Youngkin’s executive orders to focus on education, ‘critical race theory’

Among Yongkin’s executive orders was a measure to “investigate wrongdoing in Loudoun County,” which also received national attention for a politically explosive school sexual assault case. The push also included an order to “empower parents in Virginia in the education of their children” by allowing them to decide whether their children should wear masks at school, another nod to his campaign for governor. He helped his opponent McAuliffe Youngkin win by saying “I don’t think parents should tell schools what they should teach” – a widely perceived misstep that was quickly committed by Republicans.

Youngkin also said he would “declare Virginia open for business,” echoing conservative opposition across the country to measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 variant Omicron, such as closing schools and wearing masks. In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has used similar language, winning conservative support by warning of measures like the shutdown.

The orders included a demand to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an effort in multiple countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An order was also issued to form a committee to combat anti-Semitism and another to combat human trafficking in the state.

The subject of education was a major part of Yongkin’s inauguration day speech. He spoke of optimism for the future and of a movement fueled by “the persistence and determination of the people of Virginia,” including parents, students, and teachers. He also referred to the effects of school closures due to the Corona virus.

“We know the impact it has on kids who are left behind because their classrooms have been closed for too long, and the stress is on parents, especially Virginia moms,” he told the crowd at the Capitol in Richmond.

He pledged to “raise the standards” of education in Virginia, including raising teacher salaries, creating an “innovation lab and achievement schools” within the public school system and investing in students with disabilities.

“We will remove politics from the classroom and refocus on the basics,” he said to thunderous applause. We will focus on mathematics, basic sciences, and reading. And we will teach all our history, the good and the bad.”

Another theme of Yongkin’s speech was the “extremely toxic” nature of politics today.

“We have lost the ability to show each other respect,” he said, adding that people should “difference without being hateful.”

Tyler Wayant contributed to this report.

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