School Superintendent Balow a Casualty of the Culture Wars?

Jillian Balow

by James A. Bacon

Jillian Balow, Virginia’s top K-12 school official, has submitted her resignation effective March 9. She gave no reason but appears to depart on good terms with the Youngkin administration.

In a press release, Balow thanked Governor Glenn Youngkin for the opportunity to serve, and pledged her support for the governor’s agenda of “raising standards and promoting excellence and expanding educational choice and opportunities for all students.”

Balow expressed particular satisfaction in the Virginia Literacy Act, which she said will become a model for other states, and the release of “Our Commitment to Virginians,” a roadmap for student success that empowers parents.

She said she and her family had “quickly developed roots in Virginia,” and, despite having family in the West — she had previously served as state school superintendent of Wyoming — “will continue to reside here in the commonwealth for the foreseeable future.”
I have no special insight into Balow’s unexpected decision. But I would not be surprised if she was burned out. As school superintendent, she has been immersed in the most intense controversies of the Youngkin administration — the bitter culture wars over Virginia’s public school system.

I cannot imagine that she experienced in Wyoming anything like the trench warfare over parental rights, the serial misrepresentations about history standards, the vicious attacks on Board of Education appointee Suparna Dutta, the denial of reality about the collapse in K-12 learning, or the loose accusations of racism and bigotry.

Balow may have had other reasons. Whatever else might have motivated her, I expect she feels like she’s been run through the wood-chipper, Fargo-style. I wouldn’t blame her.