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State superintendent urges board not to move forward on history standards just yet

Board president astounded by what he perceived as a politicization of the standards
Montpelier-Descendants of Enslaved
Posted at 6:10 PM, Aug 17, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Board of Education opted to delay moving forward to public comment on proposed changes to the Virginia standards for history and social sciences, after five new members appointed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and State Superintendent Jillian Balow pushed for another month of review.

The revision process for the standards, which are periodically reviewed to ensure they reflect current academic research and best practice, began in January of 2021 when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's administration was in charge.

But since then Youngkin has taken over and brought in his superintendent pick, Balow. The governor also appointed five new board members to the Board of Education and Wednesday was their first meeting.

While three people spoke during public comment in support of the board moving forward with the recommendations, Balow said she wants more review of them because she is concerned about omissions and spelling errors in the recommendations

She cited the omission of calling George Washington the Father of our Country, and James Madison the Father of our Constitution.

Balow was also concerned Plessy v. Ferguson, the court case which legalized segregation, was not part of the context associated with the Jim Crow era.

And, she did not like that the Electoral College was left out of high school history, according to spokesperson Charles Pyle.

"I hope we can take a month to do that work before we hit the street and you hit the road before we do a series of eight community meetings where this document is going to be front and center," Balow said. "We want them focused on the best, not a draft to the best."

Pyle said Balow asked the Fordham Institute to review the recommended changes, and they identified some issues that should be addressed.

Industry Watch calls the Fordham Institute a conservative-leaning education policy think-tank.

The President of the Board, Dan Gecker, who is not one of the new appointees, said he was astounded by what he perceived as a politicization of the standards. He had argued in favor of moving forward to the public comment on the proposed changes.

However, after hearing from the superintendent and the new board members, Gecker acquiesced and agreed to wait until the next board meeting in September to decide whether to move forward to the public comment part of the process.

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