Public Comments for 01/15/2021 Education - Pre-K-12 Subcommittee
HB1742 - In-person instruction; education vouchers, etc.
Last Name: Brown Locality: Vienna

If the schools cannot or will not provide an in person 5 day a week education that is promised, allow the funds to follow the children to a system that can take care of their needs.

Last Name: Talavera Locality: Fairfax County

Our public school students are being left behind by the debacle that is virtual education! I pulled four students from FCPS this year because virtual education doesn't work, is harmful to students and families, and will leave our children at a huge disadvantage for years to come. I have spent over $2000 on books and a homeschool curriculum to educate most of my students at home, and am paying private school tuition for my oldest to complete high school in person this year. If our students are not given the public education we are paying for through our tax money, parents should be given vouchers to use that money towards private school or homeschooling programs that allow our children to get the education they deserve. I am irate that the public school systems are still getting money for students who have been withdrawn from the system due to the failures of virtual schooling. If they will not open the schools full time for any family who chooses that option, the public schools should forfeit the money from the students who need to go elsewhere for education that works. Private schools have been safely open since August with little to no transmission of COVID, and no deaths, while public school students continue to languish with distance learning. And please keep in mind that we will lose more students to suicide than COVID, largely due to the isolation and desperation caused by not allowing them in schools for a full year or more.

Last Name: Edwards Locality: Fairfax

I fully support HB1742. Our two children have not been to their school in person for 311 days. In my opinion Virtual Learning is substandard. Virtual learning does not provide for individualized help if the teacher can not see what the students are doing, children can not interact with their peers if cameras and microphones are off as is custom in older grades. Every Monday our children have Asynchronous work, the amount of work that is assigned barely is 1 hour so they are losing 20% of their school week of the bat. In the constitution of Virginia Article VIII states “The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational system of high quality is established and maintained. “ Virtual Learning is not high quality, it was a band aid intended to be a temporary fix for an unusual year. FCPS (Fairfax) is hemorrhaging students with close to 13,000 that have left the district to date because parents are desperate to find high quality education. This number is surely going to double as we hit the 1 year mark and families find other schools for Fall 2021. The superintendent and school board keep delaying an in-person return with still no concrete plans to return. It will most certainly be 1 full year if not longer before our children return in a 2 day a week model. We need the State to step in to fulfill their duties to Article VIII and help return our children to in-person school 5 days a week. Our children are our future and right now their basic right to education is being denied.

Last Name: Dooley Locality: Herndon

I'm the Parent of a 6th and 10th grade in Fairfax County Public School system. Please support in person, in school instruction as the primary method of instruction. My kids have suffered through 10 months of virtual learning which has fallen short of meeting my kids academic, social and emotional needs. They are really suffering from this distance virtual learning. They need the social interaction of their friends and teachers. Please support in school instruction as the principal method of instruction soonest so we can salvage what remains if the school year for our kids.

Last Name: Eitel Locality: Alexandria

I support reopening schools by any means necessary. Multiple scientific and medical sources and private and public school experiences establish that schools can safely reopen. Even our own Fairfax County Health Department has stated schools can safely reopen and has offered multiple supports to the School Board to make that happen in Fairfax County but to no avail. Moreover, there is broad, bipartisan agreement that kids should be in school buildings, including a commitment by the incoming Biden Administration that reopening schools should be a first 100 days priority. But the federal government has little authority over K-12 Education. That power in Virginia rests with the General Assembly under Article VIII of the Constitution-- the responsibility and duty to provide and maintain a high quality public education. But quality education has not happened in Fairfax County and elsewhere in Virginia for 308 days and counting. Remote learning--and the Fairfax County Public School Board--have failed the vast majority of our students’ educational, social, mental, and developmental needs. As of today, it has been 308 days since children have seen the inside of a classroom or a teacher's face on anything other than a screen. Although a few mature, older, and highly motivated children can learn well in a virtual environment, most cannot. Fairfax County School Board has repeatedly mismanaged every step of remote learning: o Cut instruction time more than 20% o Further reduced course content o Confronted with an unprecedented number of Fs (83% increase over prior years), rejiggered the grading scale rather than improve the product Surely history will adjudge the widespread and prolonged closing of schools one of the greatest failures of this era. Children do not get a “do-over” on childhood; there are opportunities and experiences—critical to childhood and adolescent growth—that have been lost and can never be regained. Use the authority vested in the General Assembly to ensure that the children of Virginia return to in person school five days a week immediately.

Last Name: Dimov Locality: Fairfax, Alexandria

Kids need in person education. I have a video where my son answered to my question "Do you learn anything at online school?" And he answered "not really ". This can't continue. He missed interaction with kids. He started to complain that his eyes hurt and that is very boring to stay on one place so he is like a spinner in the chair and at first I would try to make him stay still and listen but it was making things worse so I let him be. Please make the schools open otherwise I think by the next school year we moving out, not from county, but state. Because somehow Florida is open since the beginning and kids going to schools because Governor said they must open. Why parents have to fight along against teacher's unions and school boards here in VA? I have never seen something like that in my life. Please help us to open the schools!

