by: Jackie DeFusco | [link]

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin announced on Monday that his pick for Virginia’s next Secretary of Education is Aimee Rogstad Guidera.

Guidera is the first Cabinet Secretary position Youngkin has unveiled since declaring victory in a tight governor’s race last month. It signals that education, which often dominated debate on the campaign trail, will continue to be a top priority for the new administration.

Guidera is an education consultant who is currently serving as the president of Guidera Strategy. She is also the founder and former chief executive of the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a leading voice advocating for improving the use of data to increase student achievement.  Guidera was recognized for her pioneering work in this area when she was named on Time’s list of 12 Education Activists for 2012.

“Aimee will be a critical partner in restoring expectations of excellence; overseeing a record education budget to invest in teachers, facilities and special education; rolling out innovation lab and charter schools; and standing for a curriculum that prepares Virginia’s children for a dynamic future and removes politics from the classroom,” said Governor-elect Youngkin in a statement.

Guidera previously served as the director of the Washington, D.C., office of the National Center for Educational Achievement and began her career working on education policy at the National Governors Association.

Additionally, Youngkin’s statement praised her as an active parent in Fairfax County Public Schools.

“When Republicans said we would make education a priority for the upcoming General Assembly session, it wasn’t empty rhetoric. We heard parents loud and clear,” echoed Republican Speaker-designee Todd Gilbert.

“Secretary-designee Guidera has the kind of experience parents have said they want in our education leadership — she’s a parent with hands-on experience supporting her children,” Gilbert furthered.

The phrase “critical race theory” was absent from Youngkin’s statement on Monday. Guidera doesn’t appear to have a notable public position on the topic. She also doesn’t seem to be outspoken on changing transgender student policies or ending school mask mandates, according to political analyst Rich Meagher.

“We don’t know a lot about this nominee just yet in part because she is not a political operative. She is a data scientist. She is by no means a red meat conservative.” Meagher said. “If you voted for Youngkin because you thought he was going to get critical race theory out of schools, this pick is a puzzling one for you because this is not someone who has talked about this issue.”  

That said, Meagher noted that the Secretary of Education’s main role is to the advise the governor, who has a number of other tools to influence education policy.

“I think that any massive changes in terms of how Governor Youngkin is going to approach education are going to come from his budget and they are going to come from what he does with the State Board of Education over the next two years,” Meagher said, referring to the panel of appointees that sets statewide curriculum standards.

The Virginia Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, declined to comment on Youngkin’s announcement on Monday, as did Governor Ralph Northam’s office. The Democratic Chairs of House and Senate Education Committees didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, the Democratic Vice Chair of the House Education Committee, criticized Youngkin in a statement but didn’t directly condemn Guidera’s policy record.

“What’s disconcerting to me is that Governor-elect Youngkin doesn’t seem to understand that Virginia law already empowers localities to permit charter schools, which he has talked about throughout his campaign as though they were his own innovation. I hope the new Education Secretary understands that we need to prioritize fully funding our public schools, including teacher raises, school counselors, and psychologists,” Guzman said.

Youngkin will be sworn in as Governor on Jan. 15, 2022.

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