Virginia General Assembly

Bill Would Bar Virginia's Governor's Schools From Using Race in Admissions

Some critics say that’s aimed directly at new admissions rules at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, but Del. Glenn Davis Jr. said those allegations are false.

Virginia State Capitol
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

File photo of the Virginia State Capitol

A Republican bill targeting diversity efforts at Virginia’s Governor’s Schools would ban the 19 selective schools from using race and other factors in admissions.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the measure introduced by Del. Glenn Davis Jr. would prevent Governor’s Schools from collecting data on race, sex, nationality, or ethnicity during an application process unless required by federal law. It would also prevent schools from participating in what Davis calls “proxy discrimination,” including using geographic or socioeconomic factors or limiting the number of students from any single school.

The bill is one of many filed by Republicans during the ongoing legislative session that would affect the state's public education policy. Some critics say that’s aimed directly at new admissions rules at Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, but Davis said those allegations are false.

“There are communities that have historically not had the same resources as others when it came to educational opportunity,” Davis told the newspaper. “By adjusting admissions standards significantly by allowing race to be used significantly as (an admission standard), it just covers up the inequities that exist at the middle school level.”

While the House is controlled by Republicans, the bill is likely to face a tougher path in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, whose school district has been seeking greater diversity in its open enrollment and Governor’s Schools admissions process, was the only superintendent in the area to publicly oppose the bill, the newspaper reported.

In a statement, Kamras called the bill a “thinly veiled effort to prevent Governor's Schools from becoming more diverse.”

The Governor’s Schools have struggled with diversity for decades. A six-month investigation by the Times-Dispatch into Maggie Walker Governor's School in Richmond found that white students had been selected to attend the school at a rate four times higher than Black students.

GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin's secretary-designee of education, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, was asked by a lawmaker Monday morning about her approach to the topic generally.

“We have to make sure ... merit matters,” she responded, adding that the elite schools' admissions process should be “colorblind” but the population of the schools should be representative of the state. The best way to achieve that is through investing in early childhood education, she said.

Youngkin campaigned on a pledge to overhaul K-12 education policy in Virginia. He has vowed to increase the number of charter schools and on Saturday, as one of his first actions as governor, issued an executive order he said was intended to “end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory,” in public schools.

The order directs the superintendent of public instruction to review all Department of Education policies and materials produced to “identify those that promote inherently divisive concepts" and end their use.

Copyright AP - Associated Press