With the last pandemic-era expansions of federal child care aid to states set to end next year, Gov. Glenn Youngkin is proposing to put $448 million into the commonwealth’s early learning and child care system in each of the next two years.
“The reality is that in March 2024, without significant reforms to improve this long-term viability of our child care programs, we would otherwise see children simply being kicked out of these most important collaborations that enable families to realize their dreams and so we can’t leave families, parents and their children without options,” said Youngkin at a press conference for his “Building Blocks for Virginia Families” initiative Thursday.
The funding will be part of Youngkin’s proposal for the state budget over the next two years, which he is scheduled to present to lawmakers Dec. 20. The General Assembly, which Democrats will narrowly control when the session begins this January, will use that proposal as the jumping-off point for their own spending plan.
While the administration has not yet provided a detailed breakdown of how all of the $448 million would be spent, a document provided to reporters includes a list of priorities. They include the desire to “ensure every low-income working family that currently receives public support continues to have access to early childhood and afterschool programs,” “accelerate parent choice, from home-care providers and public school preschools to community co-ops and private day centers,” and require all early childhood programs to “annually measure and report unmet parental demand and preference.”
A few priorities have dollar figures attached: The proposed investment includes $25 million to develop public-private partnerships in areas with child care shortages, $10 million in educator incentives and $1 million to launch early learning and child care accounts on a digital wallet platform for families with children under five. Families can use the wallets to accept funds from such groups as employers, local governments and family members.
Additionally, the plan calls for streamlining teacher licensure requirements and “rightsizing” student-teacher ratios.
“This is about an opportunity for success,” Youngkin said, “and it starts with success for families.”
Kathy Glazer, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, called the proposal “a remarkable commitment to Virginia’s children and families.”
“By sustaining access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education services, these investments will help unlock the potential of all children and keep Virginia on the path to economic success,” she said in a statement.
An October report by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found approximately 1.1 million children in Virginia aged 12 and younger need child care, and the majority of Virginia families find care to be unaffordable. Read More
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Virginia’s elected leaders may not agree on issues like abortion access or education, but they remain united by the conviction that the Commonwealth would be a better host than Maryland for the FBI.
After coming together to pitch a Springfield warehouse as the best site for the law enforcement agency’s new headquarters, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin joined Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Virginia’s bipartisan House delegation last Thursday (Nov. 9) to blast the federal government for awarding the facility to Prince George’s County instead.
“It was outrageous,” Warner said in a press call earlier that day. “I mean, Virginia clearly was the better case. Virginia clearly was winning the first set of criteria. The fact that political pressure was put on to try to change the criteria really stunned me.”
Their outrage was echoed by Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, who has called Springfield a “no-brainer” choice for the FBI’s new headquarters.
“This is profoundly disappointing and defies common sense,” McKay said in a statement to FFXnow. “The FBI headquarters should be strategically located near the training academy in Quantico, a short VRE ride from the Springfield site. This decision will not serve the long-term needs of the FBI or its employees nearly as well as the Virginia site would.”
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced Thursday that it has selected a 61-acre site near the Greenbelt Metro station in Maryland to serve as the FBI’s new headquarters campus, confirming an initial report by the Washington Post that came out a day earlier.
“The site was the lowest cost to taxpayers, provided the greatest transportation access to FBI employees and visitors, and gave the government the most certainty on project delivery schedule,” the agency said in a press release. “It also provided the highest potential to advance sustainability and equity.”
However, a previously confidential report released by the GSA showed that a site selection panel convened this summer had recommended the Springfield site — currently known as the GSA Franconia Warehouse Complex at 6808 Loisdale Road — as the one “most advantageous to the Government.”
The panel, which consisted of two GSA employees and one FBI employee, noted that the site had the advantage of already being owned by the federal government and had more capacity for an expansion than the Greenbelt site, which ranked the lowest of the three options on that criteria.
The Greenbelt site came out ahead of the former Landover Mall, also in Prince George’s, but it was the “least advantageous” when it came to the top criterion: proximity to other facilities critical to the FBI, including its training academy in Quantico and federal agencies in D.C. like the Justice Department.
Further raising eyebrows in Virginia, FBI Director Christopher Wray rejected the proposed relocation to Greenbelt in an Oct. 12 letter first reported by the Washington Post, stating that former GSA Commissioner of Public Buildings Nina Albert’s previous job with Metro created “unresolved” conflict-of-interest and transparency issues. Read More
A Fairfax County judge is weighing whether to throw out a lawsuit from environmental groups challenging Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s effort to remove Virginia from a regional carbon market.
