by James C. Sherlock
Politics is a contact sport, and the two people in the Northam administration most likely to be blindsided are Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.
I say blindsided — they won’t see it coming — because the hits will come from their own team. This isn’t about whether a reader thinks they have earned it or not. It is about politics.
I think it likely that Glenn Youngkin will be the Republican nominee for Governor and Jason Miyares the Republican pick for Attorney General.
If so, three things are likely to happen. First, both races will be competitive. Second, voters will turn out in droves in protest of the education policies of the Northam administration. Finally, If Terry McAuliffe, the presumptive Democratic nominee, feels threatened, he will flush Qarni and Lane one way or the other.
They should freshen up their resumes.
Qarni and Lane are very different people.
Qarni, a former school teacher, is a failed Northern Virginia politician. He was, whatever else he may have been, a diversity hire for Northam in the cabinet post of Secretary of Education.
He turned himself into a major political liability with his attacks on Asian American students in which he compared extra academic work by those kids to performance-enhancing drugs for athletes. The attacks were both off the chart racist and captured on audio recordings of a radio interview, a truly bad combination.
Qarni was raised in Pakistan until the age of 10. His famously fierce personal anger at the mostly Chinese-American and Indian-American kids who have worked so hard and tested so well closely correlates with what Pakistanis mean when they sit in Karachi and ponder “too many Asians.”
China with 1.4 billion people and India with 1.2 billion are ancient religious and modern political enemies of Pakistan’s 212 million.
Lane on the other hand was the company man that Northam chose as Superintendent of Public Instruction, the man who runs the Department of Education.
Lane holds a doctorate in education from the University of Virginia, hardly a surprise given the far-left sympathies of both that institution and Mr. Lane. He had hopscotched around as a division superintendent in Chesterfield County, Goochland County and Middlesex County and earned a good reputation as an administrator.
His professional credentials are clearly superior to those of his immediate superior, Qarni. I have no idea what the relationship is between the two of them, but they have worked together to make the education policies and regulations of the Commonwealth the most radical in the nation.
Regular readers of this blog have followed their joint path of destruction with the embedding by new regulations of left-wing political/cultural dogma into Virginia Public Schools.
This audience, however, is not the one that threatens Democratic control of the Commonwealth. It is instead the more than two million voters with kids in Virginia public schools. They are furious, and couldn’t be kept from the polls by the National Guard.
We can tell that Qarni and Lane know the trouble they are in because they are more and more trying to deflect what they have done to simply carrying out mandates of laws passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam.
They are right that those laws were the source of the authority they have been granted. They are also right that Democrats in the General Assembly support the radical regulations, but they are far too modest if they say they are simple public servants following those laws.
See for example 2020 House Bill 753; DOE to develop guidance standards.
Department of Education; social-emotional learning and development.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
§ 1. The Department of Education shall (i) establish a uniform definition of social-emotional learning and develop guidance standards for social-emotional learning for all public students in grades kindergarten through 12 in the Commonwealth; (ii) make such standards available to each local school division no later than July 1, 2021; and (iii) issue a report no later than November 1, 2021, on the resources needed to successfully support local school divisions with the implementation of a statewide social-emotional learning program.”
That certainly opened the door, but it in no way justified the contents of the 23-page draft SEL instruction and its uniquely radical political focus on and definitions of “Social Awareness” at every stage of education starting at Pre-K. That, of course, is just a piece of the all enveloping web of political indoctrination and reorientation of curricula, grading and everything else in store for students if they have their way.
So Qarni and Lane and their regulations will be in the crosshairs of Republican candidates this summer and fall. That is the easiest prediction of all. Democratic candidates not in safe districts will with various strategies disavow their work. Also an easy call.
A final prediction. If the political damage is bad enough, McAuliffe will publicly ask Governor Northam to get rid them. Or left-wing think tanks will offer highly paid consulting contracts and each will leave to “pursue other opportunities.” Or both.
It won’t be enough.