The Virginia Board of Education, the state's K-12 governing board, put out this statement Thursday. I can't seem to remember the last time a statement like this on current events was issued and not tied to a specific new policy announcement, etc. I thought it would be good to share it with you in its entirety.

This was unanimously adopted by the board.

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The history of people of color, particularly Black Americans, in our country is a history of strength, perseverance, courageous struggle, agency and hope. But we also know that history is marked by exploitation, oppression, disenfranchisement, and discrimination. As part of broader systems of oppression, people of color have been denied access to the schoolhouse based on the color of their skin. The fight for equal access to public education is longstanding and endures to this day. The brave actions of Mary Peake, Barbara Johns, Ruby Bridges, the Norfolk 17, and countless other students, parents, and civil rights leaders helped break down racial barriers to education. The Board recognizes that equal access to a high-quality public education is a fundamental right of all Virginians, regardless of race, gender, creed, color or sexual orientation. However, systemic racism and discrimination still exist in public education, and too often, a student’s skin color or socioeconomic status predicts the quality of their educational opportunities. As education leaders in the Commonwealth, we have a responsibility to recognize and confront such racism and discrimination.

The Virginia Board of Education is committed to ensuring that Virginia students learn and understand the complex and often untold history of Black Americans in Virginia, and our nation. Through the work of the Commission on African American History Education, a review of Virginia’s History Standards of Learning, instructional practices, and professional development supports is underway, with recommendations due September 1, 2020. Further, the Virginia Department of Education is revising its process for reviewing all Standards of Learning so that all voices are heard during the revision process. As part of the statutory duty to establish the educational objectives for the Commonwealth, the Board is committed to making the necessary revisions to the Virginia’s Standards of Learning to ensure an accurate and comprehensive history of and contributions from Black Americans is taught in Virginia’s public schools.

Further, the Board remains committed to prioritizing equity in every facet of Virginia’s public education system, to ensure every child receives what they need, when they need it, to access a high-quality public education. This vision of equity extends across race, socioeconomic status, and regional diversity. In October 2019, the Board prescribed revised Standards of Quality, and advocated for their implementation during the 2020 General Assembly, in order for the Commonwealth to make progress towards equity of opportunity and outcome for all of Virginia’s students.

The current system of funding for our schools, codified as the Standards of Quality, has not resulted in meaningful changes in educational outcomes. In fact, in combined effect with the previously long-standing Standards of Accreditation, segregation in our schools has increased. We have seen resources, in terms of funding and personnel, migrate to schools and localities that disproportionately served fewer students of color. The result has been a recognized achievement gap that continues to persist.

The Board of Education stands firm in its conviction that the state needs to change how it structures public education funding, and how much it provides to public schools, primarily through the Standards of Quality. Without such action, we believe student achievement gaps, easily predicted by race and socioeconomic status, will stubbornly persist as they have for decades.

An environment that fosters personal growth and economic opportunity is foundational to broader societal equality. Education is the precursor to both. Without a meaningful change to public education funding in Virginia, we believe that the unacceptable results we see today won’t change.

Therefore, today the Board recommits to making good on the promise of a high-quality education for every child by eliminating racial and socioeconomic inequities in Virginia’s public education system. The Board calls on the Virginia General Assembly to make progress on funding and implementing concepts embedded in the 2019 Standards of Quality in order to close the achievement gap and advance equity of opportunity and outcome for Virginia’s students. Additionally, the Board calls on fellow education leaders across the Commonwealth to examine policies, procedures and funding through the lens of racial inequity to implement necessary reform to ensure children of every race have equal access to educational opportunity. Virginia’s leaders have a shared responsibility to deliver on the promise of a high-quality education for every child, and together, with intentional action to dismantle racism and eliminate achievement gaps, we can fulfill that promise for every learner.

State Government Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers Virginia politics and policy. He previously covered education. A northern New York native and Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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