It’s my favorite kind of Editor’s Notebook post: I get to crap on both sides of an issue!
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 piss off Democratic areas of the commonwealth and the 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). All well and good, but it was perhaps too much.
What His Excellency could have done, had he wanted to make this stick through more subtle action, was to say, “Any school district that wants to maintain a mask mandate, fine, but you have to submit your policy to my Department of Education for review and approval.” Then tie it up in politico-bureaucratic inertia while the local governments fume.
In other words, employ a scalpel (or perhaps a stiletto — the knife, not the shoe) rather than a sledgehammer.
By instead issuing a one-size-fits-all, top-down edict, the governor looks like he is swinging for the fences. But sluggers also frequently strike out, and one wonders how much teeth his measure will actually have.
Now on to the left-leaning school districts in Ye Olde Dominion, which of course came out reflexively swinging against Youngkin’s executive order. 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, think these school leaders would be bellowing so bellicosely? Of course they would not. They’d be saying it was a brilliant final act from a brilliant leader. So take their bleating over Youngkin’s action for what it is worth: not much.
Grab your popcorn, as the relations between the Youngkin administration and Northern Virginia school districts, which started off badly, surely will only deteriorate as the governor attempts to impose his will, and the will of those who elected him, on education policy.
We’ll have to see, but at the moment my 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.
- Scott McCaffrey