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Spotsylvania In Trouble; Where Is The Outrage?

- October 12, 2023

In 2021, then-candidate Glenn Youngkin found a winning message – “Parents’ Rights.”

It’s an issue that has served him well.

Youngkin played on parents’ fears and frustrations about mask mandates; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies; and curriculum during the campaign to energize his run for Richmond.

After winning the governor’s race, he then got involved in the case of a father who was arrested for disrupting a Loudon County School Board meeting by pardoning him before he had been convicted. All in the name of parents’ rights.

For all the bluster and criticism, however, Youngkin is conspicuously quiet in the one county that is arguably doing more than any other to push his agenda to undermine public education – Spotsylvania.

Speaking of Youngkin’s involvement in Loudon, University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth told NBC4 Washington in September:

It serves political purposes, to be sure, for the governor to engage in Loudoun at every opportunity. I don’t know that it particularly wins him votes in Loudoun, but it certainly does energize the Republican base in other parts of the commonwealth or the country.

Youngkin has also made a habit of criticizing public schools while in office, all while celebrating charter schools and “school choice,” despite the fact that the same ruler he uses to criticize public schools (National Assessment of Educational Progress testing) shows that charter schools perform considerably lower than traditional public schools.

For all the bluster and criticism, however, Youngkin is conspicuously quiet in the one county that is arguably doing more than any other to push his agenda to undermine public education – Spotsylvania.

Where’s The Outrage?

Youngkin’s obsession with the rights of parents in Loudon is not without cause. The suppression of a sexual assault case, for example, deserved the ire the governor hurled the county’s way.

But that same level of ire – at least – is fully justified in Spotsylvania.

During his time in office, Youngkin has visited Spotsylvania and Stafford on numerous occasions. And yet in those visits, he has remained silent about the debacle happening with the Spotsylvania School Board.

The list of problems is long. Meetings are dysfunctional. Board members actively call for burning books. The Board hired a superintendent with no qualifications for the job. Teachers are fleeing the county in numbers well out-of-proportion to surrounding school systems. There’s a mass exodus of Central Office staff. And the School Board majority has disenfranchised roughly 42% of citizens de facto by refusing their representatives on the Board the right to add items to the agenda or speak freely about constituent concerns.

In just under two years, this School Board has set back the Spotsylvania school system so far that it will likely take a full generation to recover.

Add in the facts that this School Board has not allowed any new business, or approved minutes, in a year, and one wonders why someone in Richmond isn’t hopping mad.

In just under two years, this School Board has set back the Spotsylvania school system so far that it will likely take a full generation to recover.

At the center of this dysfunction is Jon Russell, a right-wing extremist who found his way into Youngkin’s Education Department despite have no educational background. From there he somehow landed in Spotsylvania County as a senior-level staff member. He possibly earned the favor of Lisa Phelps and Kirk Twigg while at VDOE by helping them ram Mark Taylor’s superintendent’s license through the Board of Education.

A school system that once was admired by surrounding counties for its improvements has become a state and national embarrassment.

Therefore, don’t be surprised if this spring’s SOL scores – the same ones that Youngkin loves to pummel public schools with – will reflect the damage done by Lisa Phelps, Kirk Twigg, April Gillespie, and Rabih Abuismail.

For a governor supposedly committed to “excellence” in education, his silence about this debacle is deafening.

Ban, Baby, Ban

As if that weren’t enough, we now learn that Mark Taylor has acted unilaterally to remove another 23 books from library shelves, despite the fact that the boards that reviewed them found 21 of the 23 books were perfectly acceptable to stay on library shelves.

Among the titles are Song of Solomon by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This latter book tells the story of a family from Ghana that deals with enslavement and racism in the U.S.

This brings to 37 the number of books that Taylor – a superintendent facing an exodus of teachers and a growing body of parents upset by his kowtowing to Jennifer Peterson, a one-woman wrecking ball in school libraries who prides herself on forcing her narrow view of morality and literature on every parent in Spotsylvania – has unilaterally removed from library shelves.

His plan is purportedly to turn them over the to the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, but that has yet to happen. And there’s no reason to believe that Taylor will actually do what he says with this new list of banned books.

So what’s Youngkin got to say as the parental backlash to Taylor’s manhandling of Virginia state code and board regulations marches forward?

Crickets.

Youngkin continues to push his “parents’ rights” trope as he positions himself for a run at the White House – a run that he set in motion on “Day One.”

The governor wants Virginians to believe that his attack on public education is an important step in making “Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

So what’s Youngkin got to say as the parental backlash to Taylor’s manhandling of Virginia state code and board regulations marches forward?

Crickets.

Yet when the governor looks the other way as four radicals dismantle a public school system, and disenfranchises voters by stripping them of representation on the School Board, one has to wonder just who the governor is making Virginia the best place for.

It certainly isn’t the parents of Spotsylvania County.

So – where’s your outrage, Mr. Governor?

The county, along with its public schools, are on the verge of being completely consumed by people who have no interest in democracy. No interest in creating one of the best places to live, work, and play in Virginia.

His silence may well suggest that there is purpose in his not addressing the dismantling of public education in Spotsylvania.

He’s silent on Spotsylvania because he’s getting exactly what he wants.

- Published posts: 238

by Martin Davis EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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