Judge David Oblon heard oral arguments from Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson and Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Nate Benforado Friday morning in Fairfax Circuit Court. The hearing, which lasted about 30 minutes, concluded with the judge saying he would take the case under advisement before issuing a written decision.
Ferguson argued on behalf of the State Air Pollution Control Board, the Department of Environmental Quality and DEQ Director Mike Rollband to dismiss the lawsuit filed by SELC on behalf of Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS), Appalachian Voices, Interfaith Power and Light and the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals. The suit challenges Youngkin’s regulation to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a multi-state carbon market that requires electricity producers to purchase allowances to emit carbon. The allowances are then returned to the states; in Virginia, those proceeds are funneled into energy efficiency and flood resilience programs.
Youngkin, even before he became governor, has alleged that RGGI creates a “hidden tax” on Virginia utility customers, since utilities in Virginia are allowed to recover costs for the allowances from their ratepayers.
In July, the administration published the regulation to repeal Vrignia’s participation in RGGI at the end of this year.
Environmental groups have decried the withdrawal since Youngkin began pushing for it by citing the funds – over $500 million – it directs toward reducing energy bills for customers by helping homes conserve energy better and preventing flood damage through planning and infrastructure projects.
On Friday, Ferguson opened arguments by stating that out of all the plaintiffs, only the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals had demonstrated any harm worthy of a lawsuit because the group claims that they work with professionals who rely on the revenues the state receives from RGGI. The suit from the other groups, including Fairfax County-based FACS, doesn’t demonstrate that the other entities are directly impacted by the loss of any RGGI revenues, and should be dismissed, Ferguson argued.
The environmental groups could also have jurisdiction in Floyd County, where the Association of Energy Conservation is based, in Richmond where Interfaith Power and Light is headquartered and in Charlottesville, where the Southern Environmental Law Center is based, Ferguson added. He said that in the interest of “judicial economy,” the case should be dismissed entirely and not allowed to be transferred elsewhere, to prevent the plaintiffs from searching for favorable venues. Read More
Virginia is beginning to create plans for how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary driver of climate change, on a state and regional basis thanks to millions of dollars from the federal government.
This June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded about $6 million in grants to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality, regional planning organizations in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads and the Monacan Indian Nation to create two plans.
One, the Priority Climate Action Plan, will identify projects that can immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The other, the Comprehensive Climate Action Plan, aims to craft long-term strategies to achieve reductions.
“This grant will help us plan for reducing climate pollution and promoting climate resilience in the commonwealth, both of which are central to our mission,” said DEQ Director Mike Rolband at a webinar last week. “Just as changing climatic conditions impact all of Virginia, these changes also impact all of the environmental programs here at DEQ. “
The funding for the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program comes from the Inflation Reduction Act, major federal legislation passed last year that aims to spur investments in climate technologies.
The priority plan is due in March 2024. Projects included in the plan will be eligible to compete for an additional $4.6 billion round of grants for implementation.
The comprehensive plan is due later, in July 2025, and will involve broader strategies for reducing emissions from the transportation, electricity and other sectors, as well as an analysis of the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions.
Both plans require that officials consider the benefits of reductions for low-income and disadvantaged communities and monitor emissions.
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality will be the lead agency coordinating the state’s planning process, which will include the Virginia Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Community Development, Department of Conservation and Recreation and other agencies.
Virginia has already taken a number of significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many of which DEQ cited in its application to the EPA.
The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act seeks to decarbonize the state’s electric grid by 2050 by setting renewables development targets for regulated utilities and mandating that increasing portions of their generation be carbon-free. In 2021, Virginia also tied its vehicle emissions standards to California’s rather than remaining on the federal standard in an effort to drive greater adoption of electric vehicles, and the state is planning to use National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program funds for charging infrastructure buildouts.
Additionally, Virginia since 2021 has participated in the regional carbon market known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. That program requires electricity producers to pay for allowances for each ton of carbon they emit and returns the revenues to the state for energy efficiency and flood preparedness programs. Read More
Fairfax County Public Schools has officially announced that it will not implement the Virginia Department of Education’s recently finalized model policies regarding transgender and nonbinary students.
Yesterday (Tuesday), FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid released a statement confirming that FCPS won’t adopt the new guidelines after a “detailed legal review” found that its current policies are “consistent” with state and federal law.
