RICHMOND, Virginia — As Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) term comes to a close, the Saturday inauguration of Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin brings with it lofty goals and high expectations from Virginians who sought a new path after eight years of Democrat governors and two years of full Democrat control of government.
Youngkin himself set the expectations high, as he closed out his campaign setting “day one” transformative goals ranging from firing the Commonwealth’s entire five-member parole board after a series of scandals to restoring parents’ rights to make educational decisions for their children.
“It’s time for Virginia to be the place where everyone wants to live, not leave, a place where the relentless pursuit for a better life for prosperity is not burdened or blocked by self-interested politicians who are more focused on their futures than those they were elected to serve,” he said as part of his victory speech in November.
The upset Republican win in the blue-leaning Old Dominion — which saw not just Youngkin defeat former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, but also Republican wins in the lieutenant governor’s office, attorney general’s office, and the lower chamber of the General Assembly — was marked by record-breaking turnout and education becoming a dark horse issue against Democrats who decided to almost entirely focus their campaign on former President Donald Trump, not the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Thus, excitement among conservatives is high for the first time in a long time, as many Republicans appeared to have given up on statewide victory after a series of defeats.
In Youngkin’s victory speech, he called the election a “defining moment,” promising, “Together, we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth, and, friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one.”
He promised to “restore excellence in our schools,” referencing the issue that many believe propelled him to the winner’s column. Education became the defining issue in the race as parents across the Commonwealth appeared to set the stage for a nationwide debate over the teaching of the Marxist indoctrination scheme critical race theory, the implementation of sweeping transgender policies that would allow male students to use the restrooms and locker rooms of female students, and draconian coronavirus policies detrimental to students’ educations, social development, and mental health.
But Youngkin’s education goals are more than those high-profile issues, as he also promised “expanding the education budget to invest in teachers’ pay, school facilities, and special education, and implementing an ambitious initiative to expand charter schools.”
Before Virginia’s General Assembly — the oldest continuous lawmaking body in the New world — are several bills that could prove transformative. In a press conference previewing the legislative agenda, Speaker-designee Del. Todd Gilbert said they will be pursing items in a “direct response to what we heard from voters on the campaign trail.”
“Throughout the campaign, voters consistently told us they were worried about their children’s education, inflation was making it harder to take care of their families, and they wanted to see the safety of their communities improved,” he said.
“We will pass legislation that ensures advanced math classes remain an option for our students, and advanced diplomas remain a goal for our high school students to achieve,” Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), who chairs the House Education Committee, said.
“We will allocate more resources not only for our teachers, but also crumbling buildings, and we will open the door to more innovation by making it easier to create charter schools in Virginia, and make it easier for parents to choose and pay for non-public options,” he continued. “We will work to see that funding follows students, not buildings.”
Some of the bills proposed are less controversial, like funding for school construction and renovation, others, like reinventing the way school boards approve charter schools — something they have been standoffish about in the past — or making it easier to fire underperforming teachers are more controversial.
Davis also said he expects “we’ll see bills that address the [Virginia Department of Education] supplements that deem victims-slash-oppressors on the basis of race,” referring to critical race theory, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
The new government may also face local media opposition, as the Pilot also attempts to further the Democrat talking point that critical race theory is “shorthand for elementary and secondary school lessons that say racism remains a problem in the country.”
On top of legislative reforms, the terms of three of nine members of the state Board of Education expire this year, and three more expire in 2023, which will give Youngkin a chance to appoint school-choice advocates for six positions by the end of his term.
Youngkin has already appointed “two women with track records of opposing ‘critical race theory'” to top education positions. And while the Virginia Mercury is also furthering Democrat talking points on the subject, saying critical race theory is “a conservative catch-all term for racial equity and diversity initiatives in public schools,” Virginians still expect this issue to be addressed fully by the incoming Youngkin administration.
One of the appointees, former Wyoming superintendent of public instruction Jillian Balow, sought measures in her former position against “the indoctrination found in the critical race theory curriculum that has been pushed by the far-left and has found its way into some classrooms.”
For assistant superintendent of public instruction, Youngkin tapped former Fairfax County School Board member and senior fellow for Parents Defending Education Elizabeth Schultz.
“Under my direction,” Youngkin said of the appointees in a statement, “they will get to work on ensuring our schools remain safely open, ban critical race theory and political agendas from our classrooms, and rebuild our crumbling schools.”
Other “day one” goals for Glenn Youngkin includes cutting several types of taxes, including the grocery tax, suspending a recent increase in the gas tax, and doubling the Commonwealth’s standard deduction. Del. Barry Knight (R-Virginia Beach), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, confirmed this tax plan as part of the legislative agenda.
Standing against calls to defund the police, Youngkin vowed to “comprehensively fund law enforcement because they stand up for us, and we are going to stand up for them.”
Del. Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), who chairs the House Courts of Justice Committee, said:
For the past two years, the House has passed laws that put the interests of those who commit crimes ahead of those who are their victims. We have seen a mass exodus from law enforcement, dangerous felons being released early from prison, and communities that are less safe. House Republicans will end this trend.
Youngkin’s inauguration will also highlight a positive message from his campaign about the “spirit of the Commonwealth.” On the campaign trail, Youngkin would frequently walk out to Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” at rallies as a way to introduce the theme.
Great way to kick off the weekend with prayer and service at the Reconciliation statue in Richmond. Thank you to those who joined me in service and reflection. pic.twitter.com/VbmjNRoclY
— Glenn Youngkin (@GlennYoungkin) January 14, 2022
In his final rally the night before Election Day, Youngkin said, “That spirit in the sky is telling us that this a moment, a defining moment for the future of our Commonwealth, a defining moment where we get to stand up and say no to this left, liberal, progressive agenda that’s trying to take us over. No!”
“We can build a new day, a new day for Virginians where, yes, we soar, and we never settle, a new day where all Virginians, all of us, can deserve to look forward to grabbing, to aspiring, to dreaming, and then achieving that great Virginia promise,” he continued.
The theme will be revisited at the inauguration, as the ceremony will be followed by the “Spirit of Community Inaugural Parade.”
While the outgoing Northam, in consultation with Youngkin’s team, has on the 14th declared a state of emergency due to a winter storm set to bring snow, ice, and sleet, His Excellency Glenn Youngkin — the archaic and royalistic honorific Virginia has chosen to grace its governors with since Jamestown — will be sworn into office at 12:05 p.m. Eastern on January 15 at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.
Breccan F. Thies is a reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @BreccanFThies.