Last Name: Cossaboon Organization: Chesapeake School Board Locality: Providence Forge

The Chesapeake School Board opposes this bill because it would take public school funding away from public schools during a pandemic – when the schools need it most. The safety of our children is more important than anything, but school funding is extremely important as well. Every locality should be able to decide what is best for its community, and every region has been impacted differently by Covid-19. These decisions must remain local. Thank you for your time! Johnna Cossaboon, Advantus Strategies Chesapeake Public Schools

Last Name: Aliff Organization: Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists Locality: Mechanicsvlle

With so many public schools not allowing students to meet in person, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists supports HB1742 and HB1770 as needed options for PreK though 12 students. It is time for Virginia to provide options for in-person learning which both of these bills provide. A majority of private Christian-based schools in Virginia have continued to meet in person and would gladly assist more students if parents were given the means and opportunity. These bills provide this opportunity. I ask that members of this committee allow these bills to pass. Thank you. Eddy Aliff Executive Director Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists

Last Name: Janssens Locality: Reston

Please give parents the option to send children to school in person, full time.

Last Name: McCann Locality: Chester

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to provide my endorsement of HB1742 and give my reasons why I feel strongly about this legislation. I am a registered nurse and a mom of 4 children in the public school system in Chesterfield County, which has not been in person learning essentially since March 12th 2020 when the Governor ordered the schools to cease in person learning. While at that time I perhaps understood why we took such extreme measures, however almost a year later it is inexcusable that children are still being denied a quality education. My oldest son is graduating this year and college was not a path in life he was interested in taking, so he decided to sign up for a two year program through the school to learn a trade and earn a certificate to move straight into the job field of his choosing. Well, he has only had one full semester or one fourth of the amount of information that he should have mastered in order to move straight into the work force. I have to ask you to seriously consider how you are going to feel when you go to a mechanic who has only received a quarter of the knowledge needed to repair your brakes, are you comfortable with that level of training? I would assume that you are not, let me pose it another way. Dr. Northam, if you only received a quarter of the education and hands on training required for your medical degree, do you feel that parents would be comfortable with you performing brain surgery on their child? Again, I am going to say they wouldn't be comfortable with that as well. My second grader gets about 10 minutes at a time of interaction with her teacher, and that time is interrupted by the teacher having to be an IT guru to try and trouble shoot issues that others in her class are having. I can appreciate the fears that have been perpetuated by the media that this is a highly deadly disease, yet honestly this illness has a 99% survival rate. The hospital that I work in is not over run by covid patients despite what the media is attempting to portray. Now with all of this said, if the teachers and schools refuse to open then the monies that are allotted for each child needs to be for the child and not the school. With my four children, one of which has learning disabilities, I would have chosen to take those funds and enrolled them in private institutions. As it is my husband had to resign from his job as a paramedic/fire fighter in the county to stay home with our children to be the teacher and IT specialist. When the public school system fails our children and parents have no funds to make it better it leaves us everyone feeling helpless. Again, I want to ensure that I appreciate the fears that teachers are vocalizing, but let us look at the ABC store employees that became essential over those that teach is ridiculous. Grocery, gas station clerks, ABC store employees, big box chain stores all essential, but teachers are not? Those "front line" employees that kept the shelves stocked never thought that they would be in the center of a "pandemic" but they showed up and did the job that they were hired to do, and now it is time for teachers to step up and do the job that they were hired to do. Let our children, every student, back in class or let the money attached to each child follow the child! Thank you for allowing me to speak/provide my thoughts to you on this purposed legislation and I pray that you will vote for this to pass.

Last Name: Nartowicz Organization: Americans United for Separation of Church and State Locality: Washington, DC

On behalf of the Virginia supporters of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I urge you to oppose HB 1742. This bill would give a voucher to parents who withdraw their children from a public school that provides virtual learning. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, public dollars should fund public schools, which serve 90% of America’s schoolchildren. The pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges for our public schools. They face mounting costs to ensure that students are able to safely and appropriately receive the education and services they need. At the same time, these schools are facing significant revenue loss because of the economic recession. Especially at this time, the legislature should not direct additional funding to private schools. Congress recently passed a COVID relief bill that provides federal funding for assistance and services in private schools. This is in addition to the funds that Congress already provided under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the CARES Act. Data shows that Virginia private schools received at least $125 million in forgivable PPP loans. In contrast, Virginia public schools, which were excluded from accessing PPP funding, only received $238 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Funds (https://bit.ly/3bztscG). In short, a few hundred private schools received more than half as much CARES Act funding as the entire Virginia public school system. To read AU’s report on how private and religious schools received PPP funds, please visit https://bit.ly/2LUeItV. Given the financial advantages that exist for private schools, the legislature should ensure that public schools receive the funding they need, rather than siphoning that funding to private schools. If we do not sufficiently fund our public schools, there is no fall back. Private school voucher programs lack accountability and oversight. Private schools receiving vouchers also do not provide the same rights and protections to students that they would have in public schools. And, studies show that students using vouchers do not achieve better educational outcomes. For more on why private school vouchers don’t work, please read my testimony on HB 1770. This legislature should focus on funding the public schools that serve the majority of students rather than diverting taxpayer dollars to private school programs that lack quality control, oversight, and accountability. For all these reasons and more, Americans United opposes HB 1742. Nikolas Nartowicz Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Last Name: Jones Locality: City of Fairfax

