Youngkin Holds ‘Parents Matter’ Town Halls

Morgan Sweeney | August 14, 2023

(The Center Square) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin is leading a ‘Parents Matter’ town hall tour across the commonwealth to engage Virginia parents on crucial issues impacting youth.

The tour began over a month ago in Salem, and since then, the governor has spoken at Bristow, Richmond and Fredericksburg – areas that lean heavily Democratic.

The tour has focused on the issues of standards in education, the mental health and drug crisis, youth and social media and “pathways for kids” – the idea that many different types of schools, with different learning models, should be available to children since they all learn differently. 

The governor hosted the most recent ‘Parents Matter’ event in Fredericksburg, where Del. Tara Durant, R-Stafford joined him.

Youngkin provided background on each topic, drawing attention to some aspects of Virginia K-12 education that he finds troubling.

“Over previous years, expectations were systematically lowered,” Youngkin said. “Literally, the number of questions on our standards of learning tests that had to be right in order to be proficient was reduced.”

Virginia’s learning loss, according to Youngkin and Durant, was the greatest in the nation for the commonwealth’s fourth graders.

One mother voiced concerns about the quality of middle school education not getting as much attention from legislators and administrators as elementary and high school.

She said her son always loved school until he got to middle school and began struggling with mental health.

“We are losing kids from elementary going to middle school,” she said.

Another mother offered her perspective. She homeschools her children but also brings her experience teaching college math to bear.

“You’re talking about social media, and I don’t know if you include YouTube in that, but I think part of the learning loss issue can be coupled with that amount of time that some kids spend watching YouTube over and over and over,” she said.

“I don’t know if it’s a product of COVID… and everything’s online now, but I notice a change [in my students] and I’ve been teaching college courses for 22 years.”

One mother spoke about reinstating differentiation in schools, and a retired teacher backed her up, saying she spent the least amount of time with gifted students, as she was focused more on struggling students.

“When my children went,” the mother said, “we had an honors sixth, seventh and eighth grade for English. They’ve gotten rid of it. We need more of those things for the middle school kids who are great students.”

As they voiced their concerns, Youngkin shared his administration’s education initiatives that Durant has supported, and legislation and programs that have been passed or are in progress under his term.

Among other things, he mentioned the Literacy Act, which Virginia is revamping its literacy education and teacher preparation programs; an age verification law for porn users that caused PornHub to withdraw from Virginia; the Right Help, Right Now plan designed to refashion mental health systems and services to meet better the needs of the drug epidemic and youth mental health crises; the creation of lab schools; new state-level guidelines for history and social studies that teach “the good and the bad,” according to Youngkin; and rules that enable children to bypass classes with sexually explicit material, if their parents request it.

Youngkin wrapped up the town hall by encouraging parents to be involved in their children’s curriculum, while touting his record as governor.