RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- In a one-on-one interview, Governor Glenn Youngkin defended his education “tip line” and discussed how he plans to overcome Democratic opposition in the Senate.
Youngkin accused the media of “mischaracterizing” the email address intended for the reporting of parental rights violations and “inherently divisive practices in schools.”
Youngkin’s office has previously refused to make those emails available through public records requests and, on Friday, he wouldn’t say if he has received any troubling tips.
“This was an invitation to hear from people about education and this communication is confidential. It’s just like if you wrote me a letter, I wouldn’t disclose that letter,” Youngkin said. “It makes me a better governor because it gives me a chance to listen.”
In a joint statement this week, the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and several other education groups called for the “tip line” to be shut down. The release said encouraging the community to report teachers is divisive, unnecessary, harmful and potentially disruptive to instruction.
Celebrities like musician John Legend called on Black parents to flood the email “with complaints about our history being silenced.” Others suggested sending in fake tips or positive stories about teachers.
Asked how he would respond if he came across a complaint he considered concerning, Youngkin said this isn’t about enforcement.
“There is not an enforcement thing here, this is about listening,” Youngkin said.
The so-called tip line isn’t the only thing putting teachers on edge. Several associations have also called on Youngkin to revoke his first executive order “to end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards.”
Youngkin said that the Virginia Department of Education is currently working on executing that order, which directs a review of curriculum, training and other materials to eliminate these concepts.
The definition of critical race theory has been blurred by political debate and the degree to which it’s actually taught in public schools–if at all–is contested.
Youngkin’s order references CRT as instructing students “to only view life through the lens of race and presumes that some students are consciously or unconsciously racist, sexist, or oppressive, and that other students are victims.” However, critics have raised concerns that the order is overly broad and could effectively “whitewash” history classes.
Youngkin didn’t provide any specific penalties that may be at his disposal if school districts refuse to comply with his CRT executive order. His office also declined a public records request related to this recently.
Asked how he’ll enforce the order on Friday, Youngkin said, “We will make sure that it’s not in the curriculum and this is part of local schools responding to what our Department of Education does and local schools eventually have to implement things because that’s what they’re supposed to do.”
Youngkin has faced resistance on other fronts since taking office.
This week, more lawsuits emerged in response to his second executive order ending the statewide school mask mandate and allowing parents to opt out of local requirements. Late Friday, a judge released a decision on a challenge from seven school districts, temporarily blocking Youngkin’s executive action.
Some key pillars of his legislative agenda have also fallen short in the Senate, still narrowly controlled by Democrats.
On Tuesday, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee derailed the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler, former President Donald Trump’s EPA chief, who is being considered for Virginia’s next Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources.
On Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee killed bills addressing “inherently divisive concepts” in schools and creating a new avenue to expand charter schools. Later on, a Senate Finance and Appropriations Sub-Committee rejected Youngkin’s push to double the standard deduction for state income tax this year. Meanwhile, there is growing bipartisan angst about how to replace the revenue stream that will be lost if the grocery tax is repealed.
Several Democrats have raised concerns about the impact on public school funding. Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican, said in a previous interview that he would prefer studying tax reform more comprehensively before acting on some of the more ambitious parts of Youngkin’s agenda.
Asked about that idea on Friday, Youngkin said, “There’s plenty of money in the system. I’m disappointed in some of the statements coming out of the Senate because they’re purely partisan. We’ll pass our whole agenda in the House and the Senate will have another chance because, what I hear from individual senators, is they’re very much supportive of many, many elements of our Day One Game Plan. This is a moment for us to deliver for Virginians.”