July 6, 2021 News & Press Releases

ICYMI: New Reporting Details Terry McAuliffe’s Bold Plans for Virginia Schools vs. Glenn Youngkin’s Detail-Lacking Culture War Agenda

by Democratic Party of Virginia

Highland View Elementary School Principal on Terry McAuliffe: “He’s going to be our champion. He’s going to do as much as he possibly can for school infrastructure, small and rural schools, economically disadvantaged children.”

Richmond, VA — When it comes to education, the contrast between former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Trump loyalist Glenn Youngkin could not be clearer. While Terry stands with Virginia teachers and has the tested leadership and plans to build a world class education for every Virginia child, Youngkin has done nothing but fan the flames of hate and division for political gain.

New reporting from The Washington Post clearly illustrates the contrast between Terry’s strong vision for Virginia’s education and Youngkin’s extreme Republican agenda. See below for key excerpts and read the full report here.

The Washington Post: In Virginia governor’s race, a raging debate about education takes center stage
By Laura Vozzella

Parents and teachers, already exercised about public schools amid raging K-12 culture wars and the aftermath of pandemic-era shutdowns, are proving attractive targets this year for Virginia gubernatorial candidates — in strikingly different ways.

Terry McAuliffe (D), a former governor attempting a comeback, launched his campaign in December in front of a Richmond elementary school then shuttered by the pandemic.

He released a detailed plan that day to invest a record $2 billion a year to raise teacher pay above the national average, get every student online, expand preschool to 3- and 4-year-olds in need and eliminate racial disparities in education. He has broadened his pitch since then, churning out position papers on 14 other issues, although his schools plan still gets top billing on his campaign website.

Glenn Youngkin (R), while far lighter on details, has leaned heavily into cultural issues consuming some school boards, ­especially in vote-rich Northern Virginia. He has promised to ban critical race theory, an intellectual movement that examines the way policies and laws perpetuate systemic racism; opposed certain transgender rights policies; and accused the state — falsely, education officials say — of planning to eliminate accelerated math, the Pledge of Allegiance and Independence Day from school curriculums. [...]

“Parents have had to think more about education over the past year than ever before, because they were seeing a lot of it in their own houses,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a University of Mary Washington political science professor and the director of the school’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Farnsworth says it makes sense that McAuliffe would offer practical, nuts-and-bolts plans for schools as just one part of an expansive set of policy goals, while Youngkin would zero in on a more limited set of highly animating issues.

“McAuliffe doesn’t need to hit the long ball to win. A series of issues that get him on base — improve teacher salaries, improve broadband access, additional resources . . . [for] schools recovering from covid education troubles — these are effective,” he said. “Republicans, given the bluish tint of the Virginia electorate, have to swing for the long ball.”

As a former governor, McAuliffe has a background on education that he can point to, such as a record $1 billion investment in K-12 schools, as well as plans for a second term. His schools policy — laid out in a six-page document studded with footnotes to meaty educational research — ranges from lofty promises to address “modern-day segregation in schools” to in-the-weeds plans to train and retain more teachers.

All of that appeals to Pam Davis-Vaught, principal of Highland View Elementary School in Bristol, on the border with Tennessee. Hers is a poor school, where teachers have chipped in to buy washing machines for use on campus to ensure children have clean clothes. It benefited from nutrition programs expanded under then-first lady Dorothy McAuliffe, but problems remain at a run-down schoolhouse dating to the 1930s.

“When we shut down for covid on March the 13th, the rats and things from the neighborhood kind of moved in, and it took us quite a bit to exterminate them,” said Davis-Vaught, a coal miner’s daughter who also has worked closely with the region’s Republican legislators. “That makes learning very difficult, when your teacher is constantly on the lookout for something.”

She said McAuliffe has the right idea, not only with his promised infrastructure investments, but also with his plans to provide broadband and create virtual internships for students in areas such as hers, where job prospects are limited.

“He’s going to be our champion,” she said. “He’s going to do as much as he possibly can for school infrastructure, small and rural schools, economically disadvantaged children.” [...]

Critical race theory, or CRT, is a once-obscure academic theory that looks at racism not as individual acts, but as a systemic phenomenon baked into the structure of society. [...]

Schools across the state were still closed down early this year, when both parties’ gubernatorial nominating contests were heating up. Youngkin and some of his rivals for the Republican nomination made those closures central to their campaigns, blaming Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for the prolonged shutdown. (Northam, like all Virginia governors, is banned by the state constitution from seeking back-to-back terms.)

But as schools began reopening in late winter to in-person instruction, that issue started losing salience. Cultural battles in education rose up as replacements — nowhere more fervently than in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. [...]

In Loudoun, the battles emerged over CRT and transgender rights. Parents have seized on the school district’s equity work, launched in response to two high-profile reports that found widespread racism was imperiling Black and Hispanic students’ progress, to argue that schools are trying to teach White children to feel ashamed of themselves because their race means they have historically been part of an oppressive system.

Separately, Loudoun’s attempt to implement a 2020 state law requiring school systems statewide to treat transgender students according to their gender identities, in part by granting these children access to gender-specific restrooms and sports programs, has generated national headlines and at least one lawsuit.

Youngkin has seen an opening in all of that. He has opposed transgender girls’ participation in girls’ sports and has championed the cause of a teacher who was recently suspended — and later reinstated by a judge — for saying he would not address transgender students by the pronouns they use. Youngkin has warned that CRT undermines Martin Luther King Jr.’s goal of racial harmony by reducing people to their racial identities.

In the crowd at Youngkin’s Glen Allen rally was Angela Allen. The school board candidate is running on a platform that includes banning CRT, which she said was “permeating our classrooms.” She said she has seen it in her daughter’s AP English class.

“They had to read content from a New York Times opinion columnist about the struggles of being a Black man in New York City,” she said in an interview after the rally. “I had no problem with reading a diverse range of materials. The problem was then the assignment was . . . to write about how they could identify with that man’s situation. Well I’m not sure how effective that is or what the endgame was for that. My daughter, being at that time a 16-year-old White girl in Goochland County, she neither could relate to his circumstances nor speak to it intelligently.”

Allen also objected to a lesson that she said involved “attacking images of Barbie, and how Barbie represents what suppresses all other women, and how you have to look like Barbie to get ahead.” She said the lesson was problematic for her daughter, who, like the doll, has long, blond hair.

Youngkin gave a shout-out to Allen before launching into his speech. [...]