Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin put politics aside today and ate lunch at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray.
Youngkin, who was accompanied by his entourage of bodyguards and staff, ordered iced tea and a pulled pork sandwich with macaroni and cheese.
“Nobody even noticed him (Youngkin),” said restaurant owner Bill Blackburn. “He was hungry for lunch and has been here two or three times before.”
Youngkin, a Republican, was in Alexandria in February 2022, and spoke about cost of living reductions at the Safeway grocery store in the Bradlee Shopping Center. That visit prompted the Alexandria Democratic Committee to ask Youngkin to “get out of Alexandria.”
One month after a study found that the Virginia state government is underfunding schools, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson called on state leaders in Richmond to reconsider their approach.
The core issue identified by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission is that the Local Composite Index (LCI) incorporates local real property, gross income and taxable retail sales to determine how much a locality can fund their school system.
But that calculation for staffing positions doesn’t account for things like regional labor costs, school division size, or students with higher needs, all of which can be higher in Northern Virginia than other localities.
Wilson said in a newsletter that, based on this formula, many Northern Virginia communities are expected to cover 80% of the cost of their schools. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) receive $63.6 million from the state every year, which amounts to a little less than 20% of the operating costs of the schools, while some localities have 83% of the school budget covered by the state.
Virginia school districts as a whole receive 14% less from the state than the national average compared to what those schools are actually spending, or around $1,900 less per student, according to the Washington Post.
“In Alexandria, we have consistently voiced concerns in Richmond about the LCI as an inappropriate tool given that it puts too much emphasis on the purported wealth of a community and too little emphasis on the costs of services required by the student body,” Wilson wrote. “In the case of Alexandria, with a student body with high levels of poverty, English language learners and special education, the costs of educating our students is not represented by the pockets of wealth in some areas of our City.”
The study found that the current formula does not accurately reflect the local education costs. Wilson said he hopes the General Assembly and Gov. Glenn Youngkin will take steps to address this in the next legislative session.
“Bottom line is that their formula essentially treats Alexandria and Falls Church the same, the school system with one of the highest levels of poverty in the state and the school system with the lowest level of poverty in the state” Wilson told ALXnow. “I don’t think that’s fair to our students or our taxpayers.”
Alexandria City Public Schools says it will not comply with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s policies restricting transgender services.
School Board Chair Michelle Rief and Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt informed parents of the school system’s stance on Monday. It’s the second straight year that ACPS has refused the policies, which are updated annually and recommend restricting trans bathroom and pronoun use.
Rief and Kay-Wyatt were “dismayed” when the policies were introduced and wrote that ACPS will uphold gender affirming policies that go back to 1996.
“(W)e want to reaffirm our commitment to all students, staff and families, including our LGBTQIA+ community, that ACPS will continue to both implement and develop gender affirming policies for all ACPS students,” they wrote. “School Board Policy JB: Nondiscrimination in Education protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status.”
The Virginia Department Of Education’s 2023 Model Policies include “clear and useful” suggestions to school systems for preferred pronoun usage, the “maintenance of student records,” the “identification of students,” the “enforcement of sex-based dress codes” and more.
“Practices such as compelling others to use preferred pronouns is premised on the ideological belief that gender is a matter of personal choice or subjective experience, not sex,” according to the model policies. “Virginians reject this belief.”
Not so in Fairfax County and Arlington County, which both rejected the 2023 policies, according to The Washington Post.
Youngkin, a Republican, made waves in 2022 when the Virginia Department of Education first introduced his administration’s model policies, which reversed the more liberally minded policies of former Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam.
Rief and Kay-Wyatt also wrote that the School Board will discuss the policies at the beginning of the school year.
“ACPS will continue to ensure that its policies are in alignment with the ACPS Strategic Plan while also complying with federal and state laws,” they wrote.
Good Thursday morning, Alexandria!
⛅ Today’s weather: Sunny. High near 84.
⛅ Tomorrow: Sunny, with a high near 91.
🚨 You need to know
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced plans yesterday to deploy the Virginia National Guard to the southern U.S. border “due to continued instability along the U.S. border with Mexico, including the increase in supply of illegal drugs and human trafficking.”
The deployment is in response to a request from Texas through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
“On May 16, 2023, Texas requested states provide military support to assist in managing such conditions,” the release from Youngkin’s office said. “Per Gov. Abbott’s request, Virginia will be deploying 100 troops. Fentanyl and illicit drugs flowing over our border are devastating Virginia families and communities, an average of five Virginians die per day from fentanyl.”
The Washington Post reported last year that most of the fentanyl seized over the last year was seized at the U.S.-Mexico border — though the article also notes that where most drugs are seized is not necessarily a reflection of where most of the drugs are coming from.
