This week’s newsletter reflects on the “Parents Matter Tour” being led by the Governor, discusses our upcoming “Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and Families” Town Hall, shares information on the Senate Page Program, and highlights community engagements and events from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read the newsletter and for staying informed.
Youngkin’s Parents Matter Tour
Over the past several days, the Governor has held a “Parents Matter Tour” in four localities, and he has shared the stage with Republican General Assembly members, some of whom are running for election in pivotal races that will help to decide the majority in the Senate and the House of Delegates. The tour’s topics have invariably focused on social media and its influences on children, transgender students, and the administration’s efforts to divert money away from public schools.
We are hearing a lot these days about “school choice,” but what does that term mean? According to advocates for the policy, the central idea behind school choice is to give parents the ability to choose whichever school or learning environment best meets their child’s needs, regardless of whether that school is public or private. In most cases, this choice funnels public education dollars into private schools by allowing the money to "follow the child" in the form of vouchers or savings accounts to be used toward private school tuition.
While such a proposal may be tempting on its surface and is frequently touted as an opportunity for families with limited economic means to send their children to private schools (some of which may be outperforming neighborhood public schools) the reality of school voucher programs is far different. The fundamental premise of our public education system in the United States and in the Commonwealth is that we have a collective responsibility to educate all children and to prepare the next generation for the responsibilities of work and citizenship. Private schools do not have that same responsibility.
As we see in multiple states that have voucher programs and in the voucher programs proposed by Republicans in Virginia, participating private schools may discriminate in admissions. Private schools do not have the same mandates as public schools to admit students who may be developmentally delayed, students with disabilities, or students with limited English proficiency. Student performance in private schools often reflects the fact that such schools can be selective in admissions. Similarly, “school choice” rhetoric does not highlight the fact that private schools may use religious affiliation in the admission process, may discriminate based on LGBTQ+ status, and other similar factors.
Further, even with vouchers, most families in Virginia would not be able to afford the full tuition and ancillary costs of private education. Our communities will be left with a two-tier education system in which the most vulnerable children are locked in schools that have been effectively depleted of funds.
We know what works in improving education outcomes in our public schools: small class sizes, qualified and dedicated teachers, support staff to assist classroom instruction, more counseling services, and funding to ensure high quality resources, infrastructure, and support. The Senate budget proposals are ready to move Virginia forward in improving educational quality. If the governor really wants to ensure that families matter in Virginia, he will agree to these budget proposals rather than redirecting taxpayer dollars into the hands of large corporations and companies that propose to run a privatized education system with little to no accountability.
Supporting LGBTQ+ Students & Families Town Hall
Next Wednesday, August 16, I will host a town hall with the ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia, other organizations, and parent advocates. Our focus will be on the Youngkin Administration’s newly-released model policies on the treatment of transgender students in our public schools. We will discuss the historical context of these policies, legal challenges, and supportive resources for students and families.
The town hall is open to the public, but registration is required:
Date: August 16, 2023
Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Location: Brightpoint Community College, Chester Campus
Applications are now being accepted for the 2024 Senate Page Program
The application form for the 2024 Senate Page Program is now live. The Senate Page Program offers a unique opportunity for young Virginians to learn about policy making and state government processes. Applicants must be residents of the Commonwealth and either 13 or 14 years old on January 10, 2024, the first day of the new session.
Pages perform administrative duties, participate in team building, undergo rigorous civics education, and help with day-to-day operations of the General Assembly. While immersed in the program, Pages live in Richmond throughout the duration of the General Assembly, visiting home on the weekends. The well-structured program provides time for Pages to keep up with schoolwork while also engaging in General Assembly activities.
All applications will be done using this online Form; no paper applications should be mailed to Senate offices or to the Senate Clerk’s Office. The deadline to apply is Friday, October 20, 2023, at 5:00 pm. Questions may be directed to email@example.com.
Highlights from Community Events & Meetings
Last Saturday, I visited the volunteers of the Islamic Center of North America (ICNA) Relief - VA DC chapter for their “Back 2 School Distribution” at Manchester Middle School. Last year, ICNA Relief distributed over 45,000 backpacks nationwide, positively impacting students, their families, and our broader community. During the upcoming weeks,, ICNA Relief - VA DC will continue to host backpack and supplies distributions throughout the Metro Richmond Area.
After attending the backpack distribution, I traveled with my campaign team throughout the district, knocking on doors, and speaking to voters about how critical this November’s elections are for the Commonwealth. We are fewer than 100 days from Election Day (November 7), and early voting begins on Friday, September 22.
Campaign season is certainly picking up, and this past Saturday gave us time to connect with supporters and voters throughout the region. I was happy to see so many friends and supporters of Stephen Miller-Pitts join in a campaign kick-off event in Chester. Stephen is running for HD75 and is committed to protecting public education, voting rights, and social justice. Voters who are not sure of the candidates running in their particular districts can always check on their new Senate and House districts by looking up their address in the easy search bar located on the Virginia Public Access Project site.
Later on Saturday afternoon, I joined Dominique Chatters, candidate for the Dale District of the Chesterfield County School Board, for a wonderful, tropical meet and greet event. At a time when our public education system has come under attack by culture war issues, Dominique has continued to focus on what really matters: ensuring our schools are fully funded, our children have access to the critical learning tools and services they need, and our teachers are paid a respectable, living wage. Her voice will be a welcome addition to the Chesterfield School Board.
On Sunday, I was delighted to be joined by supporters and friends for a campaign event in Richmond. The energy and enthusiasm for this November’s elections are palpable, as Virginians focus on what really matters: a strong public education system, abortion and reproductive health care, strong wages for working families, affordable and safe housing, gun safety, and environmental protections. I was delighted that Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan was able to join us as my special guest.
On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to present to community members participating in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Volunteers as Chesapeake Stewards (VoiCeS) program. We discussed how to advocate for environmental legislation at the General Assembly and the legislative proposals related to water quality and the Bay.
On Wednesday, I had an all-day excursion touring Newport News Shipbuilding and exploring shipping operations with the Port of Virginia. The economic impact of NN Shipbuilding and the Port extend far beyond the Hampton Roads Region: over 397,000 jobs in Virginia have ties to the Port, and NN Shipbuilding employs 25,000 people. Senator Mamie Locke (not pictured), Senator Barbara Favola, Delegate Karrie Delaney, Delegate Briana Sewell, and House Minority Leader Delegate Don Scott (not pictured) were all part of an informative tour that highlighted how aircraft carriers and submarines for the US Navy are manufactured, the experiences of NN Shipbuilding and Port of Virginia employees, and the role that the General Assembly plays in supporting these vital economic assets.
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