Investigation

Youngkin Education Nominee Has Ties To Group Pushing Left-Wing DEI Agenda

A Youngkin spokesperson says they stand by their nominee.

   DailyWire.com
Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

While Glenn Youngkin rode the Critical Race Theory (CRT) backlash wave to the Virginia governorship, a Daily Wire review of his new education nominee’s background raises questions about the Republican’s commitment to eradicating politics from the classroom.

Aimee Rogstad Guidera, who was nominated by Youngkin on Monday to be secretary of education, is an education consultant — the president of Guidera Strategy. According to public records, in recent years Guidera has owned a home and operated her business out of the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. The area includes some of America’s most “woke” school districts, and many radical ideas that have recently taken foot across the country originally germinated there.

She previously founded a group called Data Quality Campaign (DQC). Guidera led the group for more than a decade, until 2018. Yet there is evidence that DQC, which has taken in about $26 million from the left-leaning Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as first reported by the Daily Caller, may be pushing the equity agenda the Republican has opposed.

There is a page on DQC’s website dedicated to the idea of “Data for Equity.” The organization seeks to “collect, disaggregate, and share data above and beyond reported mandates” and “engage diverse and representative populations” in order to “ensure that individuals have access to equitable opportunities that lead to success in education and beyond.”

More from DQC:

For years, Black students and other students of color, rural students, non-traditional students, and others have faced inequities in their treatment and opportunities to learn. The first step in addressing these inequities is data. Data should be used as a tool to understand how to meet the needs of people as they navigate through education and into the workforce. The only way that policymakers and community advocates can identify areas for improvement and who needs the most support is with data that is linked across the P–20W system, broken down by student group—or disaggregated—and timely. It is not enough to collect education and workforce data—it must be used to inform decision-making that fosters equitable education outcomes and life-sustaining careers.”

Devin O’Malley, a spokesperson for Youngkin, told the Daily Wire that the governor-elect stands by his pick.

“I can assure you that as a member of Governor elect Youngkin’s cabinet, she understands that parents matter and that we have to raise standards and restore excellence in education,” O’Malley told The Daily Wire. “A major part of the policy platform that Virginians mandated was removing CRT and political agendas from our schools. Gov-elect Youngkin wouldn’t have selected Aimee if he didn’t have the full faith and confidence in her resolve to do that.”

Equity, the K-12 industry’s preferred term for what is popularly known as CRT, is redistribution based on the oppressor versus the oppressed notion of cultural Marxism. The intention is to provide a counterweight to “systemic racism.”

Over the course of 2021, the Biden administration has prioritized equity through various executive orders and appointments, such as that of U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. DQC praised Biden for his work in February 2021.

In a blog post titled “New Administration Puts Data at the Forefront,” DQC’s Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy Jane Clark said Biden has a “commitment to data.” The group applauded Biden for three executive orders pushing DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), two memorandums on data collection, and the proposal of the $75 billion Learning Recovery Act of 2021 by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

One of the orders Clark praises, from January 20, is called “Advancing Racial Equity And Support For Underserved Communities.”

In it, Biden called for addressing “systemic racism” and put forth a “comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” The order called for an equity assessment in federal agencies and the allocation of federal resources to push DEI.

DQC also pushes another academic fad called “Social-Emotional Learning” (SEL). SEL intends to redirect children from academic instruction toward the inculcation of certain behaviors, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social And Emotional Learning (CASEL), for instance, is another group that has long pushed SEL. Its CEO, Karen Niemi, said “SEL advances educational equity” and “can help address various forms of inequity.”

In March 2018, DQC released a favorable study about CORE Districts. CORE Districts comprises several schools in California that have an “unwavering belief in Equity” and are in conversation with “state and federal policymakers” about how to help achieve it. The study focuses on SEL and calls for “meaningful,” “measurable,” and “malleable” focus on funneling data to institutions. It also mentions CASEL — the group that often shapes U.S. schools curricula based on DEI.

James A. Lindsay, founder of New Discourses and author of the 2020 book Cynical Theories, said SEL is linked to CRT.

“Critical race theory is used as a component for the social awareness aspect of SEL,” Lindsay told The Daily Wire. “That is, SEL incorporates CRT to inform part of what it does. SEL is a horror show. It’s a reproduction of Mao Zedong’s program for creating a Red Guard in schools.”

“CRT polarizes racial identities in a similar way to how Mao polarized identities as ‘red’ (Communist, good) and ‘black’ (counterrevolutionary, bad),” Lindsay added. “If CRT is one ingredient of the poison, then SEL is the hypodermic needle.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is not the only influential group that has funneled money to DQC. Other contributors include Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Members of the DQC board include professors and teachers, as well as two powerful figures in the DEI movement. This includes Erika McConduit, vice president of diversity and inclusion at Centene Corporation, and Cassandra Herring. Herring is president and CEO of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED). The nonprofit trains teachers and schools “with the longer-range goals of both diversifying the teaching profession and intentionally addressing critical issues of educational equity for all students.”

The background of Youngkin’s education nominee has raised the eyebrows of some community leaders in Virginia. One who spoke to The Daily Wire, Parents Against Critical Race Theory President Scott Mineo, published a blog post Tuesday slamming Guidera and Youngkin.

“Why is the Youngkin Team declaring Aimee Rogstad Guidera a ‘win’ for the people of Virginia, we did NOT vote for more of the same or worse? Maybe I’m missing something, however, all you have to do is go to the Data Quality Campaign’s own website or review some of Aimee’s Tweets and you too will be scratching your head. If I’m completely wrong, we’ll issue a correction,” Mineo wrote.

When asked about its role in fostering equity in American schools, DQC Director of Strategic Initiatives Evan Omerso said the group “advocate[s] for policymakers to use data to ensure that every person has equitable access to opportunities that can help them be successful throughout their education and into careers.”

Guidera did not respond to request for comment.

But Dave Gordon, head of the anti-CRT political action committee Virginia Project, cautioned against premature judgment in an interview with The Daily Wire. Others who have worked to oppose the left-wing dogma in Virginia public schools concurred.

“We’re going to have to wait and see what [Guidera] does,” Gordon said. “I can hardly jump on her back when she hasn’t even been sworn in.”

After all, objective measures of efficacy are conspicuously absent from many equity initiatives, and some of the starkest racial gaps are found in progressive communities that have long embraced such initiatives, apparently to little avail. A demand by Youngkin, a former private equity executive, that education interventions be backed by data – subject to analysis by people outside of the liberal education-consultant bubble – could well spell a death knell for typical diversity fare, in favor of a greater focus on techniques that are actually proven to bring up the math, science and reading scores of students on standardized tests.

Patti Hidalgo Menders, president of the Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club, underscored that it is too early to tell, but also that parents are understandably sensitive because Virginia’s education system has gone so far off the rails since Democrats took control of the state legislature in 2019.

“I pray Youngkin made the right choice,” she told The Daily Wire. “Because we need to fix this.”

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