The statement notes that gender-expansive and transgender students will continue to be referred to by their chosen names and pronouns, given access to school programming and facilities based on their gender identity, and “have their privacy respected,” regardless of their gender identity or legal sex.
“Let me be clear that FCPS remains committed to fostering a safe, supportive, welcoming, and inclusive school environment for all students and staff, including our transgender and gender expansive students and staff,” Reid wrote. “We believe that supporting our students and working with parents and caregivers are not mutually exclusive; we already do both and will continue to do so. We know that students can only learn effectively when they feel safe and supported.”
The policies that FCPS plans to keep in place directly oppose Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s guidance, which has two main requirements:
- Students must participate in school activities and use school facilities according to their sex legally assigned at birth rather than gender identity
- Parents must provide written consent if a student wants to go by a name and/or pronouns that differ from what appears on the student’s official records
Youngkin has characterized the policies as keeping parents involved “in conversations about their child’s education, upbringing, and care.”
FCPS Pride, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization for employees and other adults affiliated with FCPS, played a leading role in advocating for FCPS to take a firm stance against Youngkin’s policies and in favor of transgender and gender-expansive student rights.
FCPS Pride co-chair Robert Rigley Jr. says the state guidelines — which he nicknames the “Don’t Be Trans” policy — make transgender and non-binary students feel unwelcome in Virginia schools and “remove civil and human rights.”
“[The policy] makes it so that some adults have veto power over someone’s gender identity, which from a queer person’s point of view is absurd,” Rigley Jr. said. “…It steals agency in particular from transgender children. It says that you are not in control of your identity at a very basic level, and it turns families and schools against one another, battling over children who are among the most vulnerable children in this state.”
“It traumatizes a whole generation of queer kids in Virginia,” he continued.
FCPS Pride and nine other community organizations held a rally at Luther Jackson Middle School (3020 Gallows Road) in Merrifield. Originally intended as a protest for FCPS to take a clear stance against Youngkin’s policies, the rally transformed into a celebration after the release of Reid’s statement. Read More
Several environmental groups, including one based in Fairfax County, have joined forces to challenge Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s decision to pull Virginia out of a cross-state initiative aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
The Southern Environmental Law Center announced on Monday (July 31) that it will appeal Virginia’s planned withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market of 12 states on the East Coast that regulates carbon emissions from power generators.
The appeal will be filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court on behalf of Appalachian Voices, the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Virginia Interfaith Power and Light and the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS), a Fairfax County-focused coalition of religious communities pushing for action to address climate change.
The notice of appeal was served on the same day that the proposal to drop out of the RGGI was published in the Virginia Register, opening a period of public comments until the regulation takes effect on Aug. 30.
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative…has cut a huge amount of pollution from power plants, while protecting Virginians from the increasing impacts of climate change,” FACS Executive Director Andrea McGimsey said. “RGGI helps us leave a better world to our children and grandchildren, and we will continue to vigorously defend Virginia’s participation in this successful, bipartisan program.”
Established in 2005, the RGGI imposes a cap on carbon emissions from power plants in all participating states, requiring generators to buy “allowances” at quarterly auctions for every short ton of carbon they produce.
On Jan. 1, 2021, Virginia became the first southern state to join the initiative under then-governor Ralph Northam, who also signed legislation mandating an end to the use of coal-fired power plants after 2024 and requiring Dominion Energy to go carbon-free by 2045.
However, Youngkin issued an executive order on Jan. 15, 2022 calling for a reevaluation of Virginia’s participation and signaling his plans to withdraw. He argued that utilities have passed on the costs of purchasing allowances to customers, noting that residents served by Dominion Energy saw an average increase in their electricity bills of $2.39 per month.
Dominion suspended the surcharge after Youngkin announced his withdrawal plan, but last month, the State Corporation Commission approved its return. The fee of $4.44 for a “standard” customer will take effect on Sept. 1, even though the State Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-3 on June 7 to take Virginia out of the RGGI.
“RGGI remains a regressive tax which does not do anything to incentivize the reduction of emissions in Virginia,” Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles said in a statement shared by Youngkin’s office. “…Virginians will see a lower energy bill in due time because we are withdrawing from RGGI through a regulatory process.”
Environmental advocates dispute the assertion that the RGGI hasn’t resulted in any benefits. In fact, Virginia saw an over 16% drop in power plant emissions after two years in the initiative based on Environmental Protection Agency data, according to FACS Vice Chair Scott Peterson.
