Newly minted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin started his tenure with a bang. He signed 11 election orders on his first day — three of which give parents more say in their children’s education — delivering on a key campaign promise. According to his directives, parents will now choose if they want to mask their child in the state’s public schools. He banned critical race theory from being taught in K-12 education and launched an investigation into alleged wrongdoing in Loudoun County.
“I come to this office, ready to lead and serve on day one,” Mr. Youngkin said during his inaugural address Saturday. “We’ll start where the future is determined in the classroom, preparing Virginia’s children to be career or college ready.”
He discussed raising public education standards, increasing teacher pay, investing in facilities and children with disabilities. Mr. Youngkin spoke of creating more school choices and maintained that public schools should remain open five days a week.
But most importantly, Mr. Youngkin pledged: “We will remove politics from the classroom and refocus on essential math, science and reading.”
This will be Mr. Youngkin’s most formidable task: Taking on the teachers unions, liberal school boards and bureaucrats, and restoring the voice and power to Virginia’s parents.
Already, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and Richmond Public Schools have said they will defy Mr. Youngkin’s mask executive order and maintain their masking requirements for all students. White House press secretary Jen Psaki weighed in on social media, tweeting, “Thank you [Arlington Public Schools] for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant.”
That’s ironic. Just last week from the podium, she advised private businesses to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling and enforce President Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate executive order. It seems only liberal directives are to be heeded, while conservative ones can be disregarded.
But we digress.
Statewide, public-school systems have already begun reviewing the legality of Mr. Youngkin’s executive orders, and there’s little doubt that they will be challenged in court. In the days to come, Mr. Youngkin shouldn’t be judged on the language in the orders but his willingness to follow through on the intent behind them.
Mr. Yougkin should remember that part of the reason he sits in the governor’s mansion is that he outperformed traditional Republican benchmarks in most big-city suburbs and the strongly Democratic-leaning counties outside of Washington. Education was also a top voter priority. Between September and October polls, education rose nine points to be the top issue for Virginians casting their ballot, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. Parents who wanted more influence in their children’s education broke for Mr. Youngkin by a large margin, according to exit polls.
Empowering parents over public school bureaucrats will be a vicious battle — but one that Republicans have seen before and can fight — if determined.
After public schools defied Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order striking down mandatory masking requirements, he promptly withdrew state funding to those districts. Later, he strengthened his ruling by working with the state legislature to pass a bill he signed into law that stipulates only parents can decide whether or not their children wear masks to school. Today, the eight school districts that took a stand against Mr. DeSantis have backed down and are allowing parental choice, even as omicron surges.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is defending his executive order banning mask mandates in court. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey gave $7,000 vouchers for parents to use for private schools if they wanted to pull their children out of the public system solely because of mask mandates.
Mr. Youngkin indicated this weekend, he’s ready to fight.
“We will use every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can do and will do to in order to make sure parents’ rights are protected,” Mr. Youngkin said of the school districts’ defiance.
For the sake of the parents who elected Mr. Youngkin for governor, we hope that’s true.