NEW YORK – Pakistani American Atif Qarni, who is also a military veteran, was appointed as the Secretary of Education for the state of Virgina by Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam.
According to the Potomac Local, Qarni is an 8th-grade civics and economics teacher at Beville Middle School in Woodbridge, Virginia as well as a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who attended George Washington and George Mason University.
“It is very important to me that we have a secretary of education in the Commonwealth of Virginia that understands the classroom. Someone who knows K-12 education and has a vision of where to take K-12 in the coming years,” Northam said in a statement.
“If we want to build an economy that works better for every family, no matter who you are, no matter where you live, we must begin with the foundation of a world-class education. We can accomplish it if we support our educators and school support professionals, uphold accountability, invest in and expand STEAM curriculum, and make early childhood education a priority,” he added.
Qarni has been active in local politics for a long time, now but has failed each time in elections.
In 2013, he challenged Robert G. Marshall for the 13th District House of Delegates seat and lost in a Primary Election against State Senator Jeremy McPike, two years later.
According to the Potomac Local, Qarni received the news of his appointment by phone, after a two-week interview process.
“I’m looking forward to using the things I’ve learned in the last 10 years as a classroom teacher,” Qarni told the Potomac Local.
According to various news reports, Qarni will oversee policy and support to the state’s K-12 schools and higher education institutions; he will be replacing current Education Secretary Dietra Trent.
After losing his local run, in his Oct. 2, 2015, Washington Post Op-Ed piece, “What happened when a Muslim ran for local office in Virginia,” Qarni wrote:
“Virginia Democrats claim to fight for ethics reform, represent working-class people and lead a big-tent party, yet they groom and recruit mostly white, Christian, male candidates. There is no greater insult to a Muslim American (especially a combat veteran of the Iraq war) than to depict him as a terrorist. I was disappointed with the state of affairs in my own party. Muslim Americans proudly serve their communities in many capacities — in the military, as public school teachers, as state and federal government employees, as doctors, as lawyers and so forth — because they love this country. In a political capacity, many Muslim Americans, including me, are actively involved in raising money, knocking on doors and hosting events for candidates. But when it comes to running for office, we’re not considered ‘American’ enough.”