A civil rights leader and Virginia parent activists condemned Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe for emphasizing the race of teachers in Virginia's public school system and lamenting that more teachers are white while roughly half of Virginia public school students are not.
"It is explicitly and implicitly a racist approach to education," Bob Woodson, a civil rights veteran and president of The Woodson Center, told Fox News on Monday.
"We got to work hard to diversify our teacher base," McAuliffe had said at a campaign event in Manassas Sunday. "Fifty percent of our students are students of color; 80% of the teachers are white, so what I’m going to do for you — we’ll be the first state in America. If you go teach in Virginia for five years in a high-demand area — that could be geographic, it could be course work — we will pay room, board, tuition, any college, any university or any HBCU [historically Black colleges and universities] here in Virginia."
Woodson condemned this idea as insulting and racist.
"The assumption is that in order to recruit more Black teachers that you’ve got to subsidize candidates in order for them to teach, they’re not offering this to white candidates," the civil rights veteran said, adding that this assumes that Black students "need subsidies to teach."
"It’s really insulting, too," he said. "Why is he talking about providing special assistance to teachers, candidates, and then talking about HBCUs? That's more than a [racist] dog whistle — that's a dog megaphone."
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McAuliffe has claimed that critical race theory — a framework that involves deconstructing aspects of society to discover systemic racism beneath the surface — is not being taught in public schools. He has claimed that concerns about CRT are a "racist dog whistle." Yet Woodson argued that the Democrat's race-based approach to teachers reflects CRT.
"Everything he says echoes critical race theory," the civil rights veteran told Fox News. "It automatically operates on the assumption that the most important aspect of our lives is race."
Woodson said that a good education program "has nothing to do with the color of the teacher or the color of the student. It has to do with the presence of excellence."
Asra Nomani, a Virginia mother and vice president of strategy and investigations at Parents Defending Education, also condemned McAuliffe's remarks.
"Terry McAuliffe has said out loud what we as parents have been noticing since June 2020 in the Commonwealth of Virginia: racism, discrimination and prejudice in hiring and admissions in Virginia schools," Nomani told Fox News.
"State educrats and local school boards are using the excuse of ‘equity’ and ‘diversity’ to bring race-based discrimination and racial balancing to our school districts, from the way they are hiring teachers and staff for schools to the process by which they are selecting students for the state’s most advanced high school," Nomani added. "It’s a new racism of judging people by the color of their skin, not evaluating them based on merit. We must reject this new racism."
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"The more McAuliffe speaks, the more he shows he doesn't understand the issues facing Virginians," Laura Zorc, executive director at Building Education for Students Together (BEST), told Fox News on Monday. "Which makes sense because, despite his public statements, he sent four of his five children to private high schools."
Zorc accused McAuliffe of "deflecting from the real issue, which is parental rights in education, by trying to make teachers' pay about race. If he supported parents as much as he did the teachers unions, he wouldn't be falling behind in the polls."
"Instead of calling out teachers’ unions for pushing CRT in the classroom or defending parents from an out-of-control Justice Department, McAuliffe is doubling down on Big Education talking points and focusing on teachers’ skin color," Jessica Anderson, executive director at Heritage Action, told Fox News. "This is nothing more than a deflection away from a failed anti-parent, anti-student message."
"Earlier this year, McAuliffe stated that he doesn’t ‘think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,'" she noted. "Virginia parents are sick and tired of the racist CRT agenda and will not stand for a government that refuses to listen."
The McAuliffe campaign did not respond to a request for comment.