Virginia’s Education Advice Line sees parents’ concerns

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginians have used an education advice line Governor Glenn Youngkin set up to submit complaints about the curriculum, remote learning, books, mask policies, teachers and other subjects, according to a sample of emails provided to news outlets as part of a settlement agreement.

Positive comments were included in the batch of about 350 documents provided this week to news outlets that sued the Republican governor in April for disclosure. But the majority of emails expressed anger or frustration with teachers, administrators and school policies, particularly with COVID-19 protocols.

“My kids have busy jobs with no new subjects being taught,” a Spotsylvania County parent wrote in February, objecting to the number of remote learning days in her child’s high school.

Another parent wrote to the principal of her child’s school, copying the whistleblower line address, asking her to provide lesson plans and lesson objective sheets from her child’s Grade 7 teachers .

The parent wanted to make sure their child was not being “taught about divisive concepts (or in biology, not being taught gender-dividing LGBT campaigns with overly sexualized course content).”

The parent, whose name has been removed from the email, said it was only because of remote learning during the pandemic that the parents discovered “the secret left-wing, politically motivated and Brainwashing Critical Race Theory -CRT”.

Another parent objected to the salary increases given to teachers.

“Although teachers did not set foot in the classroom during the 2020-2021 school year, the district allocated $32.7 million to give educators extra pay,” he said. -he writes.

Youngkin, who has campaigned extensively on education and on a promise to give parents more influence over their children’s curriculum, introduced the hotline shortly after it opened in January. That same month, he touted it in an interview as a way to ensure his administration was aware of what was happening at the school level and to enable him to “list” and “discuss”. eradicate” cases of divisive practices.

A teachers’ union, Democrats in the General Assembly, some parents and other observers — including celebrities who caught wind of the whistleblower line as it garnered national media coverage — criticized the move as divisive, authoritarian and unfairly targeting educators.

Numerous emails to the whistleblower line supported Youngkin’s approach to education policy.

Mital Gandhi, a parent from northern Virginia, said he originally wrote to local education officials after discovering his school district had eliminated Algebra I from the list of courses that 6th graders could follow.

Gandhi said he emailed the Whistleblower Line and the Virginia Department of Education. A department administrator responded and said the state does not prohibit local school systems from allowing 6th graders to take Algebra I. Gandhi said his son and several other 6th graders are taking now the course.

Gandhi wrote that the tip line was a way to “level the playing field for parents and students”.

“What Governor Youngkin has done is he has given more power to parents,” he said.

One person disagreed with Youngkin’s approach and used the tip line to urge him not to ban “critical race theory” or controversial books.

‘Please don’t steer us away from progress by supporting these backward notions of forward movement,’ wrote one woman, who did not say if she was a parent with children in the public school system. .

Emails sent to the whistleblower line on Thursday bounced back. Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for Youngkin, said in a statement that the email was deactivated in September “because it received little to no volume during that time.”

“Voters are still able to confidentially contact the governor’s office through a variety of voter service methods,” she said.

News organizations filed requests for documents related to the whistleblower line, but the governor’s office had refused to provide them due to the administration’s claim that the emails were “working papers and correspondence” from the governor’s office and therefore were not to be disclosed under Virginia. Freedom of Information Act.

Youngkin and other governors regularly used the working papers exemption to withhold a wide range of documents.

“The governor wants voters to be able to contact him without fear that their communications will be kept confidential,” Porter said in a statement. She did not respond to a question about how the whistleblower line has been used by the administration or if any significant issues have come to light and been addressed because of the whistleblower line.

A coalition of news organizations filed suit in April, alleging Youngkin violated the Public Records Act.

News organizations reached a settlement agreement with Youngkin last month that called for the Department of Education to produce about 350 documents in its possession, including emails sent to the whistleblower line. The governor’s office was not required to turn over documents sent to his office.

“This settlement agreement is entered into pursuant to a compromise for the sole purpose of avoiding additional expense and the risk of further litigation. This should not be construed as adopting or rejecting the position of any party to the litigation” , indicates the settlement agreement.

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