The state also devotes half of its proceeds from the allowance auctions — totaling $250 million over the first two years — to energy efficiency programs for affordable housing and low-income households. Other funds have been used to support resiliency projects, most of them focused on reducing flooding impacts.
“There is a huge need for this funding not just in coastal areas, but also inland communities that are dealing with increasingly frequent intense storms,” Peterson said. “Almost $100 million has already been awarded to 98 different projects, but this work is long term and only getting started.”
The groups challenging the RGGI withdrawal argue that Youngkin’s administration lacks the authority to reverse a law adopted by the General Assembly. Their appeal must be filed in court within 30 days of the notice going to Air Pollution Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality officials.
“The administration cannot brush aside the laws it disagrees with,” Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Nate Benfornado said. “Moreover, Virginians deserve to see the continued benefits of this successful program. This program is vital to Virginia meeting climate goals, while reducing air pollution and improving public health.”
Voyles said Attorney General Jason Miyares’s office confirmed that the control board “has the legal authority to take action on the regulatory proposal using the full regulatory process — and the Board voted to do just that.”
Pending the legal action, Virginia will leave the RGGI when its three-year contract ends Dec. 31.
Photo via Ella Ivanescu/Unsplash
After months of review, the Virginia Department of Education has released a final set of policies guiding public schools on how to treat transgender students — including many that contradict the policies currently used by Fairfax County Public Schools.
Released Tuesday (July 18), the “model policies” generally direct schools to require that students use names, pronouns and facilities, such as bathrooms, based on their legal sex as designated in their official school records. All local public school systems are obligated by state law to adopt a version of the policies.
FCPS, which has provided protections for students based on their gender identity since 2020, says it’s now “reviewing” the new policies from the state.
“FCPS remains committed to an inclusive learning environment for each and every student and staff member including those who are transgender or gender expansive,” FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a statement. “Our schools will continue to be safe and respectful learning spaces.”
Rolling back rules issued by the state in 2021 that let students use names, pronouns and facilities matching their gender identity, the new policies require school employees to refer to students by the name and pronouns corresponding to the sex displayed on their official school records.
Employees can use a different name or pronoun if a parent provides written permission, but even with a parent’s consent, the name and sex in school records can only be changed if a legal document, such as a birth certificate, passport or driver’s license, is provided.
The document says the use of bathrooms and other facilities must also be based on sex, even as it acknowledges that an appeals court found denying students access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity to be discriminatory.
Participation in school activities, including athletics, will also be determined by sex, though the state law requiring the VDOE to develop the model policies on transgender students explicitly excluded athletics from consideration.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin lauded the policies as affirming the importance of parents being engaged in their children’s lives.
“The VDOE updated model policies reaffirm my administration’s continued commitment to ensure that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing, and care,” he said in a statement. “Public comment, input, and concerns were carefully evaluated and assessed to formulate the updated model policies.”
All children in Virginia deserve to have a parent engaged in their life and to be treated with dignity and respect.
I am committed to ensuring that every parent is involved in conversations regarding their child’s education, upbringing and care.https://t.co/eywLB6h15n
— Governor Glenn Youngkin (@GovernorVA) July 18, 2023
The Pride Liberation Project, a student-led LGBTQ advocacy group that organized the protests, blasted the final document as “Don’t Be Trans” policies — echoing the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker used by critics for a Florida law that banned discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
The VDOE policies represent “an attempt to force LGBTQIA+ students back into the closet,” the PLP said, urging school districts to reject them. Read More
In an unusual show of bipartisan unity, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will attend a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) with Democratic senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and other elected leaders to rally for a Northern Virginia FBI headquarters.
A release from Warner’s office said the elected leaders will hold a press conference in Springfield to lay out the case for bringing the proposed headquarters to Fairfax County.
According to the release:
The press conference comes as the FBI and the General Services Administration (GSA) work to finalize a location for the new headquarters after years of work on the project spanning multiple presidential administrations.
The press conference follows a letter from the Commonwealth’s congressional delegation and Gov. Youngkin, detailing the ways in which Springfield best meets the five selection criteria set forth by the GSA and FBI, which are: support for the FBI mission requirement; transportation access; site development flexibility; promoting sustainable siting and advancing equity; and cost.
The bidding war over the FBI headquarters is possibly the most intense skirmish between Virginia and Maryland since 1865. Virginia is hoping to bring the FBI to a 58-acre site in Springfield, while Maryland is hoping to draw the FBI to Landover or Greenbelt.
The lineup looks like Coachella for Fairfax County elected leadership, with representatives Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer and Abigail Spanberger joining Youngkin and the senators, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, and representatives from other local organizations.