I am the mother of 3 school age children in the City of Fairfax, ages 6, 12, and 14. As you know they have been locked out of their schools for 10 months now. Superintendent Brabrand presented a full reopening plan to the school board recently to let kids back in this month and they completely shut it down with no clear direction or plan of their own. The Fairfax County Health Department represented by Dr. Addo-Ayensu has been telling this Board since July that they can open safely with mitigation measures and they completely ignore her. Dr. Brabrand presented clear information on how in school transmission can be kept low despite high community spread - this has been shown time and time again by the numerous other schools public and private that have been open since September. This Board continues to delay and not make any plan, and our children are paying the price (while private school kids get an in person education). The Board is completely dysfunctional and ignoring the numerous down sides of virtual learning on our youngest citizens. We cannot wait to get all the teachers vaccinated before opening schools. Both vaccines require a 2nd booster (the Moderna is after 28 days) and our health department will take time to work on the huge number of people in group 1B. Many teachers won't choose to get it. Then the associations and Board will say they need the boosters, then it is too close to the end of the year. My husband and I are essential workers and have been working since last March without the luxury of demanding a vaccine prior to showing up to our jobs. It is outrageous that pretty much every place else is open in Fairfax except school. We are imprisoned by this school system and desperate, please help.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

This to let you know that the Virginia Association of School Superintendents has serious concerns regarding HB 1742. Whether to have students in school during this time is a difficult decision for superintendents and student safety plays a major factor. In addition, we have had a longstanding position against vouchers as a solution for this type of issue. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Scotto Locality: Oakton

Please open schools for in person instruction. We have 3 children in FCPS who are struggling with remote learning. The technology is not great. All teachers are not using the same forum which makes it difficult for students to find all of their work. My children’s grades have dropped significantly affecting their GPA. We feel that we are being strung along by our superintendent and there is no intention to actually bring that students back to school. Please open the schools!

Last Name: Connor Locality: Fairfax City

I am a parent to two Fairfax County Public School students. One of the main reasons, my husband and I moved here was for the excellent public schools. My children are not receiving the education FCPS is supposed to be known for that I received as a child. They are suffering academically, emotionally, mentally and socially with our current virtual schooling. My 6th grader told me, " I am not learning what I could have if I had been if I had been in a classroom, in my school." On a weekly basis, my 3rd grader tells me, " I am not in real school, Mom. Real school is in my classroom with my teacher." The emotion toll is evident with meltdowns from being in front of a screen for 6+ hours a day. Kids can and should be in school, in person. I have family across the country and in all instances, my nieces and nephews have been in the classroom, in some capacity (some FT, 5 days) since last August. These school districts are doing the right thing by allowing kids to be in class where they belong. Unfortunately, the Fairfax County School Board has failed in taking the steps to have our children back in the classroom. Their lack of action and leadership is abysmal. They are failing our children on all levels with each passing day. Do not let this continue. Please support schools being open for in person instruction. Allow families to choose. Please help our children and families and give them a chance at a successful future. Thank you.

Last Name: Beal Locality: Vienna

I have three school aged daughters. Two continue to struggle through distance learning in 5th end 3rd grade. My kindergartener has been in person at a private Montessori school since September because the entire concept of virtual school for kindergarten is a joke! This is an incredible financial burden that should never have been an issue because she should be in public school like her older sisters! Even the older two (3 and 5th grade) are struggling with the absurdities that constitute learning through a computer. My husband and I both work full time and cannot be our children’s teachers. Virtual school does not work! The idea that we will be there to help the kids get through technology glitches, not to mention motivating them to continue staring at a screen all day, is completely unrealistic. One of my daughters also has ADHD and is significantly struggling to stay focused and engaged. In addition, more and more literature is coming out every day showing that in person schooling is not a significant source of community outbreaks. We should follow the science and adopt common sense measures that will allow children to be back physically in person—we’ve already lost too much time this school year. Our children need to be back in their school buildings now!

Last Name: Levine Locality: Fairfax County

Please step up and show leadership to reopen schools. A recent poll shows that support for in-person education has jumped 12% in Virginia, in the last few months, to the point where 54% now believe schools can be reopened safely . This number reflects people putting aside partisanship and listening to the scientific consensus that schools can be safely reopened with mitigation measures in place. Support for school reopening will continue to rise such that there will soon be a critical mass of public opinion favoring school reopening. This will leave large numbers of state legislators on the wrong side of history and facing opprobrium from voters on both sides of the aisle. Accordingly, now is the time to show leadership and get our kids back to school. History and voters will thank you.

