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Thursday, December 1, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: Both sides overreach in student-masking debate

Editorial: Both sides overreach in student-masking debate

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It’s our favorite kind of editorial: We dump on everybody!

The issue? Masking in schools. The sides? Gov. Youngkin on the one hand, Northern Virginia school systems on the other.

Let’s start with Youngkin. He overreached on his no-required-masking-in-schools executive order. Yes, it was done to fulfill a campaign promise; yes, it was done to [hack] off Democratic areas of the commonwealth and the regional and national media that parrot their positions; yes, it was done to engender an hysterically over-the-top response from school leaders at the local level (which it has).

Judge Dillon, who gave us his famous rule that all power emanates from the state level and localities have to play ball whether they like it or not, would approve. But in choosing ideology over realpolitik, Youngkin might have gone one toke over the line, as the 1970s song put it.


What His Excellency could have done, had he wanted accomplish his purpose, was employ a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer. He could have said, “Any school district that wants to maintain a mask mandate on students and staff, fine, but you have to submit your policy to my Department of Education for review and approval.” Then tied those submissions up in politico-bureaucratic inertia while the local governments fumed.

By instead issuing a one-size-fits-all edict – the sledgehammer – the governor looks like he is swinging for the fences. But sluggers also frequently strike out, and one wonders how much teeth in the measure will be left when all is said and done.

Now on to the left-leaning school districts in Ye Olde Dominion, which of course themselves came out reflexively swinging – swinging against Youngkin’s executive order, that is.

The leaders didn’t even take a breath to take it all in; they just responded “no, no, no.” (Only Margaret Thatcher looked good when doing that…)

Obviously their response was mostly political; on the off chance that His Former Excellency Gov. Northam had proposed something similar as he moonwalked his way out of the Executive Mansion for the final time, think these school leaders would be bellowing so bellicosely? Of course they would not. They’d be saying it was a brilliant act of courage from a brilliant leader. So, take their bleating over Youngkin’s action for what it is worth: not a whole lot beyond craven politicking.

Grab your popcorn, as the relations between the Youngkin administration and Northern Virginia school districts, which started off tempestuously, surely will only deteriorate as the governor attempts to impose his will – and that of those who elected him – on state education policy.

We’ll have to see how it plays out, but at the moment our money (or at least a dollar of it) is on Youngkin’s generally coming out on top. He seems more clever than those who run Northern Virginia school districts.

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