Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) is named for the Founding Father who penned the words “all men are created equal.” It is the crown jewel of the Fairfax County school system and serves as the STEM magnet school for the entire Northern Virginia region. U.S. News and World Report ranked it the best high school in America in 2021.
Yet Democrats are turning Mr. Jefferson’s proposition on its head by imposing a new admissions policy expressly designed to reduce Asian-American enrollment in the school.
In so doing, they are creating an extraordinary opportunity for Virginia Republicans to reverse their losses in suburban northern Virginia and win the 2021 statewide elections for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. If Virginia Republicans are wise, they will make the controversy over the new TJ enrollment policies front-and-center in their campaigns in Northern Virginia in 2021.
The all-Democrat Fairfax County School Board has concluded the demographic breakdown of TJ’s enrollment doesn’t reflect their social justice priorities and is aiming to change it. In 2019-20, TJ’s student enrollment was 71.5 percent Asian, 19.45 percent white, 2.6 percent Hispanic, 1.72 percent black, and 4.70 percent other. School board members have explicitly stated their goal is to change TJ’s admissions to ensure representation that is “proportional to the population numbers” of each ethnic and racial group in Fairfax County.
If the school board’s changes to TJ’s admissions criteria go through, one estimate finds Asian-American enrollment at TJ could drop by 40 percent, to 31 percent. Plaintiffs are currently suing the Fairfax County School Board for discrimination.
There is no question that the intent of the proposed changes to TJ admission is to decrease the number of Asian-Americans attending TJ. And there is no question this will be their effect.
Bottom line: Democrats want to deny deserving Asian-American students admission into TJ to satisfy their vision of social justice. They are prepared to sacrifice the dreams of hard-working, deserving students on the altar of politics.
These changes are unjust and discriminatory, and Republican candidates should remind the Northern Virginia Asian-American community of this every single day on the campaign trail.
If Virginia Republicans want to improve their vote totals in suburban Northern Virginia, they should make the TJ admission criteria one of their two or three major issues in the 2021 campaign and loudly and vehemently oppose the changes to TJ admission. On principle and on politics, Republicans will be on the right side of the issue.
Northern Virginia’s Asian-American community is significant in size. Asian-Americans comprise 20 percent of Fairfax County’s population and 20 percent of Loudoun County’s population. Many of them are first-generation immigrants; a 2016 George Mason study found that 44 percent of Fairfax County’s immigrants are Asian.
According to Fairfax County’s own statistics, five of the top six countries of birth of Fairfax County immigrants are India, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and China. If Democrats truly care about immigrants, deliberately restricting Asian-American enrollment at TJ is a funny way of showing it.
In fact, many parents of the Asian-American students at TJ are first-generation immigrants who view their child’s enrollment at TJ as a key step up the ladder to success. They do what they can to help their children achieve admission.
As of 2018, 43 percent of children in Fairfax County have at least one foreign-born parent. From carefully monitoring their children’s grades to making sacrifices so their children can attend STEM enrichment programs such as Kumon or Mathnasium, these families have prioritized their children’s education. How dare Democrats deny them the ability to reap the rewards of their sacrifice?
Every time a Democrat accuses the Virginia Republican ticket of being anti-immigrant, Republicans should hammer them and remind them it is Virginia Democrats who are standing in the TJ schoolhouse door, blocking Asian immigrants and their children from entry.
As a Jewish-American, I’m familiar with the quotas the Ivy League once imposed on Jews — and arguably imposes on Asian-Americans today. I’m familiar with the sacrifices parents make to ensure their children get the best possible education.
Identity politics is an albatross the Democrats have chosen to champion. If Republicans attach this albatross to them, they can win back the suburbs of Virginia and, with them, the governor’s mansion.