December 6, 2023

On Tuesday, Virginia voters will forged their ballots for all 140 seats within the Normal Meeting.

Democrats at present have a razor-thin majority within the Senate, whereas Republicans management the Home, so this election may end in both celebration having partial or full management of the legislature.

Since this election will decide which political celebration controls state authorities, it’ll additionally decide how the commonwealth will fund public schooling, help lecturers and youngsters, and extra.

Right here’s what 4 Democratic candidates for workplace must say about public schooling in Virginia and what they’d do if elected or reelected: 

Del. Shelly Simonds, Home District 70 

Newport Information-area Del. Shelly Simonds is operating for reelection to the Virginia Home. 

In an interview, she highlighted her personal experiences as an educator and the way that’s impacted her work within the legislature as an advocate for public schooling.  

“I used to be a instructor in Newport Information Public Faculties and I liked my college students, however I actually fell in love with my fellow lecturers,” Simond informed Dogwood. “I might go residence after educating and have all these concepts for a way we may enhance public schooling in Virginia, coverage options. So someone mentioned, ‘Hey, why don’t you run for college board?’ And I served on the Newport Information Faculty Board for about seven years, after which I ran for delegate.” 

Simonds defined how she and her fellow lawmakers have direct impacts on schooling in Virginia. 

“Supporting lecturers and instructor pay raises have been actually vital,” she mentioned, and went on to debate how the legislature can proceed to assist lecturers and colleges enhance, like guaranteeing that lecturers have entry to world-class skilled improvement and offering time in class for educators to each collaborate and plan. 

“I believe that on the state stage, we will have a big impact on the expertise of scholars and lecturers in our colleges.” 

Simonds additionally talked in regards to the significance of significant parental involvement in children’ studying experiences.

As a one-time PTA president at a neighborhood center faculty, she “spent quite a lot of time encouraging different mother and father to be concerned of their children’ schooling.

“I believe it’s tremendous vital for fogeys to be on prime of homework and assignments and who their [kids’] lecturers are and what the targets are for the yr, what the [state-mandated] Requirements of Studying are that they’re speculated to study that yr. I consider mother and father are companions on all the pieces we do in colleges.”

Michael Feggans, Home District 97 

Michael Feggans, who’s operating to symbolize Virginia Seashore within the Virginia Home of Delegates, is the son of a public faculty instructor. 

“She taught for 30 plus years at J. Cox and Northview Elementary,” he informed Dogwood. “I’ve seen how laborious she devoted herself to the general public faculty system right here.”

Feggans credit Virginia’s public colleges for serving to lay the muse for his success in life: “I’m capable of be the place I’m at at present in life due to the Virginia Seashore public faculty system.”

He went on to make a deeply private revelation.

“Once I was rising up, I truly had a fairly dangerous speech obstacle,” Feggans informed us. “From elementary faculty to center faculty, these speech therapists labored with me, and now I’m capable of communicate in giant, giant crowds and also you wouldn’t even guess I had a debilitating speech obstacle. It’s these investments and it’s exhibiting kids the place they will go in the event that they acquire an schooling.”

Feggans’ expertise within the Air Pressure helped him really admire the standard of his Virginia public faculty schooling.

“I do know that my publicity to the tech labs I had in center faculty and in highschool actually confirmed me that my path was going to be concerned with know-how. Then once I left for the Air Pressure, I noticed the distinction between me and among the different airmen that I labored with from completely different states the place they didn’t make investments as a lot of their public colleges – you would inform that there was a distinction.”

If elected, Feggans is dedicated to making sure public schooling in Virginia stays sturdy.

“I do know folks transfer right here and keep right here due to our public faculty schooling, and I wish to guarantee that we’re persevering with to completely fund our colleges and to draw that subsequent era of lecturers – and never simply lecturers, however our schooling help employees, as properly.” 

Del. Rodney Willett, Home District 58 

Del. Rodney Willett, who’s operating for reelection to proceed representing Henrico County within the Virginia Home of Delegates, is a product of the commonwealth’s public colleges. Supporting public schooling is a large precedence for Willett, and he mentioned with Dogwood the essential position the state legislature performs in guaranteeing children in each nook of the state have entry to a high quality public schooling.

“[The legislature has] a big impact on schooling, beginning with funding, placing more cash to colleges – notably to lecturers – more cash for help employees,” he informed us. 

Willett is pleased with the work he and his fellow Democrats put into supporting Virginia schooling this yr – particularly standing towards Republican tax cuts for firms and the ultra-wealthy in favor of “a price range that boosted our instructor salaries throughout the board and elevated the variety of help employees in colleges.”

However Willett is already waiting for methods the legislature can help public colleges within the coming years.

“The largest difficulty I hear about in schooling proper now could be instructor retention,” he mentioned. “Academics have been by means of lots. Households have been by means of lots. However we’ve actually needed to wrestle to maintain our lecturers within the school rooms. And quite a lot of that’s as a result of we don’t pay them sufficient. Loads of that’s as a result of we don’t put sufficient help employees round them. They’re having to do too many administrative issues versus truly educating, which is what we employed them to do. The very last thing you wish to see is simply 4,300 instructor vacancies in Virginia – it’s a statewide difficulty.

“We’ve acquired to respect our lecturers,” he continued. “And sadly, the dialog you hear coming from the Republican Get together is all about disrespect of lecturers.”

Willett went on to handle the current push to ban books from faculty libraries throughout the state. 

“Proper now, what’s taking place is a really vocal, tremendous conservative minority is preserving the remainder of the children from getting access to actually vital works of literature that I might be completely thrilled to have had any of my children studying,” he defined. “And now that’s being taken away from them.”

Sen. Aaron Rouse, Senate District 22 

Sen. Aaron Rouse, who’s operating for reelection to proceed representing Virginia Seashore within the state Senate, mentioned the significance of prioritizing investments in public colleges.

“Right here in Virginia Seashore, we now have among the finest public colleges within the nation – for a lot of, it’s the explanation folks wish to transfer to town of Virginia Seashore,” Rouse informed Dogwood. 

“Virginia has nice colleges, however we now have to make a major funding in these colleges. We are able to’t fund [private and charter] colleges on the expense of our public faculty system, particularly at a time the place our lecturers, our help employees, and our colleges should be modernized,” he cautioned. “You have a look at what our lecturers must do at this time, not solely train, however they’re coping with so many various points, together with habits points and psychological well being points. And but their pay doesn’t replicate that.

“Loads of the lecturers are having to pay out of their very own pockets for provides in their very own classroom,” Rouse continued. “And you consider that, when our state has this surplus of billions of {dollars}. It ought to be a precedence to make sure that we will absolutely fund salaries of lecturers and help employees.”

Rouse additionally illustrated the significance of sturdy public schooling to his native financial system.

“You may tie our financial system on to schooling, as a result of when there’s a sturdy and vital funding being paid to Ok-12 schooling, then that yields a greater workforce that really incentivizes corporations and international firms to take a look at locations reminiscent of Hampton Roads.”

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood’s chief political correspondent. She can be the nation’s foremost skilled in state politics with nearly 20 years of expertise in statehouse machinations, and her comedian e book assortment might be larger than yours.

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