the majority of Virginia public school districts — enrolling more than two-thirds of the state’s students — have opted to disobey Youngkin’s mask-optional order. As of Wednesday, two days after the order was supposed to take effect, 69 districts, or 53 percent, are still requiring masks for all students inside schools. Cumulatively, those districts enroll 846,483 students, or about 67 percent of the state’s public school student population. The divide falls along partisan lines, although not perfectly: Almost every district that opted to make masks optional is in a locality that voted for Youngkin in the 2021 gubernatorial election.

The widespread defiance suggests Youngkin will have enormous difficulty in enforcing his mask-optional mandate, which is already the subject of two lawsuits: one from parents in Chesapeake, and one from seven school boards that oversee some of the state’s largest, most prominent school districts. A hearing on the second suit is scheduled for next week. Youngkin has said he will use every tool at his disposal to carry out his order as those cases wind through the court system, and his spokeswoman did not rule out disciplining disobedient districts by yanking their state funding…

Frederick Hess, a senior fellow and director of education policy at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he thinks Youngkin should stay the course on his masking policies, while vigorously fighting back against the two lawsuits challenging the executive order.

If parents prioritize the health and safety of their children, they will tell them to wear a mask in school and wherever groups of people congregate.

Governor Youngkin invited parents to report the names of teachers who are violating the state’s vague and ill-defined law banning the teaching of “divisive concepts,” critical race theory, and anything else any parents object to.

Peter Greene describes the creative responses of respondents. Responses to an email address can come from anywhere, not just Virginia. You too can write to Youngkin’s Stasi.

Anyone can send their reports to the tip line email:

helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov

Greene writes:

But of course you know what else happened next. The tip line has apparently been hit with a variety of reports, like a complaint that Albus Dumbledor “was teaching that full blooded wizards discriminated against mudbloods.” Some of this has been goaded on Twitter by folks like human rights lawyer Qasim Rasgid. And John Legend correctly pointed out that under the guidelines of the decree, Black parents could legitimately complain about Black history being silenced (because, as sometimes escapes the notice of anti-CRT warriors, some parents are Black). Ditto for LGBTQ parents.

Greene also includes a useful list of questions to answer if you write the Governor: like, “who was your favorite teacher and what did they teach?”

Glenn Youngkin’s campaign for Governor of Virginia was fueled in large part by attacks on public schools. Youngkin said that the state’s public schools were indoctrinating students with critical race theory. He pledged to put an end to it. After he took office, he continued his rant against CRT; he even set up an email site where parents can complain about teachers. And to add to his rightwing cred, he banned mask mandates. A number of school districts are suing him to preserve their mask mandates.

Dana Milbank wrote about the elite private schools where Youngkin sent his own children. They very explicitly teach critical race theory. Youngkin knew what was going on: he was a member of the board.

Milbank wrote:

Not only is Virginia’s new Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin banning the fictional menace of critical race theory from public schools, but he’s also turning the commonwealth into a little Stasi State. He’s setting up a tip line so parents can report to the government any school official they consider to be teaching something “divisive.”

“We’re asking for folks to send us reports,” he told a conservative radio host Monday, The Post reported. “We’re going to make sure we catalogue it all,” he added, “to make sure we’re rooting it out.”

The state’s deputizing of residents to act as informants will have the obvious effect of deterring even mentions of slavery or race, which means Youngkin has imposed a de facto “memory law” whitewashing Virginia’s, and the country’s, deep and ongoing history of white supremacy…

The public schools of Virginia do not teach critical race theory.

But do you know which schools do teach “divisive” concepts, including something resembling critical race theory? The private D.C. schools Youngkin had his children attend. And you know who was on the board of governors of one of those schools while it was beefing up its anti-racism policies? Glenn Youngkin.

Youngkin, a professed fan of public school parents’ rights, exercised his own parental rights not to send his children to Virginia public schools but rather to National Cathedral School and St. Albans School, twin private all-girl and all-boy schools in D.C. under the auspices of the Episcopal Church.
National Cathedral’s website listed Youngkin as a member of its governing board from 2016 through 2019, and he was chair of its finance committee. To their credit, both National Cathedral and St. Albans were, during that time, leaders in developing anti-racism teachings, even before the murder of George Floyd heightened national awareness of systemic racism. Youngkin’s spokeswoman, Macaulay Porter, said that Youngkin “stepped off the board after 2019” and that both schools “changed a lot over the years.”

DEI — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion — has been a priority at National Cathedral for many years. The school has an extensive staff devoted to the initiative, as well as programming that includes affinity groups such as diversity forums, an equity board, an intersectionality council and a student diversity leadership conference. A National Cathedral strategic plan approved by the board in 2018 — during Youngkin’s tenure — “includes the mandate to ‘Advance an Inclusive Educational Environment,’ ” which involved “integrating related action steps into the fabric of everything we are and do as a school community.”

Among the other things National Cathedral has done: made time in the school schedule for “critical conversations around topics of race, anti-racism, social justice, and inclusion”; added courses such as “Black Lives in Literature” and “Courageous Dialogues”; developed new hiring protocols “as a result of our anti-bias work” and required diversity training for all staff members; and included in the school’s summer reading list books such as Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism….”