Last Name: Hoey Locality: Alexandria

I am the parent of three Fairfax County Public School students. We moved to our neighborhood for the excellent schools. My children are now suffering academically and mentally due to online learning. We know know that schools all over our nation and the world have been open for in-person learning for months, and it is extremely frustrating that ours are not. We should be a leader in safe reopening. We should be following the data that supports children being in school in person. Study after study, including one by the CDC, shows that open schools do not contribute to community Covid19 transmission rates. In fact, in most studies, it has been shown that the virus is spread drastically less in schools than it is in the community surrounding the schools. But time and time again, the school board cites community transmission as a reason to keep schools closed. In FCPS, a collection of 12 school board members, most without children in the school system, are deciding to keep 180,000 students out of schools. They are willing to keep schools closed amid an 83% increase in failing grades, an exploding mental health crisis among students, a drastic drop in abuse reports, and forced joblessness for parents. It is unacceptable! Please do not let this continue. Please do not support school closures. Please help our children! Thank you.

Last Name: McDonough Locality: Centreville

Please give my children the option of in-person instruction , while allowing others choice to remain virtual. Please support early reading intervention for certain students. My 13-year old son has struggled since kindergarten to learn to read and write. In second grade, I requested the school screen him for additional support. At the time he was denied because he was deemed to be successful enough. With this year's closure of schools I saw his continuing struggles first-hand. With independent screening, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Early intervention would have saved him *years* of struggle. Please do not reduce the Standards of Learning assessments. We need to have specific, measureable metrics that indicate the impact to learning of the school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Name: Brown Locality: Fairfax

Our children have lost almost one academic year and there is no end in sight! Many families are struggling to keep their children engaged with virtual learning. Lower income students who cannot pay for private school are falling behind. FCPS has not provided families with sufficient rationale behind their metrics and have chosen a dogmatic rather than pragmatic approach. Schools around the country and state have reopened safely by adhering to peer-reviewed and tested COVID mitigation strategies. It’s time for our elected leaders to vote for families and students and not unions and bureaucrats!

Last Name: Garst Organization: DOD FAMILIES STATIONED HERE Locality: Fairfax County

As a military family, we chose not to turn in the required form to identify as a military family FORM 329. We know this form allows the schools to get grant funding on our behalf, and schools have not been open so we chose to NOT send it in for our 4 kids. We know many military families who boycotted the form in the same manner. So when they come and say "we had a hard time getting these forms back due to covid, please use last years #s" please note that is FALSE. We purposely did not return the forms. This is how we can show our dislike of the current situation. signed, a very unhappy military family.

Last Name: Ring Locality: Fairfax County

Closing schools is an extreme policy. Study after study shows us that schools can be open with mitigation measures in place. In fact, private schools in our community and schools around the nation and world show us it is possible. It’s time to follow the science, data, and advice of health experts to allow in-person instruction to K-12 students. The downsides of closed schools must be considered — mental health decline, lost learning, social isolation, excessive screen time, unreported abuse, increased failing grades, undetected cheating, unsupervised children — the list goes on. The most disadvantaged are hurt the most. It’s been more than 300 days since 97% of students in FCPS have been in a classroom. The damage done may be stemmed, but much of it is not reversible. We need leadership to do what is right for our kids. Please put the kids’ interests first and open the schools.

Last Name: Flickinger Locality: McLean

Support our children and return them in person school.

Last Name: Belisle Organization: My three children Locality: Alexandria

I am registered voter here in Fairfax county. I am also the wife of a Lt. Col. in the USAF. We just moved here and my kids are still stuck at home suffering through online school. They have never met their teacher or many of their classmates in person. NEVER! As a society we must stop asking children to continue to shoulder the burden of this pandemic. Military families count on the local school system to get acclimated to a new community. You owe this to the MANY military families who are forced to live here. All evidence supports that schools should open and remain open DESPITE community spread. We feel trapped here. Please do the right thing and open our schools!!!!! Please!

Last Name: Schmid Locality: Fairfax

Please open schools now for 5 day in-person instruction for those who want it.. My special needs child cannot benefit from virtual learning at all.

Last Name: Ward Locality: Fairfax County

Please tie state education funding to the school system being back in person within two weeks of teachers being eligible for COVID vaccination. FCPS school board needs this jolt to get things moving. Dr. Brayband has submitted plan after plan to get our kids back in school only to be met with school board members that are puppets of the teachers federations. It is unethical to offer teachers the vaccinations without swiftly returning them to the classrooms five days a week. The consecutive elective graduation requirement may have been meant to give depth in a subject to a graduate. It really is stifling. Some students need to keep taking electives before the find one that sparks their interest for further education. My junior has really struggled with what to take to fulfill this requirement. She tried chorus. Nope, not her thing. She took a sociology class that she loved, but there was lot a follow on course. The requirement doesn't make sense if follow ons can't be offered for all electives. Please get rid of the consecutive elective graduation requirement starting with the class of 2022. Thank you for your time.

