A community is only as strong as the individuals who comprise it, which is why our public education system is crucial to the Commonwealth of Virginia and especially District 71. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the dismantling of public education, both financially and structurally, through policies like “No Child Left Behind” and the allowance of SOLs to control the curricula taught, versus simply using quarterly test markers to gauge growth and regression. The impact has resulted in curricula that are far less engaging, focused on teaching to test, versus allowing educators to help students love to learn, as well as push students through the system, who have missed out on much needed resources. This has also led to distrust in our public education from the community and allowed even more problematic legislation to be introduced under false pretenses and offering false promises. Policies like school choice and book banning are causing further harm to our educators, students, and families. I will always stand for parental rights, for ALL parents.
When families have concerns over a required assignment, I’ll advocate for meaningful dialogue between educators and families to reach the best compromise for all parties. When a book is publicly available in our school libraries that a family doesn’t believe is a good option for their student, I see that as an opportunity for parents to have a conversation with their student about why it’s not a good fit for their family. Banning and censorship of books overall is an infringement on other families’ rights, especially when they may not share another families’ perspective on a particular book. When it comes to school choice, I will speak truth about the ramifications that will come as a result. Private school is not an option for many students even with a school choice voucher system. Private institutions can deny admission for any reason; from overcrowding, to behavioral or educational concerns, to any and all learning disabilities. This means if your student isn’t “good enough,” they are forced to remain in public school.
The alternative of homeschooling, can be a struggle for families dependent on two incomes or single parent homes. Thus forcing families into a position of not being able to take advantage of school choice as an option. For every 4-5 students who take advantage of alternate education, that decision eliminates the salary of a single teacher. Having 4-5 students choosing an alternate schooling method may not impact overall class size, however imagine if 100 students from each district made that choice. In that scenario, roughly 20 teachers would be eliminated, but only 4 classrooms, leaving us at a massive defecit. In a system, that is already proved to be understaffed and underfunded, the further impact would cause long term harm to families, the economy, and inevitably the community. The real solutions involve shoring up the public school system we already have in place, that serves the majority of our families. For example, offering free universal Pre-K for ages 3 and 4, allowing parents to return to the workforce, without the burden of childcare costs, and opening a sector of jobs for Pre-K educators and staff. This would also give our students the building blocks needed before entering into Kindergarten and the classroom. In addition, primary schools (K-5) should set a 15 students class size limit, resulting in a decline of behavioral and academic issues in the classroom. This would also result in more teachers and staff in the building, ensuring successful outcomes for our students and families, less stress on educators and less distractions taking away from class instruction. We also need more programs in place to create opportunities in entrepreneurship and the trades because college isn’t for everyone and our children deserve options. When an “all of the above” plan occurs we see a robust and successful public education system, resulting in stronger families, a stronger economy, and a stronger 71st District.