Is Resistance Forming to Youngkin’s Education Agenda?

Scott Braband

by James A. Bacon

A day after Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announced the appointment of two vocal opponents of Critical Race Theory-inspired policies in public schools, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) has announced a new executive director… who is a vocal advocate of CRT initiatives.

Dr. Scott S. Braband, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, has taken on the top administrative position at the organization, which represents the interests of the state’s 133 school superintendents. In the past, judging from its website posts, VASS has focused mainly on practical issues such as getting more state funding for schools and solving the teacher shortage. Does Braband’s appointment indicate a shift in emphasis?

Braband was a polarizing figure in Fairfax County, leading the push for “diversity, equity & inclusion” and “anti-racism.” Most controversially, he changed the admissions criteria for the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology to admit more Blacks and Hispanics at the expense of Asians.

The question arises: what does this appointment mean? Is VASS signaling that it will transition from nuts-and-bolts operational and fiscal concerns to ideological priorities? Is VASS positioning itself to oppose Youngkin’s vow to rid schools of CRT? Alternatively, did Braband just see the writing on the wall and figure he didn’t have much of a future as a school superintendent in the new order?

The VASS press release provides only a few clues. It cites Braband’s success in returning Fairfax Schools to in-person instruction during the COVID pandemic, increasing the graduation rate, and “leading systemic changes in the school division in order for the division’s most challenged students to succeed.”

“Systemic changes” could be code words for DEI and anti-racism. If Virginia’s superintendents are embracing Braband’s ideological agenda, his appointment could be a sign that Virginia’s educational establishment is bracing for conflict with the Youngkin administration.

While alert to that possibility, I think it is premature to draw firm conclusions. The VASS press release is mostly boilerplate. It contains no calls to ideological action.

“Scott brings many great leadership talents to VASS and a strong vision for the future in which he will grow and strengthen the organization so that it better serves its members and improves public education overall in Virginia,” said Dr. Zebedee Talley, Jr., the current VASS President and superintendent of Martinsville City Schools.

“The Virginia superintendents have done an outstanding job under unprecedented conditions to serve the students, parents, staff and communities of this Commonwealth,” Braband said. “They will continue to focus on the success of every child and ensure that Virginia remains the leader in public education in this country.”

Bacon’s bottom line: With his picks for secretary of education and superintendent of public instruction, Youngkin has made it clear that he intends to follow through on his campaign promise to root out left-wing indoctrination in Virginia’s schools. It goes without saying that he will face resistance from the teachers unions and school boards of Virginia localities with deep blue electorates. Will Virginia’s career administrators resist, too? Pay attention to Braband’s rhetoric in his new role. That will tell us a lot.