Last Name: Carlson Locality: Fairfax

For too long the students and families of Fairfax County have been held captive by 12 people. The school board members continue to turn a blind eye to science in regards to the importance and ability of in person learning. I stand aghast that they presume to know more than the CDC, WHO, APA and other medical or pediatric organizations. Where is the accountability? Who can stand up for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the school leadership’s inability to provide an appropriate education? When the CDC shows scientific proof regarding transmission rates in schools as well as mitigation strategies to prevent spread, we should all sigh with relief and get back to the classrooms! Where FCPS gets the idea that virtual is the only opening right now, I do not know. Thousands of schools districts across the nation stand as evidence to the contrary. Be a leader in education. Open the schools for in person learning.

Last Name: Sheil Locality: Fairfax

As a parent and a pediatrician I implore you to mandate school reopening in Virginia, following the 5 mitigation strategies set forth by the CDC. In my school district nearly 50% of families voted for in person learning. The leader of Fairfax Health Dept. has urged schools to reopen. The AAP and VA AAP of which I am a member have strongly endorsed schools reopening. All of these endorsements are based on mitigation strategies despite community numbers. What is holding us back? We have millions of dollars of Covid money unused, groups to monitor adherence to mitigation strategies. Something doesn't add up...

Last Name: Martin Locality: Fairfax County

Schools need to be reopened immediately, enough is enough, kids are out of school building since last March, FCPS keeps giving false promises and disappointments to our kids in the name of reopening schools, our emails get filled with spam emails about reopening schools and form and surveys that we never saw the results of them! As parents we are devastated seeing our kids suffering emotionally, mentally and educationally because the lack of open schools, lack of communication and interacting with their peers, public schools becoming teachers learning centers instead of student learning center, watching videos of experiments in Bio and Chemistry instead of hands on experiences, virtual learning is against all methods of learning and teaching. Education focus should be the students and how to provide them with an environment that helps them to learn, develop, enhance and achieve their goals for after HS and prepare them for life, and this is not happing with the virtual schooling. If FCPS refuse to open schools and teachers Unions insist on their unrealistic demands, let’s have school choice so we can send our kids to private schools that provide our kids with appropriate education and meet their educational mental and emotional needs.

Last Name: Adrian Locality: Fairfax County

There are now many studies that demonstrate in-person school is not a significant risk to students, teachers, and other school staff. The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics support opening schools and now that teachers can receive the vaccine, there is no excuse for not opening the doors of our public schools. Other areas of the country have been delivering in-person education with only minor delays, Virginia MUST step up and do the same. Virginia counties must provide the option of 5 day in-person instruction. Anyone who wants virtual can stay virtual. For those of us that see the damage being done to kids including mental health struggles including a massive increase in suicide attempts, we cannot wait any longer. Vulnerable children from the poorest of families are falling farther and farther behind their peers and not receiving basic services they would if schools were open. There is a clear and present danger for the children in the commonwealth that seems to be ignored over the demands of vocal adults.

Last Name: Laiti Locality: Fairfax County

Please bring our children back for in-person instruction 5 days/wk. I have a special needs preschooler in FCPS who absolutely needs in-person instruction- virtual for a 4 year old on the spectrum is not feasible. I also have a 1st grader with an IEP. 6 year olds should be in school, not on a laptop all day. They read, type, and spell at a 1st grade level, which makes using a computer difficult! I have to help her with pretty much everything- submitting work, troubleshooting, typing, spelling, and reading directions. She does not get the social interaction needed for her age, either. Send our kids back to school! It has been long enough.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents opposes both HB 1742 and HB 1770. We have longstanding positions against vouchers and student savings accounts that take funding away from local school divisions. Vouchers and student savings accounts are difficult to monitor and are often used as a way to support private schools with public dollars. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

Last Name: Friesen Locality: Fairfax County

My children have been repeatedly brought to tears by our school superintendent planning some sort of return to school, and then either he or our school board completely torpedoing it. My children's teachers are working harder than ever and are both willing to return to school with mitigation measures in place. My children will happily wear their masks, wash their hands, keep their distance, and do whatever it takes to have in-person learning. Every single day we have issues with some form of technology used by our district - Google Meet kicks students out, Google Classroom randomly deletes an uploaded assignment, a math learning game freezes, someone's microphone stops working, and more. Education should not hinge on software - education should hinge on teachers, students, and families. Distance learning has put buggy technological mediators in the way, leaving students depressed, unmotivated, and not learning. Meanwhile for those districts or private schools with a will to open, students are in a much better place even through COVID-19 mitigation measures. The impact of uneven COVID-19 reopening has been to show us that organizations will open if doing so is the only way they get funding. With AAP, CDC, and other experts saying schools should be open, it is up to the Commonwealth of Virginia to make sure the money is tied to opening.

