Virginia’s New Governor Should Improve Options for the Parents of Young Children

Published November 16, 2021

Institute for Family Studies

Editor’s NoteIn the fourth essay in the Institute for Family Studies’s week-long public policy symposium, Patrick T. Brown of the Ethics and Public Policy Center offers his advice for Virginia’s incoming governor. 

Earlier this month, Glenn Youngkin rode a broad-based wave of dissatisfaction with education, the response to the pandemic, and everyday pocketbook issues to the Governor’s mansion. Now, with D.C. consumed with a social spending bill that could dramatically reshape life for America’s families, Virginia could offer an example of authentically pro-family policy from early childhood to high school. 

Outgoing governor Ralph Northam (D) sought to increase regulation of the child care industry by rolling supervision over from the Office of Social Services to the Department of Education. State officials want to introduce uniform standards for regulation. But many measures of so-called “quality” have little to no relationship with long-term outcomes, and only raise costs and barriers to entry for new providers. It is essential for Virginia’s new administration to carefully review the states’ regulatory regime and throw out any regulations that could pose an excessive burden to current or new child care providers. The Governor should also take a firm stand against efforts to change Virginia law to rescind the exemption from state licensure for religiously-affiliated day care and preschools. 

The new administration should also prioritize expanding Virginia’s tax-credit scholarship program to become more generous and more widely available. Even better would be to convert the program into an individual scholarship account that could allow all families to put aside pre-tax dollars to pursue a wide range of educational options. Those accounts could even be made eligible to cover the cost of child care or pre-school classes, helping more parents choose the care they want, rather than live with whatever top-down schemes get dreamed up in Washington. 

It is not uncommon for the party that lost the White House to gain the Virginia governor’s mansion the following year. But it doesn’t usually happen by winning on issues in which the other party typically holds the upper hand. Focusing on increasing choices for parents in K-12 education and child care will help Governor-elect Youngkin demonstrate what a truly pro-family agenda could look like at the state level.

Patrick T. Brown (@PTBwrites) is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Patrick T. Brown is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where his work with the Life and Family Initiative focuses on developing a robust pro-family economic agenda and supporting families as the cornerstone of a healthy and flourishing society.

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