This week, I will discuss recent efforts my colleagues and I have taken to prioritize education, share opportunities for community involvement through programs from the local to national level, and reflect on events from this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter and for staying informed.
Supporting High Standards for History Education
Last Friday, my Democratic Senate colleagues and I hosted a press conference to address the future of history education in Virginia. On August 17, Superintendent Jillian Balow announced that the scheduled updates to the history and social studies curriculum standards would be postponed until they could be reevaluated by the Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that promotes the privatization of public education across the country–in essence, transferring public education dollars into the hands of private entities–and promotes its own curricular standards for history.
Virginia’s revised History and Social Studies Standards of Learning have already undergone extensive debate from policymakers, education experts, and the public, receiving over 5,000 comments in total. This process occurs regularly for each of the core subjects, within the timeframes established by policy. Educators, organizations who worked on the new standards, and other advocacy groups have expressed outrage over the Youngkin administration’s last-minute decision to delay approval and relinquish Virginia educational standards to a partisan think tank.
During our press conference, I stated, “We have to ask: What is the purpose of adding the Fordham Institute at this post-midnight hour, when the work of developing our standards is complete? What I suspect is the real intentionality of the delay is to revise the standards through the specific lens of the Youngkin administration, its corporate partners, and special interests groups whose intent is to whitewash our history books and to not allow for a more full representation of the rich diversity that is a part of our American heritage and history.” I will continue to advocate for approval of our history and social studies standards.
Prioritizing Early Childhood
For the past several months, I have been steeped in the concerns, research, and issues of Early Childhood: vital brain development during the formative years from infancy through preschool; the need to ensure that we have high quality and universally available childcare and pre-K school programs; the impacts of adverse childhood events such as housing and food insecurity on a child’s emotional and social development; and the need for responsible, loving adults in the life of an infant and young child.
This year, I was selected as a National Conference of State Legislatures Early Childhood Fellow, along with Senator Jennifer Boysko, to represent Virginia, and I was also invited to participate in the Hunt Institute’s Program on Early Childhood. The Hunt Institute program convened yesterday in Phoenix, Arizona, with a first-time gathering of representatives from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. In last night’s session, we heard from Virginia’s own Former First Lady, Pamela Northam, who shared Virginia’s extensive and intentional efforts on early childhood education, including the focus on quality pre-K programs offered in a variety of settings and support for early childhood education programs through efforts such as the VCCS G3 Program.
Virginia’s team is well-represented at the Hunt Institute Program, and includes the First Lady, Mayor Levar Stoney (Richmond), Delegate Mark Keam, Delegate Glenn Davis, Special Assistant David Cary who helped to develop Virginia’s early childhood education efforts in the Northam Administration, and several others not pictured.
Intern with Congressman McEachin’s Office
Engaging young people in government and policy making is important as it helps to develop our next generation of leaders. Oftentimes, such internship opportunities are out of reach for many young individuals because they are generally unpaid and thus self-limiting for those who can apply. The Office of Congressman Donald McEachin (VA-04) is offering paid internships for the Fall 2022 semester, in the Washington, D. C., office. These internships give students the opportunity to learn about Congress and gain experience working with legislative staff. Responsibilities vary but may include research, assisting with constituent correspondence, and attending committee hearings. For more information or to apply, visit Representative McEachin’s internship application site.
Congressional App Challenge
The 2022 Congressional App Challenge is now open for all middle and high school students with a passion for computer science and coding. Since 2016, participating Representatives’ offices have selected the best app created by students from their districts. Winners are publicly recognized by their representatives, and their apps are displayed for an entire year at the US Capitol Building. Each of Virginia’s Representatives is participating this year. Constituents of state Senate District 10 can find eligibility and submission guidelines on either Representative Spanberger’s site or on Representative McEachin’s site
Chesterfield Government Citizen Academy
The Chesterfield Government Citizen Academy is returning for the Fall session. The Department of Citizen Information and Resources will be hosting the civic education program on Wednesday mornings from 9:00-11:30 am September 14 through November 9. This opportunity helps Chesterfield residents learn about local government and participate in interactive sessions. The program is free, and registration is open until Friday, September 2. Program registration is available here.
Senate Page Program: Applications are Open
The Senate Page Program is a remarkable educational experience for young Virginians who are interested in being a part of the annual General Assembly, learning about policy making, and engaging directly in state government processes. It is a tradition that has been in place for over 150 years.
Selected pages perform administrative duties, participate in team building, and help with day-to-day operations of the General Assembly. Pages are an integral part of the Capitol during the convening of the General Assembly. 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 the direct experiences of government and policy making. More information about the program is available at the Senate Page Program.
Applications are now being accepted for the 2023 Senate Page Program, and the application process remains open until 5:00 pm, October 17. Applicants must be residents of the Commonwealth and either 13 or 14 years old on January 11, the first day of the 2023 session. The application is available here.
On Sunday, I was honored to be named the 2022 Chesterfield Champion by the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee. Congressman Donald McEachin and Senator Louise Lucas also joined us and shared their thoughts about citizens’ full participation in every aspect of the democratic process. Every election is critical in ensuring that we protect the progress we have made, from the local to the federal level. Our work would not be possible without the dedication of volunteers, advocates, and organizers across the Commonwealth.
At the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee (CCDC) gathering, the committee also recognized Glen Besa, a tireless volunteer who is consistently engaged with CCDC activities, voter drives, knocking on doors for various campaigns, greeting voters all throughout the weeks of Early Voting in Chesterfield County, and much more. Glen received the Thomas Francis Volunteer Award, named for the late Thomas Francis who gave his heart and soul to the work of electing Democrats. I wholeheartedly congratulate Glen on this important recognition of his efforts.
On Monday, I traveled to Charlottesville to participate in Virginia Interfaith Power and Light’s 2nd Annual Environmental Justice Legislative Summit. Together with other elected officials, environmental organizations, and faith leaders, we examined issues and concerns such as the citizen participation on our Review Boards, climate emergencies and its impact on specific Virginia localities, and our growing public recognition of environmental injustices that continue to affect our marginalized communities.
Connecting With My Office
My staff continue to hold meetings with constituents via Zoom or by phone. You can sign up for a meeting with either of my staff members with our easy scheduling app: