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Virginia's Bipartisan Education Policy Agenda

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Jonathan Becker

As summer passes and autumn approaches, the new semester begins. Students, faculty, and staff return to schools and classrooms with hope and understandably a little anxiety. Fall is also a time for Virginia legislators to develop an agenda and plan to pre-seat bills for the next legislature. It is therefore worth considering how education and public policy will overlap next year.

The polarized political environment in which our country is battling has engulfed our education system, with good and bad results. . On the one hand, the tone of the debate did not help the system.

That said, it is clear that during the pandemic, most Americans have come to recognize the importance of the public school system and its many connections to the economic system and collective well-being. We need schools and we need schools to be great.

Therefore, looking back over the past two years of the pandemic, we need to think about educational policy challenges in light of what we have learned and (re)discovered during very difficult times. In addition, there are some areas of education policy where bipartisanship can and should dominate. Consider only the following points:

Modernization of school facilities. deadly airborne virus should do it It has taught us to consider the environmental quality of the spaces in which we live, work and learn. Before the pandemic, too many school buildings were unhealthy environments, and the virus mirrored this reality.

Some school districts have used COVID relief funds to upgrade their HVAC systems, which is a good start. We also need to consider density and how people move around the building, as well as opportunities for students to learn in a fresh air environment.

Virginia has allowed too many school buildings to grow old and obsoletethe bill will come due sooner or later. We need to seriously develop long-term national and regional initiatives to build new, modern school facilities where students, faculty and staff can work and learn confidently and safely. .

teacher pay. Many school districts struggled with faculty declines before the pandemic, and it’s getting harder. A pernicious (and gendered) narrative we have allowed ourselves to adhere to is that teachers are not “for the money”. I feel like we are all rational cost-benefit people. At some point, working in an unhealthy, high-pressure environment just isn’t worth the benefits.

according to Recent NEA ReportsVirginia ranks 25th nationally for average teacher salaries and 18th nationally for starting salaries. We can and should do better. Luckily, Governor Youngkin is campaigning to improve teacher salaries and we all need to agree to work together to make that happen.

early childhood education. The pandemic has been especially difficult for the parents of our youngest children. Kindergartens and day care centers were forced to close, and remote learning and supervision were not possible. This was detrimental to professional parents and many workplaces where workers were gone. It definitely wasn’t good for the kids.

Frankly, we have never invested in a system of high-quality, universal early childhood education. If you are serious about investing in the growth and development of Virginia’s youth, A clear return on investment from quality early childhood education.

virtual learning. A study of the relationship between K-12 virtual learning and pre-pandemic student performance Consistently showed adverse effectsAnd during the pandemic, many students struggled to learn from a distance. However, many families have realized that it may be better for their children to learn from a distance, mainly for physical and mental health reasons.

In addition, education leaders recognize the need to be flexible when faced with new health and climate emergencies. Demand for virtual learning opportunities is higher than pre-pandemicand many school districts maintain virtual schooling options.

To achieve success for all students, virtual schooling must be delivered in a cost-effective manner. Managing schools locally has value for traditional schooling, but in the virtual realm, thinking regionally and statewide can potentially achieve cost efficiencies. virtual virginia It has been a great option for many students (and teachers) for many years, and every school district should consider how to integrate it with local virtual school efforts rather than running their own virtual schools.

These are just some of the education policy issues that really need bipartisan support in Virginia. As a nation, or as a federation, when we feel we can’t agree on anything, let’s just assume that we actually have some common policy goals in education.

Jonathan Becker, JD, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University. He teaches courses on school law and the politics of education.he can be reached at [email protected]