Governor Glenn Youngkin filled five vacancies on the Board of Education, according to a Thursday afternoon announcement. Youngkin’s appointees include Suparna Dutta, co-founder of the Coalition for TJ, which has been working to protest and block Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s controversial new admissions policy. The appointments give him a majority on the board.
“I’m delighted to appoint this group of proven leaders in their respective fields to help ensure every student has a best-in-class education,” Youngkin said in a press release. “I have tasked these innovators to bring their expertise as parents, industry leaders, educators, and policymakers to ensure our classrooms and our campuses prepare students for success in life. This includes providing equal access to educational opportunities regardless of background or zip code, protecting and promoting free speech, restoring the ability to have civil discourse, keeping tuition affordable, and ensuring that all Virginians have access to in-demand career pathways. Together, we will make Virginia the best place to learn across a lifetime.”
Another board appointee drew attention Thursday for her ties to private education: Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE) Executive Director Grace Turner Creasey, who has experience in both private and public schools, as well as at lobbyist firm McGuire Woods, according to a bio at Sweet Briar College.
“VCPE oversees accreditation of private preschool, elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VCPE facilitates a statewide framework for communication and cooperation among private schools, their public school counterparts, state and local governments, and other agencies and organizations,” VCPE’s website explains.
Youngkin has pushed for school choice policies including charter schools and lab schools that can partner with for-profit organizations. Democrats have largely opposed those policies, concerned that Republican calls for school choice may harm public schools by diverting tax funds to private schools.
In the 2022 session as part of a battle over Youngkin’s nomination of former EPA chief Andrew Wheeler for a cabinet position, House Republicans blocked several of former Governor Ralph Northam’s appointees that were in an acting role, including three Board of Education positions. In addition to those three vacancies, two board members’ terms expired on Thursday.
Having five Youngkin-appointed members on the nine-member board gives Youngkin a majority, which will be helpful as he tries to reverse the policy direction of his Democratic predecessors. Earlier this month, The Virginia Mercury reported that the board extensively criticized a Youngkin report on Virginia education that called for substantial change.
Youngkin also announced appointments to the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia and boards of visitors at 15 universities and colleges. The General Assembly will have to confirm the appointments by its 2023 session, leaving the appointees in an acting role.
State Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) has been a vocal defender of the new admissions policy at TJ High.
He told The Virginia Star, “I have concerns that the governor is appointing people who intend to continue politicizing Virginia’s schools at a time when we need to dial back the conflict and focus on kids.”
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