Superintendent of Public Education Balow Publishes Report on VDOE Material Removed for ‘Inherently Divisive Concepts’

Virginia’s new education administration has removed many of the equity training materials that used to be on the Virginia Department of Education website, according to a report from Superintendent of Public Education Jillian Balow. The removals and the report were ordered by Governor Glenn Youngkin in his first executive order, aimed at removing “inherently divisive concepts” from public education. That was a measure to fulfill a campaign promise to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT), but the order and subsequent actions go beyond materials that explicitly reference CRT.

This interim report rescinds certain policies, programs, and resources that promote discriminatory and divisive concepts as directed by Executive Order One. It also contains a sampling of critical race theorybased materials,” Balow wrote in a letter accompanying the report.

Another report is due 90 days after the executive order was issued. Balow said there is more work to do.

“However, the concepts have become widespread in the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and in Virginia school divisions and we will need to proactively review policies, practices, and pedagogies around the state to uphold the Civil Rights Act and comport with Executive Order One,” Balow wrote.

Some of the items scrubbed from VDOE resources include the EDEquityVA website, the “Teaching 9/11” web training series, and a superintendent’s memo that included a suggested reading list for teachers that included the book Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education. Balow’s report says the Virginia Math Pathways Initiative is rescinded and being evaluated.

The report explains why items were removed. For example, the ED Equity website used to say, “Virginia has developed a clear definition and vision of education equity, which includes establishing and reporting on measurable goals that support closing student achievement gaps and advancing academic rigor for all students. #EdEquityVA is defined as our commitment to eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socio-economic status, and/or languages spoken at home. This vision of equity requires that students have access to high quality learning programs that enable them to maximize their potential.”

Balow’s report explains why the site was deleted.

Numerous resources within EdEquityVA employ the concept that current discrimination is needed to address past discrimination. (Treating people differently based on skin color to remedy old/previous discrimination,” the report states.

The report says books by Ibram X. Kendi and Gloria LadsonBillings were included on recommended reading lists. Additionally, the report takes issue with the term “equity.”

Numerous resources within EdEquityVA advanceequity,’ which is redefined to mean that there can be no differences or disproportionalities between students and any difference in what students have or what they achieve is due to systemic racism,” Balow’s report states.

For the past year, critics of calls to ban CRT have said that the theory is a higher-ed concept not taught in K-12 education, while others have said the theory could influence education professionals even if it isn’t in curricula. Now, Republican terminology around the issue is shifting from CRT to “inherently divisive concepts.” The latest bill from Republicans doesn’t mention CRT or divisive concepts, but bans teaching students to believe that individuals are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race or sex. Senate Democrats have blocked those legislative efforts, with most of the action occurring in the Senate Education Committee. For now, it appears that Youngkin’s executive order, which isn’t a permanent part of state law, will be the only ban Republicans can get through.

In a Senate Democratic Caucus press release, Senate Education Committee Chair Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) said, “Governor Youngkin seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what an ‘inherently divisive concept’ is. The actions of his Department of Education are cruelly tearing away every attempt at promoting equity and healing division, instead replacing those initiatives with whitewashed history and fake news. He is being inherently divisive with these actions.”

“Whatever you call it, an ‘inherently divisive concept’ or something else, it’s all the same thing – denying my history, my family’s history, my community’s history, and Virginia’s history. Rescinding policies that prioritize equity leaves equity behind; it doesn’t promote it. Not talking about our differences doesn’t erase our differences; it promotes division,” Lucas added.

In a tweet, the Virginia Democratic Party highlighted the irony of the report being issued during Black History Month.

On one of the final days of Black History month, Gov. Youngkin released a report demonstrating his intent to whitewash Virginia’s History,” the party wrote.

Republicans have insisted that all history can still be taught.

“All Virginia students should have the opportunity to receive an excellent education that teaches all history including the good and the bad, prioritizes academic excellence, and fosters equal opportunities for all students. Our Virginia students should not be taught to discriminate on the basis of sex, skin color, or religion and VDOE policies should certainly not recommend such concepts,” Youngkin said in a Friday press release.

He added, “This is the first step in improving Virginia’s education system, restoring high academic expectations, equipping our future generation to be career- or college-ready, and providing equal opportunities for all Virginia students. As your governor, I will continually stand up for students and parents and look forward to signing the largest education budget in Virginia’s history.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].

 

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