Governor Youngkin says he wants to give parents a bigger voice in their children’s schooling, but his actions do the opposite. They amplify the voices of a fringe group, potentially drowning out the wishes of the large majority of parents. He has installed a tip line on which parents can anonymously complain about a teacher’s use of any content a parent dislikes. Today most of science, history, and literature are “divisive” for some. Notably, the tip line does not funnel complaints to Virginia’s Department of Education but instead to the Governor’s office, which has no direct responsibility for education and where the comments can more easily be used for political purposes. Youngkin’s insidious tip line is not intended to give a greater voice to the majority of parents but to help him score political points.
Youngkin says he wants to improve Virginia’s schools, but the tip line undermines them. It puts new burdens on teachers when they are under heightened pressure because of the pandemic. Virginia faces a shortage of teachers, and the number of teachers thinking of leaving the field is increasing. Encouraging anonymous complaints will make this problem worse. An association of the 133 of school superintendents in Virginia recently told the governor to close down the tip line.
The tip line also threatens to intensify the culture wars that are already a destructive force in our politics. The rhetoric around the tip line makes clear that what the governor seeks is complaints from extremists. By encouraging these parents to express their grievances through the tip line rather than through the mechanisms for parental participation within the educational system, the tip line channels the complaints directly to those who will use them for political purposes. Ostensibly intended to reduce divisiveness, the tip line intensifies divisions among us.
Youngkin’s tip-line stunt is part of his larger assault on the state’s educational system. While he claims to care about low pay for teachers, he is seeking aggressive tax cuts and the diversion of $150 million in state funds over the next two years to private schools, leaving fewer funds for teacher pay and other public-school needs. His first Executive Order directed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to review educational content state-wide and eliminate all policies that “promote inherently divisive concepts.” This directive has the potential to result in a massive reorientation of the state’s K-12 curriculum. Currently, Virginia’s schools are among the best in the nation, ranking fourth in one recent survey. Youngkin’s proposals put that status in jeopardy.
Tell Youngkin to disconnect the tip line at once. Email email@example.com and say:
This tip line undermines Virginia’s excellent teachers and strong school systems. It divides rather than unites us. Close it down NOW.