Youngkin slams school district paying $450K for 'equity' consultant, withholding students' merit awards
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin criticized the state's largest school district for spending $450,000 on an "equity" coach as district officials neglected to inform students of the national merit recognition in time for them to apply for scholarships.
Youngkin weighed in on the controversy surrounding Fairfax County Public Schools in a Sunday interview with local news outlet WJLA-TV. He lamented that administrators in the district "decided that they were going to systematically withhold accolades and a path to college admission and scholarships for high-performing students."
"It seems to have been withheld from them for the purpose of not wanting to make people feel bad who didn't achieve it," he added.
"We have a superintendent in Fairfax Schools who has explicitly stated that her top objective is equal outcomes for all students regardless of the price. Now, we know the price includes paying $450,000 to a liberal consultant to come in and teach the administrators in Fairfax County how to do this."
Youngkin's media appearance comes less than two weeks after he ordered Virginia's Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate whether or not "information about National Merit Awards, as determined by student PSAT scores, was withheld from students at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology until after important deadlines for college scholarships had passed."
"We need to get to the bottom of what appears to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country," Youngkin asserted in a statement released on Jan. 3 in conjunction with his letter to Miyares.
"Parents and students deserve answers and Attorney General Miyares will initiate a full investigation. I believe this failure may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act."
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology describes itself as a magnet school providing a "specialized education" focused on math, science and technology. Operated by Fairfax County Public Schools, it serves students in nearby Washington, D.C. suburbs of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Loudoun County and Prince William County, Virginia as well.
In a statement, Fairfax County Public Schools announced that it had "initiated an investigation into the circumstances around how this situation could occur."
"Our current understanding is that the delay at Thomas Jefferson High School this fall was a unique situation due to human error, but we will continue to examine our records in further detail," the statement reads.
The district vowed that "we are committed to sharing any key findings and any updates to our processes to ensure future consistency in appropriate and timely notification of National Merit Scholarship Corporation recognitions going forward."
In a Jan. 9 letter to Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid, Miyares indicated that his office discovered that at least two additional high schools in the district may have also withheld National Merit Recognition from students: Langley High School and Westfield High School.
On Friday, WJLA-TV reported that a fourth high school in the district, Edison High School, did the same thing. The outlet reports that at least seven Fairfax County schools (a quarter of high schools in the district) said they didn't notify students of the recognition. Additionally, four high schools in neighboring Loudoun County and two high schools in Prince William County didn't inform students of the recognition.
Youngkin attributed the withholding of information about National Merit Scholarship awards to a "maniacal focus on equal outcomes for all students at all costs."
"This overarching effort for equal outcomes is hurting Virginia's children and it's hurting even worse the children that they aspire to help: children in the black community and children in the Hispanic community and children who are in the socio-economically challenged community and Virginia's kids with disabilities," Youngkin added.
"This idea of a golden ticket, as it is called, was withheld from them and it seems to have been withheld from them for the purpose of not wanting to make people feel bad who didn't achieve it."
Virginia's investigation comes amid concerns that public schools are incorporating elements of critical race theory and other politically charged ideologies, leading to nationwide protests from parents.
Encyclopedia Brittanica defines critical race theory as an "intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour." Adherents to critical race theory suggest structural racism factors into differences in socioeconomic outcomes between people of different races.
Concerns about the implementation of critical race theory in public schools have led to the establishment of parental rights advocacy groups, including the 1776 Project PAC, which works to elect school board candidates "who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history" in addition to "abolishing critical race theory and 'The 1619 Project' from the curriculum."
The group saw most of its endorsed candidates win elections in 2021, in addition to achieving widespread success in Florida and Texas ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. The 1776 Project PAC had a mixed success rate in last year's midterm elections, with more than 100 of its preferred candidates winning their school board races. Concerns about the content and ideology embraced by public schools have also impacted statewide elections.
Many political observers attributed Youngkin's election in the Democratic-leaning state in 2021 to a comment made by his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, at a debate. McAuliffe declared, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," as parental rights in education had become a hot topic in American politics.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org