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OPINION

The One Area Where Youngkin Should Follow Former Governors McAuliffe and Northam’s Lead

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Education touches nearly every household in America either as taxpayers or parents, but few politicians have championed this issue accordingly. Following the results of the Virginia Gubernatorial race of 2021, however, any politician paying attention will see the value in making education a priority - like it is for their constituents, particularly women. Glenn Youngkin, now Governor-Elect of Virginia, understood the frustration of parents across the state and ran on a promise to return parents to authority and protect parental rights. This all came after his opponent, former governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe, said on the debate stage that parents should have no say in what schools are teaching. Ultimately, this election came down to angry mama bears having the audacity to believe they should control the education of their deeply loved children. 

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Governor-Elect Youngkin knows parents’ rights in education won him this race. However, the issue isn’t only with reform in Virginia’s K-12 public schools but also leading with reform of Virginia’s public higher-ed institutions. 

Throughout the campaign, Youngkin was openly against the racist, divisive propaganda that is Critical Race Theory (CRT) and dangerous gender theory (GT) propagated via Virginia public school curriculum. A new frontier in the ongoing culture war in America, this issue has bubbled up in places like Loudoun County, Virginia, whose school board meetings, filled with images of fed-up parents, flooded the media for weeks. The lies pushed in CRT and GT are a problem wherever they are taught, but they are even more troublesome and deeply rooted in our colleges and universities via policies, processes, and administrators. CRT and GT policies are also driven by “diversity, inclusion and equity” officers, making outrageous sums of money funded by Virginia taxpayers.  My wake-up call to this toxic garbage in our higher education was when I dropped my son off at Virginia Tech and witnessed his troubling freshman orientation which I wrote about in The Federalist here. Other similar stories abound like the recent student whose JMU accounting professor treated his class to a discussion on the moral pros and cons of incest. It is clear that these radical policies and ideologies are well established within Virginia’s educational establishment, and there's no doubt that the job to weed them out will be a difficult one. 

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Youngkin has few options afforded to him by the autonomy of higher-ed institutions in Virginia, but they are powerful ones. There are two clear solutions. One is the power of the purse - the General Assembly provides the funding for these institutions. The other, and arguably the most effective way to seek reform, is through the power of appointment. To get anything done, Youngkin will have to use this power aggressively, just like his predecessors, and work through the “Boards of Visitors” for individual colleges and universities in Virginia. These boards serve as the governing bodies for public universities and are appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms. Because these boards see complete turnover every eight years, appointing new members is the clearest path forward. 

This method was used excessively by Former Governors Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe. In fact, at the University of Virginia, every single member of their Board of Visitors was appointed, and then reappointed, by either one of the Democratic former governors. The same is true of the Virginia Military Academy, Virginia State University, James Madison University, Radford University and Virginia Tech, to name a few. The leftist lurch at Virginia Tech was so successful that the board hired a San Francisco liberal as President of the top math and science school in the state. President Timothy Sands immediately set about remaking the school into a woke institution.

In order to live up to the promises of his campaign and turn the tide of Virginia’s leftward lurch in the education system, Youngkin should follow the lead of his predecessors. He must appoint stalwart members to these boards who will stand up for the rights and interests of the people who voted for him. 

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Youngkin has a unique chance to correct course for the commonwealth of Virginia, and create a path for the rest of the country if he focuses on immediately cleaning house in Virginia’s higher learning institutions.  Parents and taxpayers expect our children to be educated not indoctrinated.

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