RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have made education a top priority for the 2022 General Assembly session.
On Monday, Youngkin’s pick for secretary of education addressed initiatives the new governor has called for and took questions from a House of Delegates panel on how she envisions they will be implemented in Virginia.
“Restoring expectations is just going to be the heart and soul of everything we do so you have my commitment that nothing that we do will ever lower expectations, ever,” Aimee Rogstad Guidera, secretary-designee of education, told the House Education Committee.
Guidera made her views clear to the 22-member committee, aligning with Youngkin on requiring students to attend schools in-person five days a week and calling for better teacher pay.
She also spoke about her background as a school data consultant, saying she plans to use her expertise to ensure teachers and parents have up-to-date information on how individual students are performing in the classroom.
Del. John McGuire (R-Goochland) asked Guidera about Youngkin’s call to get “politics out of the classroom” and his executive order to end “the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.”
Guidera pointed out that Youngkin’s order directs Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction to conduct an audit of each school division in the commonwealth. She did not speak directly to critical race theory or any other specific concept that she believed could be considered divisive.
“We also will be working to do an audit within the department of education to review all policies, best practices and to ensure that any that are in there that we think are adding to this divisiveness and the political agendas within schools, we will rescind and remove,” Guidera added.
Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) asked Guidera about underfunded public education and crumbling schools in the commonwealth, specifically in the city that Bourne represents, and how she believes Virginia can approach these issues moving forward. Guidera responded by noting that Youngkin has called for record investment in education and she added that she plans to use targeted data to ensure funding goes where it is needed.
Bourne then brings up the ongoing debate over diversity issues at Virginia’s Governor’s schools, asking Guidera about how she thinks about the subject and ways she believes the commonwealth can ensure all students have opportunities and are not shut out of the enrollment process. A recent Richmond Times-Dispatch investigation revealed that white students were accepted to Maggie Walker Governor’s School in Richmond at a rate nearly four times higher than Black students.
“Merit matters. It matters to make sure that we send messages that we, that the schools have criteria that say we’re going to return merit to that. And it also means that it’s colorblind,” Guidera responded. “We need to do everything possible to make sure that that is also representative of what Virginia looks like. And so that means investing early on, in early childhood to make sure that all kids are ready and prepared to be ready to get into those schools on a merit basis.”
Guidera added that she believes the problem can’t be solved by only looking at students in the eighth grade, saying it has to be addressed in the first few years of a child’s life and by working with parents. She said Virginia will teach all of its history, the good and bad, reiterating a promise Youngkin made on the campaign trail.