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Virginia teachers union to provide rescinded state equity guidance

Person speaks at podium with others behind
James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association, speaks at a Tuesday press conference. (Screenshot from livestream)

The Virginia Education Association, a nonprofit advocacy group, announced plans to publish rescinded state education equity guidelines on their own website.

VEA President Dr. James Fedderman announced the plan on the state Capitol grounds Tuesday, along with representatives from the state NAACP, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and more.

“Educators who can teach all of our students about all of our history is in the best interest of us all,” Fedderman said.

He cited a Christopher Newport University Wason Center poll that showed 57% of those surveyed opposed a ban on critical race theory in public schools - over 60% supported teaching about racism’s continued impact on American society.

“It is clear to all of us that Governor Youngkin is attempting to exploit the fear of a small group of parents,” Fedderman said.

In a February memo to Gov. Glenn Youngkin, state Superintendent Jillian Balow wrote that the EdEquity program, one of those rescinded, employed the “concept that current discrimination is needed to address past discrimination.”

Equity advocates say this is a misunderstanding of the concept - equity isn’t taking from some students to give to others, it’s ensuring that all students have the tools they need to succeed given their unique circumstances.

“It’s really bringing to the forefront issues that impact all of us, and it seeks to give a broader perspective to issues that may have been troubling to a particular group” Fedderman said, arguing that equity allows for children to engage in critical thinking about their world.

Amy Walters, an attorney at the Legal Aid Justice Center, says Youngkin’s policies threaten students’ understanding of living history and discount history’s modern impacts by failing to recognize disparities across ZIP code, race and socioeconomic status.

“These disparities will not be redressed by simply providing a one-size-fits-all education program,” Walters said.

Macaulay Porter, spokesperson for Youngkin, told VPM News “the governor won in November because a movement of Virginia parents, teachers, and students stood up for education, one poll or liberal teacher's union will not change that.”

The EdEquityVA program’s documentation is still available on a state website, though Department of Education communications director Charles Pyle confirmed the site will be down by April 1.

Fedderman closed Tuesday’s press conference by calling on lawmakers, who are returning to finish up the budget next week, to increase education funding: “including raising teacher pay to the national average, funding vital school infrastructure, and raising basic aid to our local school divisions,” Fedderman said.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.