HENRICO, Virginia — Governor Glenn Youngkin held a campaign-style rally to ceremonially sign Virginia’s Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget. On Tuesday, Youngkin spoke from the aisles of the Tom Leonard’s grocery store where he filmed a grocery tax-related campaign ad and where he held one of his final rallies during the campaign.
“Nine months ago we were right here with many of you, and we in fact were talking about the impact that rising cost of groceries were have on families,” Youngkin said to a crowd of supporters, reporters, former GOP candidates, and current GOP politicians standing next to bins of produce.
A petition by teachers nationwide pledging to teach Critical Race Theory (CRT) to students regardless of whether states pass laws against the practice has reached more than 8,000 signatures.
“From police violence, to the prison system, to the wealth gap, to maternal mortality rates, to housing, to education and beyond, the major institutions and systems of our country are deeply infected with anti-Blackness and its intersection with other forms of oppression,” the Zinn Education Project’s petition page says. “To not acknowledge this and help students understand the roots of U.S. racism is to deceive them — not educate them.”
Glenn Youngkin will be Virginia’s next governor, part of a near-complete Republican takeover of Virginia’s government. In 2022, Republicans will be governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor. They will also likely hold a two-seat majority in the House of Delegates, although two close races may go to recounts. However, they will not hold the Senate, where Democrats have a 21-to-19 majority. Still, if one Democratic senator flips on a vote, that would create a tie that lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears would break. Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), who House Republicans nominated for Speaker, has said that Republicans do have a mandate, but he is also aware of the need to work across the aisle with the Senate.
All that gives political novice Youngkin strong Republican support to launch efforts to fulfill his campaign promises, but also sets him up for serious challenges to get his policies across the finish line. Still, Virginia governors have extensive power to set policy and funding priorities, and Youngkin will also have executive authority, which will allow him to fulfill some key promises without legislative buy-in.
The firing of Matthew Hawn, a high school teacher in Sullivan County, Tennessee, recently made national news and seemed to confirm fears that newly-enacted state bans on critical race theory (CRT) would have a chilling effect on teacher speech. Hawn, a 16-year veteran tenured teacher and baseball coach, had assigned students in his contemporary issues class Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay, “The First White President,” and a spoken word poem from Kyla Jenée Lacey called “White Privilege.” One headline declared, “A Tennessee teacher taught a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay and a poem about white privilege. He was fired for it.” A Georgetown professor tweeted, “This really seems extreme and a harbinger of what is to come.”
But contrary to news coverage and social media chatter, Hawn wasn’t fired for violating the state’s newly passed CRT ban. Really, he was dismissed for failing to adhere to the Tennessee “Teacher Code of Ethics,” a seldom-invoked but sensible state requirement for teachers to provide students access to varying points of view on controversial topics. Not only did Hawn fail to follow this code when he assigned the contentious poem and Coates’ essay from The Atlantic, which contains claims such as, “With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness,” he also later asserted that “there is no credible source for a differing point of view.” (Hawn recently denied making such a claim, though he declined to explain why the district attributed this statement to him.)