Public Comments for: HB485 - Student Emergency Aid Fund and Program; created and established.
Please oppose HB4. There is already a well documented school to prison pipeline. The educational setting offers the opportunity for counseling, remediation and restorative justice. Educators should continue to have the purview to address behaviors encountered in schools in these ways before committing students to legal processes for misdemeanor offenses. Please support HB128. At a time when we desperately need more educators, particularly from diverse backgrounds who can connect with a wide variety of demographics, the establishment of this scholarship program just makes good sense! Please support HB236. At a time when public education is under assault and educators are leaving the profession at an increasing rate, this flexibility to offer educators an extension of the time needed to complete recertification just makes good sense! Please support HB246 Please support HB294. Students who have suffered the types of events specified in this bill have legitimate concerns remaining in the environment where this occurred and should be able to secure assistance in attending another school in their district that provides a more secure environment. Please oppose HB363. While I support the concept of establishing an alternative method of using merit and performance to determine which employees may be retained and which dismissed when such events as RIF occur, I do not think it wise to prohibit the current practice until a suitable alternative has been determined. Please oppose HB433. Historically, the legislature legislating on the specifics of educational delivery and practice have resulted in more complication and obstacles. The specifics of curricula and testing should be left to those involved in the delivery of education. Please support HB485 Please support HB526. This is just the right thing to do for those who have come to reside in VA as a result of being the victim of human trafficking! Please support HB539. This is a minor and simple thing that institutions of higher ed can do to be fully trans parent to those individuals making application who have a criminal background!! Please support HB582. Today's college students need more assistance than ever in achieving a higher education, and making sure that they are aware of and have access to SNAP benefits that they may be entitled to is just a good idea!!
In support of HB 485, 582 & 629, George Mason University Science Prof. Dann Sklarew, PhD presents economic costs of Virginia retreating from combatting food insecurity on our campuses as well as benefits of action now. About one third of our public college & university students are now food insecure. Those who indefinitely trade "books for bread," & leave their studies to take care of their basic human needs, will lose out on $22,000/year in salary when compared to college graduates. Without college degrees, 1.1 million Virginians with only "some college" together forgo some $24.2 billion in income annually, while skilled labor vacancies remain empty. As Dr. Sklarew's former students & partners validate when they testify today, modest investments supporting food security can make a huge difference towards keeping hungry students healthy & graduating with professional, marketable skills. Regularly informing all college students of the federal "SNAP" food assistance program (HB 582), their eligibility & how to signup could bring $93 million to Virginia to reduce their food insecurity, according to SCHEV researcher Tom Allison. This would be at no notable cost to the Commonwealth or its campuses. Food insecure students ineligible for SNAP could still receive critical nourishment, shelter and/or transport resources from the proposed Student Emergency Aid Program (HB 485). My university has had a resource-limited version of this, "Stay Mason," that has done wonders for the students who benefitted. Once again, the Commonwealth working through SCHEV has a unique opportunity to scale institutional support toward the magnitude of the challenges we now face to help first generation, low income & other resource-limited students surmount their hunger-related challenges to realize their academic & career goals. & once again, we have the opportunity to invest in a voluntary program to help lift unsteady students back onto their feet. Both the SNAP & SEAP bills above provide direct benefits to an eligible subset of each institution's food insecure students. Both are needed but insufficient to resolve hunger among the one third of 525,000 Virginia college students who need food assistance. We also seek a systemic approach to incentivize public universities & community colleges to implement what we know works well, with resources to experiment, learn & close the gap for those students who need help beyond SNAP or SEAP. The 2-year Hunger-free Campus Grant Program (HB 629) does that by establishing a threshold of food security deployments expected at each school in order to be eligible for short-term capacity-building support to end hunger on campus. This approach recognizes that, at this time of decreasing enrollment (down 2.5% since 2019), keeping every student we can well-nourished in college until they graduate & can play an effective role in our workforce, this is a responsibility best shared between Richmond. its colleges & universities, & hungry students themselves. One of these partners alone cannot solve the challenge of participation in Mason's Patriot Pantry doubling in 2 years to over 300 students, for instance. My students surveyed 188 peers last semester: They discovered 80% deemed the hunger-free bill necessary (HB 629); 90% supported a bill for emergency assistance to students (HB485); yet too few had even heard of SNAP (HB 582). With your help & vote, we can do better. Thank you!