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The primary commitment of any school in Virginia is to provide a high-quality education for all children. Today, Virginia finds itself at a defining moment – a moment that will not only impact current students but will forever shape the environment in which future generations of children will learn and thrive.
One thing we all understand now is that the learning loss during the pandemic has been significant. Excessive and prolonged school closures in Virginia have wrecked the progress and well-being of students. New SOL data from the Virginia Department of Education shows how devastating school closures have been.
Assessment comparisons with the 2018-2019 school year show that overall achievement in mathematics decreased by 34% for third graders, 42% for seventh graders, and 44% for eighth graders. Even more shocking, less than half of black children in third grade and barely half of black children in sixth grade passed reading assessments. Similar levels of decline are evident for students with disabilities, with math scores dropping by 24 points or a drop of 40%.
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What we know now is that Virginia schools should never close again.
Virginians also understand that for exceptional educational systems, standards matter. Beginning with McAuliffe and under Democratic-appointed Board of Education activists, standards for accrediting schools across the Commonwealth have been relaxed so poorly that the 88 schools that previously failed accreditation efforts have already passed. Today, Virginia is the only state with eighth-grade reading expectations below the national minimum, classified as “below basic.” Furthermore, only a third of Virginia’s eighth graders can meet the national reading standards.
Every student deserves the opportunity to get an education that will prepare him or her for college or work immediately after graduating from high school.
Virginia also suffers from years of neglected facilities and low teacher compensation. Incredibly in a year of pandemic lockdown, Virginia’s residents have been exhausted, resulting in a surplus of $2.6 billion. Not only should the tax burden be reduced, but the current spending of failing schools should be increased, teacher salaries should be increased, and private education investment should be increased.
Furthermore, every student deserves the opportunity to receive an education that will prepare them for college or work immediately upon graduating from high school. Empowering parents about choice is simply critical. Today, Virginia has eight charter schools when neighboring states have hundreds. The My Day One game plan calls for the immediate formation of 20 Innovation Charter schools within the public school system.
By transcending these challenges, we are witnessing a crisis in school violence. I recently called for an immediate and full investigation into the heinous sexual assaults that appear to have been covered up by Loudoun County officials, including the superintendent, school board members and a Commonwealth attorney. Instead of investigating parents, the Department of Justice should investigate those who were involved in the coverage.
Virginia kids can’t wait. We must empower parents, and address their concerns about school safety, curriculum and deteriorating standards and outcomes in Virginia schools.
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Everyone agrees that education has the power to change lives and send children to heights beyond what the zip code predetermined for them.
Virginians unite around seeing better schools, safer streets, a lower cost of living, and more well-paying jobs. Time to revitalize, reboot, and build a new day for Virginia, where we rise and settle forever. A new day when all Virginians can fulfill Virginia’s Great Promise.
So, let us rise above rhetoric, rise above division, and empower the dreams and endeavors of the next generation by securing safety and excellence in our schools. I will not rest until that is done.
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