ANNANDALE, Va. — It is not every day Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin makes an appearance in Northern Virginia. He did so by discussing a topic that helped him win his election in a county with the largest school district in the Commonwealth.
Youngkin held a back-to-school rally at a park in Annandale to embolden his supporters on his stance on education.
Although he did not announce anything specifically new, the governor reaffirmed his mission to give parents the choice in addressing their child's needs in schools. He vows that his administration will continue to support parental rights ranging from wearing masks, questioning books deemed inappropriate and conversations surrounding gender identity.
These topics have been front and center in Fairfax County where the school district has been entrenched in criticism and controversy.
"We're going to go to work in order to protect parents' rights to make sure there's transparency, to make sure parents are fully informed and that parents make these most important decisions in conjunction with their child, not a bureaucrat or politician," Youngkin said to dozens of supporters.
Youngkin recently pointed to remote learning contributing to Standards of Learning (SOL) test pass rates remaining lower than results prior to the pandemic.
The testing helps measure the success of students in subjects including mathematics, science, reading, writing and history.
The Virginia Department of Education said 66% of students overall passed the math test in the 2021-2022 academic year compared to 82% before the pandemic. About 73% of students passed reading tests versus 78% before the pandemic.
"We've been able to shine a very bright light on the challenges that Virginia students have been facing," Youngkin said. "Lowered standards from previous administrations and then extended school closures have had a terrible effect on our children and their performance."
Advocates including the Virginia Education Association criticized Youngkin for politicizing the test results. The president said it was always about saving lives.
Youngkin touted his executive orders when he first took office including having no divisive concepts in classrooms and the investigation of the sexual assault cases being handled in Loudoun County Public Schools.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who was also in attendance, joined Youngkin in having school resource officers in each school.
"It builds a certain level of safety not just for students but for teachers," Miyares said. "You have a small number of students acting violently towards other students so it's inhibiting the ability for students to learn."
Most recently, Miyares wrote Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, the Alexandria City School Board, and the Alexandria City Council a letter that said his office is willing to offer its full support and resources toward ensuring Alexandria students have a safe learning environment free from violence.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and Alexandria City Public Schools Board Chair Meagan Alderton responded that they have found productive offers of assistance from Commonwealth officials are usually shown through thoughtful collaboration and communication.
“And such as, we invite you to Alexandria to engage in a meaningful conversation,” the Alexandria letter reads.