Virginia House, Senate Democrats Condemn Governor Youngkin’s Totalitarian Takeover

June 29, 2022

Today in a press conference, Virginia House and Senate Democrats demand Governor Glenn Youngkin cease his hyper-partisan attacks on Virginia’s independent Boards and Commissions following his most recent insistence on politicizing community colleges. 

On June 17, 2022, Governor Youngkin sent a letter to the Virginia Community Colleges System Board demanding their resignations by June 30, 2022 if they do not include him in the process of choosing a new Chancellor.

The process has been embroiled in controversy, as so many of the Governor’s appointments have been–from cruel tweets to support for the January 6th insurrection, many of his hiring choices have been questionable at best and horrific at worst.

Senate Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “Governor Youngkin has set his sights on one more aspect of public education to dismantle: Virginia’s community colleges. Dedicated state employees were given a deadline of tomorrow to either give Governor Youngkin what he wants or resign. His pattern of disrespect and inappropriate behavior toward the institutions of the Commonwealth is nothing short of a political takeover of apolitical government operations. Virginia House and Senate Democrats promise consequences if he continues these aggressions.”

Senate Privileges and Elections Committee Chair Adam Ebbin said: “I am appalled that Governor Youngkin asked for the resignation of the Virginia Community College System Board if they are not willing to appease his political whims. The Commonwealth is not the Carlyle Group–the Governor cannot terminate dedicated public servants based solely on their political leanings or perceived non-allegiance. If the Governor continues this conduct, not only with the VCCS but with all independent agencies, Virginia Democrats will respond in kind.”

Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg said: “As a teacher and a parent, I want my children to be able to receive the best education possible–which in Virginia is currently under threat. Governor Youngkin’s partisan strong-arming of the VCCS is a shameful overreach to seize control of Virginia’s public education systems. In its 55 years, the VCCS has successfully helped prepare hundreds of thousands of Virginians for success–training skilled workers and helping others achieve further education. The strength of Virginia’s schools is reflected in the strength of our economy, and as the #1 state for business with the #4 best schools in the nation, politicizing a well-run, independent institution is simply reckless.”

Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee Chair Ghazala Hashmi said: “I taught for nearly two decades at Reynolds Community College in Richmond, and every day I worked with students, faculty, and administrators who understood the values and benefits of our resilient and community-supporting institutions within the Virginia Community College System. I am increasingly distressed about Governor Youngkin’s executive overreach: his direct involvement in the hiring of the new Chancellor will likely have decades-long impacts on Virginia’s community colleges.These actions, along with Virginia Republicans’ persistent attacks on public education, and their signals indicating a desire to limit cherished academic freedoms in our colleges and universities, will irreparably harm the next generation of Virginians and scar the autonomy higher education must have.”

Delegate Sally Hudson said: “Our community colleges are the engine of our workforce and the bridge to lifelong learning for hundreds of thousands of Virginians. And they’re called community colleges for a reason – they serve diverse communities in every corner of the Commonwealth and they each have different needs. Our students and employers are counting on leadership that understands those needs who can build reliable pipelines to quality jobs.”

Senate Caucus Vice-Chair Scott Surovell said: “Governor Youngkin is once again displaying that he doesn’t understand the difference between being a Governor and a CEO.  Virginia has independent Boards and Commissions to create a firewall between the Governor and our institutions to minimize the impact of politics.  Instead of allowing the Community College Board to run its own hiring process, the Governor is trying to direct it.  But this should come as no surprise, as the Governor has taken an inordinately long time to complete hiring in his own administration by micromanaging the process and has already seen several high profile resignations of his own hires.  Governor Youngkin needs to recognize that the General Assembly is an equal branch of government, independent boards are independent, and public employees are not political appointees–Virginia does not bend to his threats and strong-arming.”