RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Education is a top priority for Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin but some of his plans lack specifics.
Earlier this week, Youngkin once again signaled his administration’s emphasis on school-related issues by announcing his pick for Secretary of Education before any other cabinet position. At an event on Wednesday, soon-to-be Secretary Aimee Rogstad Guidera said she’s in agreement with Youngkin when it comes to banning critical race theory, passing a record education budget, repairing crumbling schools, investing in special education, raising teacher pay and creating at least 20 innovation charter schools.
“This is our opportunity to really move forward with the mandate we were given by Virginia’s parents this past November,” Youngkin said in a one-on-one interview on Thursday.
The degree to which critical race theory is currently being taught in Virginia schools–if at all–is disputed and some education experts have said there is no clear path for Youngkin to implement a statewide ban as promised on the campaign trail.
Asked if he planned to do so through legislation, the budget or the Board of Education, Youngkin said, “We aren’t going to burden our kids by viewing everything through a lens of race. On day one, I will sign an executive order that will in fact get rid of critical race theory.”
The Virginia Department of Education has estimated that fixing and repairing crumbling school buildings is a $25 billion problem. Governor Ralph Northam proposed a fraction of that–$500 million over two years–in his outgoing budget.
Asked if that’s a large enough investment and if he would commit to an ongoing state funding stream for school construction as opposed to a one-time cash injection, Youngkin said. “It’s something we’re going to need to further review.”
“I do think this is an opportunity for us to use the extensive amount of resources that are available right now to try to close that gap and I am committed, as I’ve said before, to having the largest education budget in the history of Virginia,” Youngkin furthered.
Bipartisan proposals to create a stable state revenue source to supplement local school construction projects have failed many times in the past, according to Republican Del. Israel O’Quinn, the new Deputy Majority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“That one injection is good but all it does is probably deal with a dozen schools across the commonwealth and there are localities that need half or more of their schools replaced,” O’Quinn said in a phone interview referring to Governor Northam’s proposal. “So to have a revolving fund that replenishes through some mechanism would be much more preferable.”
Northam has also proposed a 10 percent pay raise for educators over two years.
Speaking with reporters last week, Youngkin said Northam’s proposal laid the groundwork for his ‘Day One Game Plan’ without committing to a specific percent increase. The Governor-elect’s transition team didn’t respond to follow-up questions on Thursday about teacher raises.