GOP gubernatorial candidates Delegate Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña, and Glenn Youngkin met on Zoom on Thursday evening to answer policy questions about school reform, fixing Virginia’s tax code, improving broadband access, and making Virginia more veteran friendly. The New Mission PAC hosted the forum. PAC founder Daniel Gade and former Delegate Chris Saxman asked the questions in a format designed to allow candidates to demonstrate policy positions without engaging in direct debate.
K-12 Education Reforms
“Money should follow students,” Doran said. “It should go where the students go. It should not go first to the districts and then filter down to the schools and then eventually reach the students.”
“Daniel [Gade], if you want to send your kids to a private school, you should have money to send them to that private school instead of having to send them to a public school,” he said.
“We need to be number one when it comes to school choice,” Doran said. “Start fixing our failing schools. Too many schools are crumbling. Too many schools are now introducing critical race theory instead of teaching the basics.”
Youngkin said, “We have to get our schools open and we have to get them open now, five days a week. And what I worry that this is constantly delay, delay, delay. So the first thing I’ll do as your governor is make sure that this travesty never happens again.”
“A child’s zip code should not determine his or her destiny,” he said. “We have to start with charter schools in a big way. We’ve seen in Florida that the charter schools have made the biggest difference in introducing competition and choice. And then we take that competition and choice to a voucher program, where parents will actually have their tuition dollars.”
Youngkin also touted his Virginia Wins PAC as a way to help retake control of policy by retaking school boards. He said, “Local elected offices that we have given away to the left, we must take them back.”
Cox mentioned his 30 years of experience as a teacher. “Republicans are going to have to have more credibility on this issue,” he said.
“I put in one of the first tuition tax credit bills there was. During this pandemic, let’s go back to August, I put in something called the READ fund, which would have given parents money for everything from teaching pods to tutors to chrome books, hardware and software,” he said. “So, I’ve been in the school choice space which I think is very, very important. ”
Cox said, “Let’s talk about opening schools, I was talking about that in August. When we go back, what are we going to do? There’s tremendous learning loss. What are specific programs we’re going to advocate for? I have a ten-point plan on that. We’ve got kids right now that are three to six months behind in math and science. We need to immediately find out where they’re at, we have to give intense tutoring. We have to open up to everyone.”
de la Peña said there was a need for more creativity in using technology in education. “My time in the army has taught me that education is something that’s constantly evolving. We have been using the same model that began in the industrial revolution, and we need to expand and make it better,” he said.
“And I think COVID has shown us how weak that system can be and how we’ve lost almost an entire year where our children have been sitting languishing at home not getting the quality education they need,” he said.
He cited his family’s experience with homeschooling as evidence of the benefits of parents knowing what children are being taught.
He said, “One of the things that we found out during this epidemic or pandemic is that the curriculum is corrupted. You’ve got all sorts of things being taught to your children that you don’t want taught. You’ve got now school systems that want to be the parents and then keep you from knowing the types of things that they’re teaching your children. We’ve got to make sure that we keep a really close eye on that curriculum,” he said.
“We’ve got to give school choice, we’ve got to do vouchers, we’ve got to be able to home school,” de la Peña said.
Chase and Snyder Absent
Notably absent from the debate were candidates Pete Snyder and Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield.) Chase told The Star that she was speaking at the Harrisonburg GOP tonight. “Let’s just say I’m not a Chris Saxman fan. I think tonight’s forum is a trap and I’m not walking into it,” Chase said.
A Snyder campaign spokesperson said Snyder was unable to participate due to a scheduling conflict.
On Sunday at a GOP gubernatorial forum in Fredericksburg, all the candidates except Cox participated. Cox campaign staff implied to The Virginia Scope that he did not participate due to the unsavory history of some of the organizers.
Virginia Tax Reform
de la Peña said, “We don’t want any new taxes and we need to drop taxes even further. There’s no reason why we should be spending more money than we’re bringing in. And there’s no reason why we need to create this expanded bureaucracy. So, we’ve got to make sure taxes are reasonable.”
He also warned about liability to businesses from failing to comply with the Virginia Values Act and spoke against the minimum wage increase. “We need to start looking at all of that because it’s an additional tax,” he said.
Doran said, “I don’t want to reform income tax and taxes in the commonwealth. I want to phase out all of the income taxes at the statewide level that Virginians pay each year. We can do it without blowing up the budget.”
He advocated following in North Carolina’s footsteps: “They went to a flat tax, and then step by step, they started lowering that flat tax. I want to go right by North Carolina, I want to phase out state income tax here in Virginia. I want to go to zero percent.”
Youngkin said, “First, we have to recognize that if we’re going to compete in this economy, we actually have to create a Virginia that can compete. And what we’ve seen over the course of the last ten years is the systematic erosion of our business climate.”
“We must build a rip-roaring economy, and then we can go at taxes. And I agree that taxes should be taken down,” Youngkin said. “I pledge not to only veto tax increases, but we are going to systematically find a way to bring taxes down.”
Cox said, “So, the first thing we need to do is repeal all the tax increases the Democrats have put on us, not only in this last session, but in the session before.”
He cited energy taxes, the Green New Deal, and enactment of California-style emissions standards, noting that those would drive up costs in Virginia. He said there was a need to help businesses by reducing regulation.
“I’m the candidate that basically has said give back, right now, the $720 million surplus,” he said. “Certainly, that would be immediate tax relief for folks.”
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