Republican nominee for governor Glenn Youngkin shared his education agenda with more than 100 supporters at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building in Ashburn Wednesday night.
One of his proposals is to ban teaching critical race theory if elected.
“On day one, I will issue an order banning the teaching of critical race theory,” Youngkin said.
“We need to bring the focus of our children to bringing people together, not separating them,” he said. “And Virginia’s future, our future will be made better together, as opposed to divided.”
Youngkin’s visit comes as the Loudoun school system is at the center of a nationwide movement wherein conservatives have expressed their opposition to critical race theory, or CRT, being taught in the schools.
LCPS leadership has repeatedly stated CRT is not part of its curriculum.
Nevertheless, lines have been drawn with CRT opponents claiming that it categorizes people as oppressed or being in an oppressed class and makes children feel guilty or as victims.
The American Bar Association has defined critical race theory as the understanding that race is “socially constructed and socially significant,” and that “racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions.”
Some of Youngkin’s plans include appointing a new secretary of education to appoint a new school superintendent and new members of the State Board of Education.
He further hopes to expand the number of year-round academic Governor’s Schools, signing an executive order returning Virginia’s schools to pre-Gov. Terry McAuliffe standards, and directing the Virginia Department of Education to protect advanced math classes and the use of advanced diplomas.
McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 through 2017, is the Democratic nominee for the 2021 gubernatorial contest. The state’s constitution bars governors from serving two consecutive terms.
Further, Youngkin hopes to make a standard for every high school diploma given that graduates are career- or college-ready.
“We need more graduates with the skills that translate immediately into in-demand jobs,” Youngkin said.
“We need to emphasize skill-development apprenticeships and relevant two-year degrees at community colleges or in technical training schools so that our high school graduates do not have to enroll in four-year colleges if they choose not to,” he said. “And yet they can have the wonderful, wonderful life, career and opportunities that Virginia will offer.”
Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, was among the guest speakers at the rally. Also on hand was Julie Perry, a teacher running for the 86th District House of Delegates seat in November against nonprofit organizer Irene Shin.
Prior is among leaders of the local anti-CRT movement.
Aliscia Andrews, former Republican nominee for the 10th Congressional District, served as the emcee.
“Tonight is about coming together to demand excellence in our schools, to make sure that our students have the best possible chance for a future,” Andrews, who lost her 2020 race by 13 percentage points, said.
“Whether it’s accelerated math, whether it’s the future of their diplomas, whether it’s making sure there’s jobs for them for their future — they’re worth fighting for,” she said.
Youngkin spoke for 20 minutes before rain led to the event’s premature conclusion shortly before 7:30 p.m. The rally was scheduled to go until 9 p.m.
River Bend Middle School teacher Andrea Weiskopf, who spoke out against parents that accused the school system of teaching critical race theory, marched through the crowd during Youngkin’s remarks.
She held a sign over her head stating “If you aren’t here to protest systemic racism in LCPS, go home.”
Susan Swecker, chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia, criticized Republican lawmakers for what she called a failure of investment in public schools compared to her party’s efforts.
Swecker, during a Wednesday afternoon call with reporters, said Youngkin’s rhetoric is a distraction because he has no plan.
“Youngkin and the Republicans are spearheading a movement to demonize school boards, divide our communities and scare people with made-up controversies about school curriculums,” Swecker said.
Loudoun County School Board Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District), who was on the call, said her colleagues have received death threats for months. She said the anti-CRT efforts have made it challenging for the board to do its job “to protect the diverse student body of Loudoun schools.”
“The use of our students and families as political pawns is despicable,” Reaser said. “The threats of violence against school board members are horrific, and they’re real. This has to stop. We need to be able to do our job, please let us focus on educating the kids rather than using them as a wedge issue.”