According to Youngkin:
The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state. As leadership solutions at the federal level fall short, states are answering the call to secure our southern border, reduce the flow of fentanyl, combat human trafficking and address the humanitarian crisis. Following a briefing from Governor Abbott last week, Virginia is joining other states to deliver on his request for additional assistance. Given the intensive resource demands on Texas, the dangers posed by the fentanyl crisis, and impact of the border crisis on criminal activity to the Commonwealth, Virginia will do its part to assist the State of Texas’ efforts with the coordinated deployment of Virginia National Guard soldiers to assist in key aspects of their mission.
“The Commonwealth has not adopted a budget, months after the deadline, leaving huge unmet needs in mental health, education and beyond,” Wilson said. “Yet, [Youngkin] is deciding to spend millions to call up the Virginia National Guard, and send them to Texas.”
The Commonwealth has not adopted a budget, months after the deadline, leaving huge unmet needs in mental health, education and beyond.
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) May 31, 2023
📈 Wendesday’s most read
The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for May 31, 2023.
Most recently, Mayor Justin Wilson shared vocal support for Youngkin’s new Make Virginia Home plan.
The plan includes a multi-pronged approach to affordable housing, with a focus on:
- Increasing the supply of land for housing: the plan promotes discretionary state grant funding for localities to use for affordable housing. The plan establishes “guard rails” for zoning and land use review processes for localities seeking state assistance, along with requiring transparency in reporting on affordable housing and a comprehensive review of the state’s land use and zoning laws.
- Remove regulatory barriers to housing development: the plan makes it easier for affordable housing to meet certain environmental regulations and streamline the permitting process, along with translating the building regulations into Spanish.
- Align housing development with economic growth: the plan includes housing in economic development planning and site development processes. It also includes goals for establishing public/private partnerships that include workforce housing in site development.
The plan has gotten some support, including praise online across the aisle from Wilson. In particular, Wilson said city staff and affordable housing leadership attended a conference last month where Youngkin outlined potential coordination on affordable housing goals.
“As you noted in your speech, this is a multi-faceted challenge that requires policy coordination across local, state and Federal governments,” Wilson wrote in a letter to Youngkin. “We believe there is considerable opportunity for bipartisan agreement to advance good policy and we want to be partners with your Administration to make this happen.”
Wilson outlined some of the progress Alexandria has made in affordable housing, particularly in the use of private development to fuel public affordable housing.
“Given that success, we strongly support your proposals to strengthen the linkage between housing and economic development,” Wilson said. “As you have noted, employers will not locate jobs in the Commonwealth without the ability to house the workforce required, including new jobs at a range of income levels.”
Wilson also praised the proposals to direct future state funding to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and encouraged investment in the State Housing Opportunity Tax Credit Program and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
There was one area of concern about potential punishments for local jurisdictions that fail to meet certain state requirements. According to Wilson:
While we strongly support the provisions of your Plan that will incentivize new housing creation, link economic attraction to housing production, and use state funding as a “carrot” for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies, we are concerned by proposals that purport to punish local jurisdictions for the diligent exercise of ministerial acts, or proposals that remove local control as a method to accelerate housing creation.
Wilson said piecemeal acts by Richmond to erode local control over land-use processes have had a negative impact on housing creation, and that aspect of the Make Virginia Home plan would only reinforce that problem.
“We would instead suggest more comprehensive reform to expand local capabilities to manage the externalities of development, while providing robust incentives for the adoption of pro-growth land-use policies,” Wilson wrote. “This will not only accelerate housing creation, including enhanced housing affordability and accessibility, but also maintain the critical public support required to sustain these policies over time.”
The @GovernorVA has presented a housing plan that has some good ideas.
If the Commonwealth can work WITH local governments to create the housing supply necessary to support a growing Virginia, there is a real opportunity for bipartisan progress. pic.twitter.com/mS8rRISlrx
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) December 16, 2022
Despite the political divide between the Republican Youngkin and the largely-Democratic Alexandria, there have been areas of overlap between local goals and state leadership. Early in Youngkin’s campaign, Wilson expressed enthusiasm for Youngkin’s goals of holding Dominion Energy more accountable and state officials appointed by Youngkin have worked with Alexandria’s local and federal representatives on infrastructure funding.
The Alexandria City Council, on Wednesday, says that Governor’s Glenn Youngkin’s proposed new policies restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use stigmatize and undermine children, and puts their lives at risk.
In a letter to the Virginia Department of Education, Council backed the position of Alexandria City Public Schools to essentially ignore Youngkin’s proposed new rules, which go into effect after a 30-day public comment period on October 27.
