Virginia

Youngkin's Schools Chief Resigns After Department Missteps

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned heavily on educational issues, a focus that was seen as key to his victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in 2021

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Jillian Balow, Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's superintendent of public instruction, announced her resignation Wednesday in a letter to the governor that did not offer a specific reason for her departure.

The Department of Education has faced criticism for recent missteps, including an error in a mathematical formula the agency provides to local K-12 school divisions that led schools to expect more state funding than they were set to receive.

“I am grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to serve the children and families of Virginia and I continue to strongly support you and your vision for education in Virginia. I am particularly proud of the fact that we advanced your agenda for education over the past two successful General Assembly sessions,” Balow wrote in her letter, which the department shared in a news release.

Youngkin's press office did not respond to a question from The Associated Press about whether the governor asked Balow to step down, instead offering a one-sentence statement.

“The Governor thanks Superintendent Balow for her service to the Commonwealth and her work in advancing the Governor’s education agenda to empower parents and restore excellence in education," spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said.

Youngkin campaigned heavily on educational issues, a focus that was seen as key to his victory over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in 2021. Since taking office, he has signed legislation to end classroom mask mandates, issued reports on “ divisive concepts ” and falling student achievement; and has sought to expand school choice, facing pushback from Senate Democrats.

At the same time, he's expressed disappointment in the various department missteps. He called the funding calculation error “frustrating for all of us” in a letter to legislative leaders.

The education department has also faced criticism for its proposed rewrite of the state's history standards, which Youngkin acknowledged contained “omissions and mistakes.”

Balow issued a public apology for part of the standards that referred to Native Americans as “America’s first immigrants.”

In her resignation letter, which did not address any of those issues, Balow indicated that she planned to stay in Virginia for the foreseeable future. She wrote that she appreciated an apparent offer to continuing to work with the administration as a consultant. Her resignation is effective March 9, according to the news release.

Balow took office the day Youngkin was sworn in. She had previously twice been elected as Wyoming's state superintendent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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