There is a cast iron rule in economics: if you want more of something, subsidize it.

Governor Northam must be a big fan of educational failure, because his budget provides a massive subsidy for it. The budget is missing the one thing it probably needed the most: direct help for families struggling to educate their children in “virtual” situations.

No one enjoys sitting on a Zoom call, not even adults. Asking children to do so for hours at a time is simply inhumane, and the results speak for themselves. Chesterfield and Fairfax counties have reported an “epidemic” of failing grades.

The response has been disheartening to say the least. Fairfax County’s plan to fix the problem is to adjust the grading scale so they give our fewer Fs. Sadly for students who will now be deemed to pass their classes, reality has yet to lower its expectations, even if the school system has.

It’s not hard to see why more kids are failing. Ask anyone who’s ever accidentally offended someone with what they thought was an innocuous text or email. There’s no substitute for face to face contact.

Republicans tried mightily to get families help during the most recent General Assembly sessions in the form of the READ Fund: Reimbursing Educational Access Decisions. The fund would have taken $100 million in CARES Act funding from the Federal government and used to to empower families — reimbursing technology purchases, tutoring, or other aides to help children in virtual education keep up.

Parents know virtual schools don’t work. Fairfax County saw such a massive spike in parents pulling their children out and placing them into “pandemic pods” — groups of families sharing the cost of one tutor to teach their children — that they warned families to stop. Letting some children continue to get an education while the rest of the system failed would exacerbate education inequality, they argued.

Rich parents could keep their children’s education moving forward. So rather than let some kids fall behind, the READ Fund would have let every parent make the choices they need to help their kids keep up.

Sadly, House Democrats would not hear of it and killed it on a party-line vote. No reasons were given, and debate was held to only 4 minutes. Apparently Democrats didn’t like the idea of empowering parents to make choices about how their children could best learn.

Governor Northam’s budget spends a significant amount of new money on education. But rather than empower parents, he continues to throw money at the same old line items that are failing our children. Governor Northam would spend $500 million on holding school system harmless for falling enrollment.

That might make the Virginia Education Association happy, but it turns a blind eye to those who have found virtual schools failing their children and have looked elsewhere. Said simply, Governor Northam’s budget holds failure harmless while giving no help at all to parents who have been forced to look elsewhere to educate their children.

Governor Northam and General Assembly Democrats failed our children. And unless they correct course soon, they will continue to do so.