McKay previously accused Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) — multiple times — of unfairly trying to tip the scales in favor of the FBI purchasing a Maryland site currently owned by WMATA. Maryland, meanwhile, has argued that proximity to Quantico is being too heavily weighted in favor of Virginia.
The Board of Supervisors approved its own letter to the GSA and FBI last week advocating for the Springfield site, which currently a warehouse for the GSA right next to the agency’s headquarters.
The press conference is scheduled for 8:45 a.m. at Northern Virginia Community College (6699 Springfield Center Drive).
Fairfax County is again asking the state for money to offset anticipated reductions in resident vehicle tax payments.
At a meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter written by Chairman Jeff McKay for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, asking him to include money in his budget for localities to blunt the impact of a 15% decrease in car tax revenue.
“We all heard last year the complaints that came in. I don’t think people understand that we don’t set the value of cars. They are set by others,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “So, the tool that we had in our toolbox was to automatically put a reduction in value on all those vehicles in the county. Even with that, most people’s…tax bills went up.”
Over the last several years, used car prices have increased dramatically, though they’ve started to come down in recent weeks. Because of that, many county taxpayers are paying significantly more in personal property tax — also known as the “car tax.”
Last year, the Board approved assessing vehicles at only 85% of market value in order to give some relief to county taxpayers. That came after Youngkin signed legislation giving localities express permission to do that, in accordance with the Dillon Rule.
However, the county relies on that money as part of its tax revenue to fund services. In 1998, Virginia passed the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, which dictates that the state should offer car tax relief and subsidize localities for lost revenue owed on the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s value.
But the amount of funding provided to localities hasn’t changed since 2007, and Virginia now provides 20% less relief. In other words, both taxpayers and the county government are getting significantly less money from the state than they did 16 years ago.
After cutting another 15% for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, 2022, the Fairfax County board is asking to get more money back from the state — a request also made to the governor last year, McKay’s board matter notes.
Youngkin has suggested cutting the car tax entirely, but county officials have expressed some trepidation about the consequences unless the money is reimbursed. McKay said reimbursement might be possible now considering the state’s nearly $2 billion surplus.
“While either the state or county could eliminate car taxes all together, the state should honor its pledge of 1998 to eliminate the car tax while reimbursing local governments for lost revenue,” the letter to Youngkin says. “It is essential and possible, particularly as the state currently sits on a significant surplus, to allocate adequate funding to provide residents with effective personal property tax relief.”
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw argued that the state can’t truly claim to have a surplus until “the Commonwealth pays its bills…and this is an example.”
“If it doesn’t happen this year with the surplus that exists, it ain’t going to happen next year or the year after that,” he said.
A South Korean company that makes cheese out of almond milk hopes to ramp up its U.S. presence, starting with an expansion of its American headquarters in Tysons.
The expansion will enable the company to increase its footprint in the U.S. through both online sales and brick-and-mortar stores, according to the news release.
“It is gratifying to support the growth of an international company like Armored Fresh, whose success further strengthens Virginia’s standing as a prime global business destination,” Youngkin said. “The company is advancing food technology with its vegan cheese products, and we are proud that this industry innovation is happening right here in the Commonwealth.”
According to Youngkin, Virginia beat out California, Maryland, D.C. and New York to retain Armored Fresh.
Established in 2021, the company claims to be the first in the world to commercialize almond milk-based cheeses. Its cheese is sold in cubed, sliced, shredded and spreadable forms. All products are free of cholestrol, dairy, gluten and genetically modified organisms, according to its website.
The company made its U.S. debut in September, introducing its products to 100 grocery stores in New York City. An official global launch event was held on Oct. 24, and online sales are set to begin this month.
Per Youngkin’s office, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority to keep Armored Fresh’s headquarters. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program will provide consulting services and funding to support the planned new jobs.
In a statement, Armored Fresh CEO Andrew Yu noted that Fairfax County has “a rich history” in the dairy industry. The county was once home to more dairy farms than anywhere else in Virginia, a legacy kept alive at historic sites like Frying Pan Farm Park and Historic Blenheim.
“Armored Fresh is very excited to bring great-tasting, zero-dairy cheese that everyone can enjoy,” Yu said. “…Northern Virginia and Fairfax County has a rich history in dairy and is advancing in tech innovation. We’re glad to make Fairfax County our home and be part of the vibrant business and innovation community.”
State and local officials alike praised the news: Read More