How Glenn Youngkin plans to end efforts to deny merit-based scholarships


By withholding merit-based rewards from high performing students, at least three Northern Virginia school divisions – Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax Counties – have systematically disadvantaged high performing students, limiting their hard-earned access to scholarships and college admissions. 

Merit based systems are at the heart of the American dream – the dream to work hard, stretch capabilities and persevere towards a better life regardless of your background or zip code. For many students, the National Merit award would have been their “golden ticket” to do just that.

However, late last year it was brought to light that the leadership at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a nationally ranked public high school in Alexandria, VA that’s known for its rigor and advanced STEM education, took that dream away. And it didn’t stop there.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin writes that he’s not only opposed to the National Merit cover-up, but has introduced legislation to ensure it never happens again.

Despite the original excuse of isolated human error, to date, 17 schools across three Virginian school divisions — which are akin to school districts in many other states — reportedly withheld notifications of Merit Awards so that other students wouldn’t feel bad. These efforts by schools in Virginia’s three largest school divisions have painted yet another distressing picture of the misguided state of education across America in the relentless pursuit of “equity.”

Virginia's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County consistently ranks as one of the top schools in the nation and is at the center of the National Merit Scholarship uproar.
Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County consistently ranks as one of the top schools in the nation and is at the center of the National Merit Scholarship uproar.
Shutterstock

Virginia has served as Ground Zero for parental and student rights. In 2021, Virginia parents were branded ‘domestic terrorists’ after demanding increased accountability and transparency — along with increased parental involvement — during the handling of sexual assault incidents in Loudon County. Now as we stand in the light of truth, here we are again.

What the Northern Virginia superintendents, principals and school board members opposed to merit scholarships don’t seem to understand is that the relentless focus on equal outcomes for all students at any cost is hurting, not helping, Virginia’s children. 

According to reports, some 17 Virginia school divisions withheld information about the scholarships, which can often provide entry into elite colleges and universities.
According to reports, some 17 Virginia school divisions withheld information about the scholarships, which can often provide entry into elite colleges and universities.

And the effect is felt most profoundly on those they claim to aspire to help the most, particularly those at the lowest rungs of society. Merit-based awards open doors for many children across the country. Even for me, a kid from Virginia who spent summers taking out trash and washing dishes. 

Common sense tells us that barring access to academic scholarships profoundly limits minority students who have excelled despite their socio-economic status. Political posturing, however, merely justifies the opposite outcomes. 

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares recently launched an investigation into the Merit Scholarship scandal; he called the entire affair "troubling."
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares recently launched an investigation into the Merit Scholarship scandal; he called the entire affair “troubling.”
The Washington Post via Getty Im

My administration recognizes that Virginia’s future will be fostered and fulfilled at home and in the classroom. To do so, we are raising the ceiling and the floor of our education standards and putting parents back in charge of their own children’s lives.   

In light of these recent reports, I proposed this week HB 2426 to eliminate the withholding of any recognition, award, or postsecondary scholarship eligibility earned by Virginia students. With this legislation, parents and students will be notified immediately about these honors without the risk of losing earned opportunities.

This administration has proven that strengthened opportunity in collective education can — and must — come without placing a cap on individual achievement. 

To do this we raised teacher salaries, launched lab schools and provided funding for infrastructure and equipment; we delivered the Virginia Literacy Act on a bipartisan basis and began driving our curriculum to be the best in the nation. We are partnering with our Historically Black Colleges and Universities to fund transformational tutoring initiatives. We are also providing reading and math coaches to schools that need them most. 

Prince William County Schools Superintendent LaTanya McDade leads one of the divisions involved in the scholarship crisis; she later apologized for delaying National Merit announcements.
Prince William County Schools Superintendent LaTanya McDade leads one of the divisions involved in the scholarship crisis; she later apologized for delaying National Merit announcements and blamed it on human error.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County — home to Thomas Jefferson High School — has chosen a different path. Rather than invest in boosting expectations, the county has spent $455,000 of taxpayer dollars to fund equity training in schools — and chase the folly of equal outcomes for every student without exception, no matter the cost. 

But this is not a price Virginia is willing to pay. Coupled with lowered standards and the learning losses exacerbated by prolonged Covid closures, our children deserve an educational environment where achievement is fostered and celebrated, not concealed and condemned. 

Education allows every child to reach their full potential. Shouldn’t our schools be the first to celebrate each child’s success?

Withholding accolades to high performing students in the name of equity is fundamentally wrong. Holding back the best and the brightest to create equal outcomes for all students at any cost is a cost too great for Virginia. 

Glenn Youngkis (R) is the Governor of Virginia.



This story originally Appeared on NYPOST.com

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here