St. Albans has undertaken similar anti-racism initiatives. Among the books promoted on the school’s website are “White Fragility,” “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction,” Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy and the Rise of Jim Crow,” and Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.”
St. Albans also directed faculty to read Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.” Fox News and other conservative outlets this past fall blasted a St. Albans’s “anti-bias” policy draft.

Youngkin’s own children were lucky to have attended schools that make its students grapple with uncomfortable and, yes, “divisive” issues. So why is he now using the powers of the state to intimidate teachers who would give Virginia’s public school students the same advantage?

Peter Greene tells the ignominious story of the Spottsylvania, Virginia, school board. One of the school board members, Kirk Twigg, is a conservative Christian who is very fearful of books that might have any sexual content. He wants them burned. He was recently elected chairman of the school board and promised to fire the superintendent. Which he did.

Greene writes:

You may recall the story about Spotsylvania school district in Virginia, where books were being protested and pulled and two board members thought maybe the books should be burned.

Well, one of those guys is now the board chairman, and things are blowing up in a hurry.

The board is a 4-3 board (though those who didn’t want to burn the books were supportive of banning them), and the 4-person conservative majority installed Kirk Twigg as the president.

Scott Baker has been with district in various capacities for years before becoming superintendent in 2012; he won some awards for his superintendenting prowess, but there’s a portion of the local populace that are not fans. There’s a whole blog devoted to laying outhis many alleged sins, but not being hard enough on dirty books has drawn the most criticism in the recent past, along with agitation over school closings.

Baker was on his way out, with departure negotiated for the end of this school year. That was not fast enough for Twigg, who has been vocal in his opposition to various books. The ban was centered on “sexually explicit” books, but Twigg, besides expressing his interest in burning objectionable material also added that he would like to broaden the criteria for rooting through the school libraries, saying, “There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at.”

Twigg promised that, if elected chair of the board, his first action would be to fire Baker effective immediately. Last Monday night, in a meeting characterized as chaotic and contentious, he did just that. He called an unscheduled closed session during the meeting, then came back to announce that Baker had been terminated–before being reminded that the board had to take an actual vote.

No reason has been given for the firing, but it’s Virginia, a right to work state, and no reason has to be given.

Keep your eyes on Spotsylvania, where one day soon there might be a public book burning.

Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate about “the debate that never happened.” A bill submitted to the House of Delegates by Wren Williiams, a newly elected Republican legislator, included a requirement that students learn about “the first debate” between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The debate, to those who studied U.S. history in high school, was not between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass but between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Williams became a laughing stock online, but the Virginia Division of Legislative Services, stepped up and took responsibility for the error. Regardless of where the fault lies, the issue it highlights is the absurdity of allowing legislators to determine what should or should not be taught.

The Virginia bill would prohibit instructors from teaching that the U.S. is “systemically racist or sexist” or that “the ideology of equity of outcomes is superior to the ideology of equality…of opportunities.” It would also ban school boards from hiring anyone “with the job title of equity director or diversity director or a substantially similar title.”

Williams cribbed most of his bill, including the part that refers to “the first Lincoln-Douglas debate,” from a law that passed in Texas last fall. Both bills include a provision even more disturbing than the swapping of Steven Douglas for Frederick Douglass: one that prohibits school boards from requiring teachers to cover any current event or “controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” Teachers that choose to do so must represent multiple competing viewpoints on the issue, “without giving deference to any one perspective.”

Bills like these lead to huge embarrassments, like teaching “both sides” of slavery and the Holocaust, or teaching about Nazism, fascism, and Marxism without taking sides.

As a rule of thumb, legislators should leave the teaching of history and science and literature to teachers, historians, scientists, and literature experts.

You can’t legislature truth, and you can’t allow poorly educated legislators to dictate curriculum that will set students back a generation or more.

Mercedes Schneider digs into the background of Virginia’s new Secretary of Education. She is a data collector, not an educator. On the good side, she is conservative but apparently not an anti-CRT warrior:

On December 20, 2021, Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced that his choice for state education secretary is “education consultant” Aimee Guidera. In the ABC8News in which I read Youngkin’s choice, political analyst Rich Meagher commented, “We don’t know a lot about this nominee just yet in part because she is not a political operative. She is a data scientist.”

We don’t know much about this nominee, but let’s unequivocally label her a *data scientist* and not just a data collector.

The ABC8News article does identify Guidera as “founder and former chief executive of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a leading voice advocating for improving the use of data to increase student achievement,” a statement that reads more like the pro-data-collection sales pitch than perhaps the article author realizes.

Guidera holds no degree in data collection and analysis or statistics and research. According to her Linkedin bio, Guidera’s bachelors of arts is from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (public policy), and her masters is in public policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nevertheless, since she founded and operated a data collection organization, Guidera is cloaked in presumed credibility as a student data expert.

For those who are sketchy about founder Guidera and her DQC, allow me to offer information from several posts I have published between 2013 and 2017 concerning DQC, DQC’s controlling nonprofit, Education Trust, and her connection to Common Core and ubiqitous Gates funding, among other market-based, ed-reform connections. Then, readers can decide whether they believe “education consultant” Guidera to be more “data scientist” or just a well-funded, well-positioned data collector.

As for me, I’m going with “well-funded, well-positioned data collector.”

In the rest of the post, Mercedes (who has a doctorate in statistics, unlike Guidera) reviews the Data Quality Campaign. Open the link and read all about it.