FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — After parents and educators from across the state told the Virginia Board of Education what they are concerned about and their ideas to improve public education, a surprise visitor walked through the door: Governor Glenn Youngkin.
“This is an extraordinarily important board,” Youngkin told the nine-member State Board of Education in remarks that lasted just over eight minutes. "We talk a lot about history. And I want to be very clear. I want us to teach all of our history in Virginia, the good, the bad. There's an opportunity for us to set a standard for what it means to educate our children in all of the lessons and again, I'll repeat the good and the bad."
The Board gathered Wednesday for its first meeting with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s 5-4 majority. The first item on the agenda was public comment.
One speaker called to “gut” the special education office at the Virginia Department of Education.
Then, Spotsylvania County School Board member Nicole Cole told the BOE that she thinks School Board Chair Kirk Twigg may have violated the law in selecting the school district's new superintendent.
Robert Rigby of Fairfax County, who is an LGBTQ+ advocate, spoke in favor of improving mental health support in schools.
Other speakers spoke in favor of lab schools, one of Youngkin's priorities. And some speakers have urged the Board of Education to not delay former Gov. Ralph Northam's proposed changes to the history and social science standards of learning.
But after 7News revealed errors in the proposed policy, Youngkin and his state superintendent of public instruction, Jillian Balow, expressed concern.
"We don't want the public having to say there's a typo here,” Balow told 7News. “You've said succession instead of secession, or you've omitted George Washington from this particular area, and it's supposed to be here and it isn't. We just want a draft that is free of those types of errors.”
The proposed update would have stopped calling George Washington the “Father of our Country” and James Madison the “Father of the Constitution” on history standards of learning.
Now Youngkin’s administration wants to pump the breaks to see if more errors are in the 400-page policy before the board votes on it. That’s why Balow recommended the board not move forward on the proposed draft policy for now. Balow also wants to give the five new board members time to review the policy.
“We want the best standards and we are on our way to get there,” Balow told 7News.
But, several people voiced opposition in potentially delaying the process.
"I am very impressed with the care and thought that has gone into this revision,” said Dr. Ed Ayers, a Professor at the University of Richmond. “Teachers are eager to have the SOLS I hope you will proceed with the first review as scheduled."
Balow said reviewing the reviews will not delay the SOL process that’s currently laid out.
On Monday, 7News spoke to Governor Northam’s former Secretary of Education who supported the draft policy. Click here to see what he said about the proposed changes.
On Wednesday, Va. Attorney General Jason Miyares tweeted that it's "Absolutely outrageous that the Virginia Dep. of Education thought they could erase the significant role George Washington & James Madison - two Virginians - played in the founding of our great country. Under our new administrations, VA will teach all of our history."
RELATED | Youngkin opposes effort to eliminate George Washington as 'Father' of U.S. on SOLS
7News was the first to report that two of the proposed changes to Virginia’s history and social science SOLs would have eliminated calling George Washington the “Father of our Country” and James Madison the “Father of the Constitution."
“I disagree with the removing of the nomenclature of George Washington as the father of our country, because of course he was and, of course, James Madison as the father of our Constitution. So all these standards still need significant work," Youngkin told 7News. "And we're going to reinforce as part of our curriculum, the role of our founding fathers in our country, we're not going to erode it.”
"I believe that we should tell our history accurately, the good and the bad. And part of the history we're going to tell is that our Founding Fathers, including George Washington, and James Madison, let's not forget about Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry and the others played an extraordinary role in the founding of our nation," Youngkin added.
After 7News' reporting, the VDOE reviewed the proposed changes and told 7News Tuesday that they determined it was an "inadvertent" error.
"Note the reference to this content being moved to VS.7a. It wasn't," a VDOE spokesperson told 7News. "This was inadvertent -- something that was supposed to be done but wasn't -- in making updates and edits to a 400-plus page document. The omission of the "Father of our Country" and "Father of the Constitution" language from VS.7a was noted in July - after the Board of Education meeting was canceled. The correction was made (adding the bullet to VS.7a) in an August 4 version of the draft SOLs [Standard of learning] that will be uploaded to the VDOE website today."
This is one of the items the new BOE discussed Wednesday in Richmond, Va.
RELATED | 'Parents are very outraged': Virginia Gov. Youngkin's new 9-member BOE to meet this week
7News has been reporting on the seismic political shift that is coming to the Virginia Board of Education.
The nine-member board is a mix of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Northam and Youngkin appointees. Four members were appointed by Democrat governors, including the president of the board. The five new board members were appointed by Youngkin, a Republican.
- Public comment
- Consent Agenda
- Action/Discussion Items
- Discussion of Current Issues – by Board of Education Members and Superintendent of Public Instruction