Glenn Youngkin bans critical race theory on day one as Virginia governor | Virginia
Virginia’s newly elected Republican governor has immediately passed a swath of conservative orders – ranging from attempts to alter local school curriculums to loosening public health mandates during the pandemic – after being sworn into office on Saturday.
Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity CEO who has never served in public office before, became the state’s first Republican governor since 2010 after a closely watched gubernatorial election last year.
The 55 year-old placed the issue of critical race theory (CRT) at the centre of his campaign, capitalizing on a conservative backlash against the discipline and pledging to ban teaching of it in Virginia’s schools. Critical race theory is an academic practice that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society.
On Saturday, after taking the oath of office, Youngkin unveiled a list of nine executive orders and two executive directives, with the first on the list described as a directive to “restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education”.
The order lists 13 instructions, many directed to the state’s school superintendent, who has been tasked with reviewing the state’s curriculum and policies within the department of education, to identify “inherently divisive concepts”. The order also bans an executive employee from “directing or otherwise compelling students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to inherently divisive concepts”.
The order does not define “divisive concepts” but cites critical race theory as an example.
At least 22 other states have moved towards imposing limits on the teaching of critical race theory in recent months, as rightwing media in the US continues to fuel disinformation about the teaching of the previously little-known discipline.
Despite the sweeping and ambiguous language, the governor’s power to intervene in local school districts is limited. And although Virginia’s general assembly has the power to compel school boards to adopt specific policy via legislation, state Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, meaning new laws are unlikely.
On Saturday, senior state Democrats told local media they planned to block much of the new governor’s agenda.
The sweeping executive orders also included loosening of public health mandates, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 during the coronavirus pandemic. Youngkin’s second order eliminated mask ordinances for pupils in the state’s schools, while his last executive directive abolished vaccine mandates for state employees.
Like many other areas of the US, Virginia continues to see a surge in Covid cases as the omicron variant rips through the country. Cases are up 288% in comparison to last winter’s surge, according to the New York Times. The current seven day positivity rate sits at over 35%, according to the state health department.
15,803 have died in the state from the virus since the pandemic began.