The Democrat-led Council said that Youngkin (a Republican) has brought Virginia into the fold of “states across the U.S. seeking to adopt discriminatory and harmful restrictions on LGBTQ+ students,” and that it undermines ACPS and contributes to “the already high number of LGBTQ+ students who attempt suicide.”
“The proposed policies issued September 16 remove protections for transgender and non-binary students in Virginia’s public schools, stigmatizing them and undermining their dignity, and the policies put vulnerable students’ lives at risk,” the city said in the letter, which was approved in Council’s Wednesday night (September 28) meeting at City Hall.
The letter continued, “While the Governor’s policies target, demean and diminish LGBTQ+ youth, particularly transgender and non-binary students, Alexandria City leaders and community members will support, uplift, and provide a safe, nurturing environment for LGBTQ+ youth so that they can flourish.”
Last week, the city’s interim superintendent says that Youngkin’s proposal won’t be a distraction as the school system plans to continue its “gender-affirming policies.”
While students are not required to wear gender-neutral clothes, the new rules state:
- School division employees must refer to students with the pronouns “appropriate to the sex appearing in the student’s official record”
- “The appropriate participation” in school programs separated by sex
- Overnight travel accommodations, locker rooms, and other intimate spaces used for school-related activities and events shall be based on sex
- Students shall use bathrooms that correspond to his or her sex, except to the extent that federal law otherwise requires
- Single-user bathrooms and facilities should be made available in accessible areas and provided with appropriate signage, indicating accessibility for all students
Mayor Justin Wilson said that Youngkin’s policy changes are “lawless” and not backed by education experts.
“This proposed policy is not backed by any science, by any best practice, any recommended authority on the welfare of children,” Wilson said. “This is a politically driven policy proposal, not a child-driven policy proposal.”
City Councilman Kirk McPike said that the matter cuts to the heart of the city.
“This is appropriate for the Council to weigh in,” McPike said. “We know that there are many trans students in Virginia schools, including here in Alexandria. They deserve to have their schools to be a place of safety and acceptance. I want them to know that their local elected leaders are on their side. We have your back and will never stop fighting for you.”
Council Member Canek Aguirre said that it’s “absolutely ridiculous” that the city has been put in this position.
“The irony is not lost on me,” Aguirre said. “When there’s a party (Republicans) that says they are about less government, and we consistently see that they are reaching into the furthest parts of our own homes and personal lives, it’s just absolutely disgusting to me.”
The full letter from City Council to VDOE is below the jump.
In a letter to students, staff and families, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said it will continue to “develop and implement gender-affirming policies for all ACPS students” despite new policies outlined by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
On Friday, Youngkin’s administration proposed new policies to restrict bathroom use and which pronouns transgender students can use. The new policies would restrict students to the bathrooms and locker rooms associated with the sex assigned at birth regardless of gender identity, NPR reported.
The letter, from interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt and School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, said ACPS’ policy of nondiscrimination has included recognized gender identity and gender expression as protected classes, a status that won’t change despite state policies.
“As a School Board and division, we are concerned with these ‘model policies’ that do not align with our mission, vision and core values to support all students and staff, in particular our core value of ensuring that w provide a welcoming environment for everyone in our school community,” the letter said.
Several School Board members took to social media to voice their support for the letter and condemnation for the proposed state policies.
Trans kids: We see you. You are safe with us. https://t.co/WlLooQuFMR
— Ashley Simpson Baird (@ASBforACPS) September 20, 2022
— Kelly Carmichael Booz (she/her) (@kellycbooz_acps) September 18, 2022
The new policies are part of a broader trend of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced at a state level. The letter said the new policies proposed by Youngkin’s administration would “set the clock back” for civil rights in Alexandria.
Alexandria to Youngkin: Nope pic.twitter.com/nSbMb6idHD
— Andrew Beaujon (@abeaujon) September 19, 2022
Just got this message from the school about Youngkin's horrendous policy on trans students.
I'll be interested to hear more specifics about how exactly they plan on continuing to protect students if this policy gets enacted. pic.twitter.com/JvtMwCzOYk
— Becky Hammer (@beckyhammer) September 19, 2022
Gov. Glenn Youngkin hasn’t always gotten the best reception in Alexandria, but recent comments about working with localities to establish better affordable housing zoning could help find some common ground with local leadership.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said a recent Washington Post article about a trip to Michigan included some promising comments about improving housing availability.
In the Washington Post interview, Youngkin said he’s interested in how the state and localities can work together to change zoning and regulatory practices that limit the building of high-density housing.
Alexandria’s been making moves in recent years to expand density options for developers in exchange for greater affordable housing funding, but as Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, Alexandria’s ability to draft regulations on limits like allowable density and how much can be traded for housing is limited by state legislation.
