Monday, February 26, 2024

Jillian Balow Resigns as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction

Jillian Balow, state superintendent of public instruction, speaking about test results on Oct. 24, 2022.

RICHMOND — Jillian Balow has resigned as Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction but will remain a consultant for the administration, according to a March 1 letter addressed to Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Balow did not provide an explanation for her resignation, which is effective March 9.

“Having now served as the top school official in two states, I am excited to continue sharing your priorities: advocating for parents, focusing on academic achievement, expanding choice, and improving school safety,” wrote Balow, who previously served as state school superintendent in Wyoming. “More than any other contemporary conservative elected official, I believe you have reinstated the importance of providing quality education and I know that many other states are eager to follow your lead.”

Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, said in a statement that the governor thanks Balow for her service and work in advancing his education agenda to “empower parents and restore excellence in education.”

Balow, a consistent opponent of critical race theory, a graduate-level framework that focuses on racial inequity, was appointed to the position by the governor in January of last year. Youngkin’s first executive order, issued on the day of his inauguration, prohibited the use of “inherently divisive concepts,” including CRT, in K-12 education and ordered the state to raise academic standards. Balow subsequently ended virtually all equity initiatives launched by Virginia’s Department of Education under former Gov. Ralph Northam.

Her one-year tenure was highlighted by the ongoing review of Virginia’s history and social science standards, which will set Virginia’s expectations for K-12 student learning in those areas.

Educators, civic organizations and Democratic lawmakers have sharply criticized Balow for changes she made to the review process and new drafts that excluded influential figures and events, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth, from the elementary standards.

Balow apologized for one error, a reference to Indigenous people as immigrants, in front of members of the media.

Last month, the Virginia Board of Education voted to accept for first review the newest draft of the standards on a 5-3 vote.

The Department of Education has also been rocked by controversies during her tenure over its revisions to transgender student policies that would require schools to notify parents of any change in a student’s gender pronouns and an aid calculation tool error that left school divisions short $201 million in state funding.

Balow said in her letter that she is proud the administration was able to pass and implement the Virginia Literacy Act, which outlines measures to improve early literacy for students, as well as a plan to address achievement gaps in public schools and improve access to career and technical education.

Scott Brabrand, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said in a statement that the association would like Balow’s replacement to have “strong Virginia educational experience.”

“VASS has worked closely with senior VDOE staff this past year and is confident VDOE will continue to support us until a new state superintendent is named,” Brabrand said.

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