Last Name: Riddle Locality: Fairfax County

In person instruction for our students is critical. The lack of human interaction on a daily basis for many students is doing damage to the social and emotional well being of these students. Learning through a computer does not work for many students. Being alone in a room all day doesn't work for many students. Let's not forget the special needs students who can't even learn via a virtual method without someone by their side helping. Even many average students are failing because there is no accountability or time with the teacher. When students are in person the teacher can see who understands the material presented by observing the students in the room. Now in a virtual setting there is no observation. The cameras are off, especially for the high school students, and therefore the teacher keeps on going not knowing if the material is understood or not. There should be no additional funding or even a cut in funding for those public school systems who will not allow students back in the buildings. Our kids need to feel part of society again. Unfortunately this virus is not going away and thus we as society need to incorporate the proper mitigation strategies into our lives. Schools can do this, many private schools have and continue to instruct in person. There is zero reasons that the public schools can't do the same.

Last Name: Turk Locality: Fairfax

In the entire history of the US public education system, providing a physical space to learn  has always been a core tenet of the system.   It is deeply embedded in the social contract between the public school system and all persons living on US soil. It has never been the parent's responsibility to provide physical space to receive public education. Hundreds of thousands of US workers (cashiers, taxi drivers, maintenance workers, food service workers, hospital employees, among many other professions) have long relied on public education to provide this physical space for learning. The children of these professionals are disproportionately  impacted by the lack of the public education system to provide physical space. Public health authorities have long provided guidance to open the schools; however, the ineffective, inefficient, and self serving school board has found countless excuses to prevent schools from opening. Stop funding closed schools.

Last Name: Franklin Organization: NONE Locality: Fairfax County

PARENTS SHOULD BAND TOGETHER AND START A CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST FCPS FOR NOT PROVIDING THE EDUCATION THAT OUR TAX DOLLARS PAY FOR! WE WANT IN PERSON LEARNING, NOT VIRTUAL. WE HAVE VOCALIZED THAT BY VOTING, YET IT GETS US NOWHERE. NOBODY IS LISTENING TO THE PARENTS. IF SOME PARENTS ARE AFRAID AND WANT VIRTUAL, THEN THEY SHOULD REMAIN VIRTUAL. GIVE THE REST OF US IN PERSON LEARNING. TEACHERS WHO DONT WANT TO TEACH IN PERSON SHOULD FIND ANOTHER CAREER. THANK GOD OUR DOCTORS AND NURSES DIDNT SAY THIER JOBS WERE TOO RISKY TO GO IN. THE NONSENSE NEEDS TO END. ITS ABOUT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, NOT ABOUT VIRUS THREATS.

Last Name: Cleveland Organization: Fairfax County Public School Parents (FCPSP) Locality: Fairfax County

The school unions are moving the goal posts now that there's a vaccine. Saying that kids now need the vaccine is just going to push this to 2022 because there isn't a vaccine even made for kids. somehow the schoolboards and teachers unions need to be unlinked. There's too much money being traded between them and they have lost sight of who the real stakeholders are, the children. Virtual learning needs to end. Someone needs to withhold the School funding until they reopen. Schoolboard Member Karl Frisch is trying to misappropriate funds. He suggested they take the CARES funding and convert to teachers bonuses. Meanwhile his "husband" is a FCPS teacher. Seems a bit of a conflict of interest is happening. That funding should be used to REOPEN schools. Not pay his husband in a bonus when the teachers aren't even IN schools teaching. If the ABC liquor stores can be open this entire time, then schools should be open. pure corruption.

Last Name: Howard Locality: Fairfax County

Students in Fairfax County, Virginia are suffering with virtual learning. It should be a crime to ask a 6 year old child to sit isolated in front of a computer for nearly 7 hours per day. If public schools cannot figure out a way to reopen, parents and students need school choice. Recent clinical research has shown that schools are not “super-spreaders” like we once thought. As Dr. Fauci has recently said, “close the bars and open the schools!”

