by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Collin Anderson of the Washington Free Beacon looks at the political implications of a disturbing change in Virginia education policy.
A Democratic plan to eliminate most advanced math courses in search of “equity” has reinvigorated Virginia Republicans, who are focusing on education as they work to retake the governor’s mansion in November.
Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Glenn Youngkin, Kirk Cox, and Pete Snyder all condemned the proposal—which would do away with accelerated math offerings before 11th grade—in recent days. Youngkin and Cox pledged to fire the entire state Board of Education over the move, which Cox labeled a “left-wing takeover of public education” in a Monday statement. Snyder, meanwhile, accused “extremist” Democrats of peddling a “stupid, woke policy” that would “dumb down Virginia schools.”
Democratic frontrunner Terry McAuliffe has echoed the call for equity in his education plan, which promises “equitable” schooling “for every child.” The former governor touts an endorsement from Democratic governor Ralph Northam, who appointed the top Board of Education officials behind the proposal. McAuliffe did not return a request for comment and has yet to directly address the Board of Education plan. He did, however, accuse Cox of “crying ‘cancel culture'” after the Republican criticized the board on Monday.
The curriculum change puts McAuliffe in a difficult position, George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government dean Mark Rozell told the Washington Free Beacon. Voters could hold the Democratic frontrunner responsible for his partymates’ more controversial education policies.
“This creates a dilemma for the Democrats, because they don’t want to be seen as opposing a policy that has an ‘equity’ focus to it. They may fear offending some of their core constituencies by coming out against it,” Rozell said. “So the Republicans have a chance to really box the Democrats in on this issue, because it’s hard to argue against academic excellence, especially at a time when the United States has lacked way behind in the world on STEM subjects.”
The policy has already sparked protest from some school officials.