RICHMOND, Va. – At a press conference this morning, the Virginia House Democratic Caucus rolled out several of their key bills to help ensure all children, no matter who they are or where they’re from, receive access to a quality education.
Delegates presented bills that would tackle the teacher and support staff shortage, college affordability, education access for DREAMers, and support for English Language Learners.
Delegate Sullivan opened up the press conference by referencing previously-announced education initiatives from Delegate Marcia Price and Delegate Lashrecse Aird as well as Governor Northam’s call for increased teacher pay.
“As Democrats, we believe that every child, no matter who they are or where they’re from, should have access to a quality education,” said Delegate Sullivan, who sponsored a bill to help increase media literacy among students.
Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy presented her bill that would help English language learners get access to career and technical education.
“There are two problems now,” said Delegate Carroll Foy. “ELL students are losing out on opportunities and Virginia’s economy is losing out on contributing members of society. Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses are available across Virginia’s 132 school divisions. However, there are over 150,000 students enrolled in ELL programs across Virginia who have difficulty passing the classes because CTE tests are not as accessible as they could be.”
Delegate Chris Hurst introduced a resolution that would study the way public colleges in Virginia collect late fees on tuition. Currently, late tuition fees can be sent to outside debt collectors that can charge up to 30% penalty on the delinquent payment.
“I want to make sure we are looking out for our college students, and that they graduate with as little debt as possible,” Delegate Hurst said.
Delegate Jeion Ward and Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg introduced bills that would take on teacher and support staff shortages in Virginia schools. Delegate Ward introduced three pieces of legislation (HB 317, HB 318, HB 320, HB 334) that address this issue.
“The purpose of these bills is to insure that we remove any unnecessary hurdles to prevent otherwise highly qualified teachers from entering our classrooms,” Delegate Ward said.
Delegate VanValkenburg addressed the need for support staff in our schools by presenting his budget language amendment that would add school counselors to the at-risk add on program.
“School counselors, like librarians, counselors, and nurses, are essential to the success of our children," he said. "Counseling intervention programs have been proven to narrow the achievement gap and improve pass rates for underrepresented populations.”
Delegate Danica Roem spoke about her bill that would help “eliminate the stigma and singling out for any student who can’t pay their student lunch debt. The bill will also make sure that every student has access to getting breakfast and lunch in school”.
Delegate Roem also spoke on her bill that would train school employees to recognize the signs of suicidal students. Delegate Roem said the bill was motivated by a constituent she met who lost a child to suicide.
Delegate Alfonso Lopez has for the third year in a row introduced legislation that would ensure that DREAMers and those applying for residency can get in-state tuition in the commonwealth of Virginia.
“To nurture and educate these students from elementary through high school only to turn them away when they reach college-age is not only a waste of money – but also a waste of great talent and potential,” said Delegate Lopez. “Education quickly pays for itself. It is a benefit to society, not just to those who go to school.”
Delegate David Reid presented his legislation to expand access to full-day kindergarten in places where it is still not available.
“Just three localities in Virginia don't offer universal full day kindergarten,” said Delegate Reid. “House Bill 350 asks those three localities -- Loudoun County, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake -- to provide their reports on how to make 100% full day kindergarten possible, provide the lessons learned, and most importantly, tell us what we can do here at the state to help them be successful.”
Video of the press conference is available on our YouTube page.