Last Name: Brown Locality: Fairfax County

I believe the in person learning needs to resume. This has been causing such stress in many families like mine. I have 4 young school age children, and the youngest being in Kindergarten. She has learned nothing this year. In fact, she cries everyday to NOT have to be online. Its just not a conducive learning environment for the littler kids. They are not learning, in fact my child has regressed since preschool a year ago. While I understand the seriousness of the virus, I also see many school districts open and making it happen. My husbands other kids in another state, are going in wearing masks. it does work, and others are doing it successfully. have they had to shut down intermittently? yes. but its not often. I also see that the argument is about "equity" however the schoolboard members in our county don't realize that the "priviledged" families are supplementing with tutors/private school etc. I know this because my husband is tutoring many families within our neighborhood because he has a PHD in physics. So the argument of the "black and brown students are subjects of inequities" therefore we need to remain virtual is actually backfiring and pushing them even further behind. We understand that many are living in multigenerational homes, and taking the virus home to their loved ones isn't ideal, however many of us who are paying for the in person education through our property taxes, deserve to have the opportunity to be in person learning. We are not going to have a perfect resolve, but we can move forward and actually TRY based on the recommendations of our FFX county health department. They have provided much guidance on this and our schoolboard has discredited everything the Doctors have brought to the table. One huge area of concern is the hypocrisy of it all. It feels like a slap in the face to many of us hard working parents. One is the success of the "SRS" SACC program. These function in the schools and was put into place to support those parents who work fulltime and cannot Telework. My husband and I fall into that category however we would have to pay $1400 per child to use this service! So if you pay, schools are open. I deserve a credit back to me for the property tax I pay on my home which is assessed over $800,000. My husband and I both work in intelligence for the Government and cannot telework due to the nature of our jobs. So we now have to dish out this money for either private school or SRS SACC program. Sounds pretty equitable? not really. Its price gouging. Another issue is that the recent immigrants are allowed back into the schools due to them being categorized as cohort 1 or 2. So because these individuals migrated here recently and Don't speak english, they are allowed to be in person schooling prioritized over my kids who do speak english. Again, should I be getting a tax break here when their parents aren't paying property taxes? I reached out to my schoolboard member and she told me all this, about the SRS program and the non-english speakers, so these are FACTS not hearsay. I am a product of FCPS and cannot believe we are moving in this direction. Oh and I don't want to hear the racism argument because I am a BLACK woman! I am a hard working BLACK woman and want my kids BACK IN SCHOOL to get the education I PAY FOR.

Last Name: Turkeltaub Locality: Fairfax

Since March 2020 FCPS children have been locked out of school. While it might have made sense at the time for schools to be closed this is no longer the case. With mask wearing schools all across the united states (TN, OK,KA, GA,TX (houston), Utah, FL, CA (San Diego) have reopened for 5 days of in person education, while FCPS has remained closed. Our school board is incapable of making reasonable strategic based decisions on this matter and has not had a single session on reopening schools for 5 days of education. The school board makes emotional decisions and as soon as someone says "it is not safe" debate ends and schools remain closed. The school board is incapable of making well thought strategic decisions about return to school. Virtual learning is a failure. The social, emotional and intellectual well being of our children is not represented. Schools should not be funded unless a 5 day in person option is offered for all students. All scientific evidence supports this case. The school board reserves public comment times for only the FEA, thereby shutting out any parent who wants to represent the well being of their children. We have continuously asked our school board members how can these other counties be open for 5 days of in person education while you keep even the youngest children (k-6) locked out? No school board member will go on record to even discuss this topic. They ignore the questions in emails, they ignore parents who question it. The FCPS school board refuses to address parent questions regarding why are other school districts open but we are closed? Without intervention at the state legislative level the school board will keep our schools closed forever. They have no plans to return students to the buildings. Several months ago FCPS school board members meet with our state representatives and told them the concurrent model will be rolled out. After the meeting the school board cancelled all plans to roll out the concurrent model. Our children have a right to in person education. This is a key tenet to the public education system. While the public health crisis closed the schools, initially, public health supports schools reopening for 5 days of in person education where mask wearing is mandated, but the school board has kept schools closed. Schools should not be funded without a 5 day in person option. Help the children. Represent their best interests. #openFCPS

Last Name: Moore Locality: Hampton

I am a parent of a Hampton high-schooler and a big fan of school choice. Especially when public options are limited. Hampton City Schools have an academy program through their high schools that is essentially "school choice" within our city. Graduation rates are the highest they have ever been. School choice works. Parents should have the right to educate their children in the manner they choose.

HB1770 - Public education; student education accounts.
Last Name: Aliff Organization: Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists Locality: Mechanicsvlle

With so many public schools not allowing students to meet in person, the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists supports HB1742 and HB1770 as needed options for PreK though 12 students. It is time for Virginia to provide options for in-person learning which both of these bills provide. A majority of private Christian-based schools in Virginia have continued to meet in person and would gladly assist more students if parents were given the means and opportunity. These bills provide this opportunity. I ask that members of this committee allow these bills to pass. Thank you. Eddy Aliff Executive Director Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists

Last Name: Freitas Locality: Culpeper

Speaking to my bill 1770

Last Name: Nartowicz Organization: Americans United for Separation of Church and State Locality: Washington, DC

