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Republican Glenn Youngkin seeks teacher raises, ban on ‘critical race theory’ in plan for Virginia K-12 schools

Republican nominee for Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin gives a speech on the opposition to critical race theory in Loudoun County Schools on June 30 in Ashburn. (Michael Blackshire/The Washington Post)

Virginia’s Republican candidate for governor Glenn Youngkin plans to boost teacher salaries and attack what he asserts is the infiltration of critical race theory into K-12 education in the state, his campaign said this week.

Youngkin recently outlined a set of policy priorities, a mix of tax cuts and spending proposals, that he described as a “day one game plan.”

He had previously shared some of his ideas for education, which include keeping schools open five days a week, investing more in special education initiatives, rebuilding crumbling schools and building 20 additional charter schools.

“This campaign is about making Virginia the best state, the best place to live and work and raise a family, and there is nothing more critical to Virginia’s future than education,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Education has the power to lift people up, to lift people out, to provide opportunities that they can only dream about, to realize the most vivid dreams. It gives every child a chance — every child — and when I’m governor, we will all be about giving every child a chance, to learn, to grow, to succeed, to believe. That’s what Virginia is all about.”

Youngkin would expand the availability of AP classes statewide and rewrite Virginia’s accreditation standards for K-12 schools to make them more stringent, according to his campaign, which answered questions about the education proposal on the condition an aide not be named.

The aide also said Youngkin would seek changes to the admissions process at Fairfax County’s prestigious magnet STEM school, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and push for the school to use a solely merit-based process.

Fairfax County Public Schools revised the high school’s admissions system last year by eliminating a rigorous test and by asking admissions officers to consider applicants’ “experience factors” such as socioeconomic status — changes that boosted diversity but spurred two lawsuits from angry parents.

After admissions changes, Thomas Jefferson High will welcome most diverse class in recent history, officials say

In recent months, Youngkin also has promised to ban critical race theory in schools. An aide said that he would, as governor, appoint a board of education and state superintendent who would ensure the theory doesn’t influence curriculum or teachers’ professional development programs.

Critical race theory is a decades-old academic framework that holds that racism is systemic in America. Over the past year, parents and conservative activists nationwide have asserted that school systems are teaching or adopting the principles of critical race theory.

School officials in Virginia and elsewhere have repeatedly denied they are teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools. Some have acknowledged that initiatives like anti-bias trainings employ similar vocabulary such as the terms “white supremacy” and “systemic racism,” but say it doesn’t mean the theory is being taught.

The campaign aide said Youngkin plans to devote at least $100 million to raising teacher salaries, while spending $200 million on emergency upgrades and repairs to school buildings and infrastructure. The aide did not directly answer a question about the source of funding for those proposals.

Asked about the charter school proposal, the aide said Youngkin is willing to invest $100 million into new charters across the commonwealth, with additional support from private partners. But they declined to say how he would select locations.

In Virginia governor’s race, a raging debate about education takes center stage

Youngkin’s opponent, Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe, has also outlined education proposals, including a plan to increase support to community colleges and boost money for financial aid.