Home Education Gov. Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Rips Gov. Youngkin for “Lying,”...

Gov. Northam’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, Rips Gov. Youngkin for “Lying,” “Spreading Misinformation,” “Beating Up on Public Education”

In fact, test scores fell during the COVID pandemic in "Republican-controlled states as well as Democratic-controlled states."

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This morning, in response to a new “Nation’s Report Card” – which, not surprisingly, found that “Mathematics and Reading Scores of Fourth- and Eighth-Graders Declined in Most States During [the COVID] Pandemic” – Gov. Youngkin and his education team were clearly ready with their usual talking points, spewing out lies, falsely blaming everything on previous Democratic administrations, falsely charging that those previous Democratic administrations had somehow “lowered standards,” blah blah blah. It’s really infuriating.

In response, I talked to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Secretary of Education Atif Qarni to get some actual facts, which you certainly won’t get from Youngkin or his education team. See below for highlights:

  • According to former Secretary Qarni, the assumption that somehow Democrats in the last 8 years caused declining scores…is a far stretch. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the Republicans controlling the General Assembly for 20+ years until very recently…until 2020?
  • The governor politicizing this is unfortunate.”
  • “Virginia generally has generally done quite well…even during the midst of the pandemic, the US News & World Reports rankings or the CNBC rankings, you know Virginia is one of the top states where educational outcomes are really, really high.”
  • There ARE issues with “under-resourced divisions or schools.”
  • Youngkin is “completely spreading misinformation for his political gains and not really talking about the real issues here.”
  • These scores are a “direct result of the pandemic, because you’re seeing [the declines] across the country…When we were deciding to save lives, it was a very tough decision on what do we do with schools. And taking a scientific approach to saving lives and prioritizing that…I do believe that going virtual vs. in-person did have an impact on student achievement…many school divisions didn’t have good broadband access…or children might not have devices, or children with special needs…[So] we invested 100s of millions of dollars in expanding broadband…expended 10s of millions of dollars and gave it to school divisions so they could buy wi-fi’s and hotpots and devices, we deployed 100s of millions of dollars in PPE and rolled out vaccines as fast as possible so schools could reopen in-person as quickly as possible, and that’s exactly what happened.”
  • According to Qarni, scores fell during the pandemic in “Republican-controlled states as well as Democratic-controlled states.
  • Youngkin et al are “politicizing this data, they don’t want to  really thoroughly understand what it’s saying, and…what they should be talking about is what investments they should make in public education rather than just beating up on public education.”
  • Most of what Youngkin’s saying “is a lie.” “What standards are they talking about” when they talk about Democrats supposedly “lowering standards?” There have been “no changes to these standards…I didn’t revise them…and I taught mathematics…for a very long time, I didn’t see any changes…in mathematics standards…So I don’t know what the heck they’re talking about….Standards haven’t declined in any way, to my knowledge.”
  • On Youngkin’s rhetoric about “parents matter,” Qarni said to look at who Youngkin’s audience is: “a specific, loud voting base, because all indications…is that he’s interested in some form of other office…so who is going to get him to that next step?”
  • “I’m a parent…one of the biggest things we did working with parents was expanding child care, public pre-school…and ironically, a lot of those were created in rural areas that went for Gov. Youngkin.”
  • “I think the Youngkin administration is disingenuous…I don’t think they care what to do about actually doing the right thing, I think the governor is politically motivated and speaking to a specific audienceThey basically want to minimize things like Black Lives Matter or…social justice…That’s why they coined the phrase ‘Parents Matter’, that somehow other people don’t care about parents, it’s a triggering word that they’re using to attack LGBTQ students, or Black and Brown students…They don’t care about all parents…I think all parents should matter, and not only parents but grandparents should matter and other family members should matter that care about children… And they just don’t care; I think they care about very xenophobic, bigoted people who don’t want to see things change.”
  • We need to keep “telling the truth, stating the facts…a lot of people will be lying like the governor is, and spreading misinformation, and all we can do is fight back with the truth.”
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