Hi everyone. Just giving this a minute in case a few people got our message that we’re going to be on. I know it’s a strange time. Hello and happy Sunday. Thanks for being on at an unusual time. I want to make sure that despite COVID and despite the inability for people to get to us physically, that I remain accessible to you during the session and keep you updated on what’s happening. Things really do happen so quickly that as we get weekly, I already have so much to tell you about. We’re about, I guess, 10 days in. We started Wednesday the 13th. So, please know that in addition to trying to do this every week, we really do want to get your questions. So email them to us so we can make this a town hall meeting. We’ll answer questions that you put on here today as well. But, I’m going to let you know what’s happening with my bills, I’m gonna let you know what’s happening with everything else, and we’re going to answer your questions.
So, this week for my bills, what did I have up? I had in-person education. We actually have a bill that says schools must provide both in-person and virtual education based on the parents’ request. Plain and simple. We launched this initiative the first day of session with a press conference on Wednesday. This is a bi-partisan effort to get this done. I expected this bill to get killed instantly, but it is not dead. We were short one republican vote in the committee where it was heard last week and we should have that person in this week. It tied, which means it didn’t fail or succeed and we will hear that bill again this week. I expect and hope that we will be able to retain those democrat votes and get that to the floor of the Senate and put everybody on the record for voting on schools being open or closed. That will not be the end of this debate, because there will be budget language as well. Budget language will basically say that schools are not going to get the money that has been allocated to them in the budget if they do not provide in-person school. Interestingly, the day after that press conference, the Governor came out and said: yeah yeah, we want to open schools too and we have new guidelines. But, I need to tell you: his guidelines are not what we are pushing. We are pushing that in-person must be offered by parental choice. He is saying that there are some extenuating circumstances where we will provide in-person. Quite frankly, he is saying that for special ed it will be in person. I can tell you that the guidelines from the state of Virginia said this whole time that special ed should have been provided in-person. So, any closure on that was not even in keeping with the guidelines. So, it sounds the same, but it’s different. What we’re doing actually gets us to what we want where parents have control over whether their children are in person or are in virtual education. Whatever works best for you is what I want. I just want in-person to be available.
The next piece of legislation that I got...I really had 100% this week. All of my legislation got out of committee. So we’ll see how it goes from there. There’s a piece of legislation that I’m carrying to provide open enrollment for students. That means that a parent can pick what school in a school district children can go in. This has been an incredibly controversial issue over the past many years and I’m really focusing on it. This is an issue of equity. We have great data. As a physician, social determinants of health are the means by which you contribute to a person’s health. It’s not just healthcare. In fact, healthcare is like the end of the line. Things that help people be healthy and actually help them have a chance at participating in the American dream are education, safety, housing, and many other things. This will allow children who qualify for free or reduced lunch, those that are at the greatest jeopardy, for their parents to be able to choose that they can go to another school. These parents can’t move to a better school district like most of us can. But, they ought to be able to ensure, just like we fight for our kids to be in a good school, that they have a chance for that too. This is going to create competition in our schools, and that is going to make our schools better. Right now schools are preoccupied with what the school board says and what unions say, we want them to be preoccupied with providing the best quality education at every school. Competition works.
The next thing is...I want our children to be measured after COVID. We’ve talked about this many times before. My previous bills got killed. This is a way where we are going to break up testing to kids, take away SOLs at the end, but use the same valuable standards that we have in the SOLs. We want all schools across the state to be held accountable equally. But, we want to do it in a way that we can actually help kids succeed. So, this is translating to an assessment of our children, a diagnostic assessment. In the fall, when they come back, where do they start? Then we do another diagnostic assessment in December after that first semester so that we can see: are they progressing? That gives us two separate opportunities to redirect that individual child to success. At the end of the year, we have a progress test. These are short tests. They’re not long like the SOLs and they are not intimidating like the SOLs. They’re actually about getting at the root cause of how every single child succeeds. We can’t just be doing these big, broad things where we’re not looking at the individuality of every child. So that got through to committee.