Buried in an unrelated Post article was a snippet about @GovernorVA and his interest in zoning reform to improve housing affordability.
This is good news!
Growing localities need Richmond to be a partner to address affordability.
Zoning reform is a big piece in that puzzle. pic.twitter.com/eMsVI4IVKj
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) August 19, 2022
While the generally liberal Alexandria has been frosty toward Alexandria’s Republican governor, it isn’t the first time there have been areas of overlapping interest. Shortly after Youngkin’s election, Wilson outlined several areas of shared interest, like holding Dominion accountable for outages and modernizing the tax structure.
Just one day after Youngkin was in the headlines for a spat at Safeway, staff from his Department of Transportation was in Alexandria with other local and state leaders to assess one of the crumbling Arlington-Alexandria bridges and show support for more infrastructure funding.
Putting aside some of the drama of his visit, Gov. Glenn Youngkin spoke in Alexandria last week about a topic that even some local Democrats have expressed support for: eliminating the grocery tax.
Virginia has a 2.5% grocery tax that helps to fund public schools and transportation. One percent of that goes to local governments, while the rest goes to the state. This has created a sort of three-faction divide on the tax that doesn’t break evenly along party lines.
Youngkin and House Republicans have called for the tax to be eliminated entirely. Another version, rejected by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, would have maintained the 1% contribution to localities but eliminated the state portion of the funding. The legislation was rejected in part because some Northern Virginia senators expressed concerns that it could negatively impact some of the state’s wealthier school districts, ABC8 reported.
In a town hall last week, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city has supported eliminating the grocery tax, but that there needs to be adequate replacement revenues to compensate.
We are always happy to welcome @GovernorVA to Alexandria.
Alexandria has long advocated for the elimination of the grocery tax.
The elimination must be funded by sustainable replacement revenues to ensure our local taxpayers don’t end up with the bill.https://t.co/fDU9zFUcKV
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) February 4, 2022
Today, I sat down with Virginia parents to discuss my administration’s plan to combat rising inflation and its impact on families. I look forward to working together to address the rising costs of raising a family in the Commonwealth, starting with eliminating the grocery tax. pic.twitter.com/zpzzH5ROwK
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) February 3, 2022
Photo via Eli Wilson Photography
An unmasked Governor Glenn Youngkin made a surprise stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center Safeway yesterday (Thursday), and afterward the Alexandria Democratic Committee tweeted for him to “get out of Alexandria.”
Youngkin, a Republican, spoke without a mask inside of the store at noon. He discussed “the elimination of the grocery tax, the rising costs of groceries, and the impacts of inflation on Virginia families and the high cost of living,” according to an email.
“Please let us know how our cost of living is going to go down by slashing needed supports to families @GlennYoungkin,” tweeted the Alexandria Democratic Committee. “Otherwise, get out of Alexandria and come back when you’re ready to actually invest in our community.”
Youngkin was also heckled by a shopper at the store.
“Governor, where is your mask?” the shopper asked. “Look around you, Governor. You’re in Alexandria. Read the room, buddy.”
Alex Dems also posted this message: “Glenn Youngkin is here at Safeway in ALX to talk about cost of living. We’d love to hear about how his budget which slashes taxes that fund housing and food is going to decrease our cost of living. Seems like the math doesn’t work on that one.”
Mayor Justin Wilson said he had no idea about the governor’s visit beforehand, and only found out when he was told about it by a reporter.
“No clue,” Wilson said. “He did not make us aware he was coming.”
Wilson has never spoken with Youngkin, but would welcome a conversation.
“Sure — we would love to meet with him,” Wilson said.
Youngkin, who got only 24% of the Alexandria vote in the November election, is under fire for ending the mask mandate in public schools shortly after taking office, and Alexandria’s School Board has joined in a lawsuit challenging that order with six other jurisdictions.
Before stopping in Alexandria, Youngkin visited by the office of Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity — the lone Republican on the 10-person board of supervisors. The visit was not on his public schedule.
“I was honored to host the Governor at my West Springfield office this morning to discuss issues important to Fairfax County and Springfield District residents,” Herrity posted on Facebook.
Youngkin’s visit was short, as he was scheduled for a 2 p.m. COVID-19 update in Richmond, followed by a meeting with the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus in the Governor’s Mansion.
Youngkin’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Please let us know how our cost of living is going to go down by slashing needed supports to families @GlennYoungkin. Otherwise, get out of Alexandria and come back when you’re ready to actually invest in our community.
— Alexandria Dems (@AlexVADems) February 3, 2022
Photo via Eli Wilson Photography