Leahy: The Virginia General Assembly Reaches Halftime

The 2022 General Assembly session has reached its halfway point. It means a lot to the denizens of Capitol Square, because that’s when House-approved bills go on to the Senate and vice versa, and the real horse trading on legislation begins.

But as The Post’s Greg Schneider and Laura Vozzella reported, House Republicans and Senate Democrats have staked out their respective policy issues, and there’s little common ground. That means the last weeks of the session have the potential for real fireworks over big issues — the biggest of which is the state budget and the unexpected $2 billion in tax revenue lawmakers will have to play with.

As those issues unfold, let’s look at a few issues of agreement, discord and outrageousness.

On the agreement side is a measure that will make masks optional in schools. The House voted along party lines to pass the bill, but three Senate Democrats backed the idea. The politics aren’t over yet, as Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) is expecting to sign the bill today — he probably has already booked a slot on Sean Hannity’s show to talk about it.

And that was it for common ground on education. Otherwise, Republicans did what they said they would do, including passing a bill that, in one section, expressly bans the teaching of “divisive concepts” and, a few lines later, takes it back and allows the teaching of those same divisive concepts.

Youngkin’s parent tip line is going to light up like an Andy Williams Christmas special if that deeply conflicted bill sneaks through the Senate.

In the meantime, a far greater worry for the General Assembly isn’t being discussed at all, despite warnings: the accelerating decline in public school enrollment. This issue has long-term consequences for the state’s public school apparatus, from teacher pay and student instruction to building maintenance.

As Republicans talk about listening to parents and giving them more choices over their kids’ education, more of those parents are choosing to leave the public schools entirely. Who can blame them when Virginia politicians treat kids and curriculums as widgets in a zero-sum game of “gotcha”?

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