Tomorrow, the Virginia General Assembly will convene for the 2021 Regular Session. As always, I’m humbled by the opportunity to represent District 12. The past year has dealt the Commonwealth a difficult hand.
I believe that my purpose as your senator is to hear and understand your problems and then understand existing systems and why they are not working to meet your needs. That gives me the foundation to find solutions and engage consensus to make true change that will fix the problem.
Education has always been at the forefront of my legislative agenda. We can celebrate many strengths in Virginia, but our children have many unmet needs.Closed schools and a reduction in services over the last many months has exacerbated these preexisting weaknesses, created new ones, and very likely created crises for many of our children.
Children depend on us to protect their chance to grow and thrive. As a mother and a physician, it’s unbearable to me that they are denied a chance at success sometimes before they even start so I have some solutions to offer.
So, this is what I’m working on:
Problem: Remote learning is not working for many of our kids. They are failing, they are depressed, and in some cases, they just don’t have the secure place to be or even adequate food.
Solution: I will be carrying legislation to require public schools to provide both in person and virtual education going forward.
Problem: There is a systemic disadvantage in public education based on where you live. Many families control for this by moving to good school districts, but many families can’t do that. Our system of education tied to your zip code is picking who will win in life and who will lose while we are still in the cradle.
Solution: School choice. Virginia students who qualify for free and reduced lunch should be able to choose a school within the same locality.
Problem: Virtual learning as a result of COVID has caused many kids to fall behind. Our students will be starting at all different places as we return to school, and we will need to be creative in providing different kinds of support to help get them back on track to perform at their grade level and succeed in school.
Solution: We need to provide diagnostic assessments of kids in the fall and winter of 2021, as well as a progress assessment in the spring. Let’s find out where they are while we still have time to help them catch up, and then, at the end of the year, we can measure how well we’ve done.
Problem: Many students have obstacles to learning. If we help them with those obstacles they have a much better chance of succeeding and progressing. Virginia’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) assessment recently received a scathing review from the federal government and the Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee (JLARC).
Solution: We need to use the suggestions of the JLARC to improve the process, hold localities accountable, and give kids a chance. Additionally, we should remove state code obstacles to federal funding streams to help schools fund programs that help kids succeed.
Problem: There have been attempts in other states to remove a workers prerogative to be a contract employee. Examples of these employees are people who work for Uber or Lyft who want to work when it suits them. There is an attempt to compel them to be full-time benefited employees.
Solution: Virginia needs to put protections in the code to ensure the freedom of workers to be able to be creative with their employment and decide for themselves. For a lot of these workers, the flexibility of these positions is what allows them to support their families. As our economy rebuilds post-COVID, what we need is less government intervention.
Problem: We have the COVID vaccine. We have an increased incidence of cases and the solution is getting everyone vaccinated. But, it’s not happening.
Solution: Virginia is rich with resources to solve this problem. We have thousands of licensed providers of all levels that are trained for vaccination, we have health systems with robust resources, and we have an incredible university system that has an amazing ability to analyze data and provide innovative processes. We need to unleash all of these resources and help them find a way to work together to accomplish a goal we all desperately want. We have to speed up this process to protect our most vulnerable populations.
These are my top priorities, but there is more. We will be routinely sharing a “Bill Tracker” for our bills and a “Watch List” for everything else going on down there. We’ll have our blogs: Doctor’s Notes and Critical Thinking to give you more in-depth analysis. Remember to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our emails! If you want to contact us directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ready to work,