On behalf of the Virginia supporters of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I urge you to oppose HB 1770. This bill would allow school divisions to establish education savings accounts—also known as private school vouchers. Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, public dollars should fund public schools, which serve 90% of America’s schoolchildren. Private school vouchers divert desperately needed public resources away from public schools to fund the education of a few students at private schools; yet they do not improve educational outcomes. Studies of the Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio voucher programs revealed that students who used vouchers actually performed worse on standardized tests than their peers not in voucher programs. With a record proving they don’t work, there is no justification for funneling more money into vouchers. In addition, private school voucher programs lack accountability and oversight. Private schools that benefit from vouchers do not have to be accredited, hire licensed teachers, or adhere to the same curriculum requirements as public schools. HB 1770 and HB 1742 also lack important oversight and enforcement mechanisms for how voucher funds are spent. But voucher programs in other states have been used for fraudulent purchases. Private schools also do not have to abide by federal civil rights laws that apply to public schools. For example, voucher students would no longer benefit from Title IX protections, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. Students would also be stripped of their First Amendment, due process, and other constitutional and statutory rights. And students with disabilities would forfeit many of the protections provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Voucher programs fund discrimination. While public schools are open to and must serve all students, private schools accepting vouchers often deny students admission or expel them for many reasons, including based on their religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, academic abilities, disciplinary history, disability, or ability to pay tuition. Vouchers also predominantly fund religious schools, and there is no reason to believe this voucher would be different. It is a fundamental principle of religious liberty, however, that government should not compel any citizen to pay for someone else’s religious education. Indeed, this principle has been enshrined in state law since 1786, when Virginia passed the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It is also enshrined in Articles I, IV, and VIII of the Virginia Constitution. This voucher would violate these core religious freedom protections. For these reasons and more, Americans United opposes HB 1770. To learn about the many problems associated with vouchers, please visit https://www.ncpecoalition.org/facts. Nikolas Nartowicz Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

This is to let you know that the Virginia Association of School Superintendents has serious concerns regarding HB 1770. We have a long standing position opposing student savings accounts that take funding away from local school divisions. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Martin Locality: Fairfax County

Schools need to be reopened immediately, enough is enough, kids are out of school building since last March, FCPS keeps giving false promises and disappointments to our kids in the name of reopening schools, our emails get filled with spam emails about reopening schools and form and surveys that we never saw the results of them! As parents we are devastated seeing our kids suffering emotionally, mentally and educationally because the lack of open schools, lack of communication and interacting with their peers, public schools becoming teachers learning centers instead of student learning center, watching videos of experiments in Bio and Chemistry instead of hands on experiences, virtual learning is against all methods of learning and teaching. Education focus should be the students and how to provide them with an environment that helps them to learn, develop, enhance and achieve their goals for after HS and prepare them for life, and this is not happing with the virtual schooling. If FCPS refuse to open schools and teachers Unions insist on their unrealistic demands, let’s have school choice so we can send our kids to private schools that provide our kids with appropriate education and meet their educational mental and emotional needs.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents opposes both HB 1742 and HB 1770. We have longstanding positions against vouchers and student savings accounts that take funding away from local school divisions. Vouchers and student savings accounts are difficult to monitor and are often used as a way to support private schools with public dollars. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

Last Name: Moore Locality: Hampton

HB1770 As a parent, I believe school choice is the best evolution of public education. Hampton City Schools have an academy choice program in their high schools, which is essentially school choice and their graduation rates are the highest they have ever been. HB1940 It is extremely important for next-generation Americans to be active in civil and political engagement. HB1904 This bill concerns me greatly. Who gets to decide when someone is "culturally competent"? Is it when they haven't offended someone? Is it when they can quote the class curriculum? Do salaries hinge on the evaluator's definition of "cultural competence"? This sounds a lot like critical race theory and an attempt to further divide our state/country.

HB1776 - Education, Board of; temporary extension of certain teachers' licenses.
Last Name: Beyer Locality: WillIamsburg

I support the notion that schools should be open 5 days a week immediately or the districts should be defunded. Taxpayer money is being wasted. CARES money is being misappropriated. Please help stop the madness and send our kids back now!

Last Name: Twyman Locality: Virginia Beach

Please consider putting these bills into effect.

Last Name: Scipio Locality: Orange County,, Locust Grove

In favor of programs to better facilitate the development and progress of my community.

Last Name: Riddle Organization: Virginia Education Association Locality: Richmond City

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) supports HB 1776 and we urge the committee to favorably report HB 1776. Thank you.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents is in strong support of HB 1776. The COVID-19 crisis has made it extremely difficult for teachers to meet these requirement as schools have gone from virtual to in-person and back. Thank you, Dr. Tom Smith VASS

HB1790 - Public schools; severe weather conditions and other emergency situations.
Last Name: Beyer Locality: WillIamsburg

I support the notion that schools should be open 5 days a week immediately or the districts should be defunded. Taxpayer money is being wasted. CARES money is being misappropriated. Please help stop the madness and send our kids back now!

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents is in support of HB 1790. This is an issue that impacts all areas of the Commonwealth and will assist in the continuity of learning during periods of extreme weather or emergency situations. Thank you Dr. Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Joshi Locality: Falls church

Snow days shouldn’t be ended.

HB1798 - Brunswick County school board; appointed school board salaries.
Last Name: Beyer Locality: WillIamsburg

I support the notion that schools should be open 5 days a week immediately or the districts should be defunded. Taxpayer money is being wasted. CARES money is being misappropriated. Please help stop the madness and send our kids back now!

HB1823 - Public schools, child day programs, and certain other programs; carbon monoxide detectors required.
Last Name: Beyer Locality: WillIamsburg

I support the notion that schools should be open 5 days a week immediately or the districts should be defunded. Taxpayer money is being wasted. CARES money is being misappropriated. Please help stop the madness and send our kids back now!

HB1904 - Teachers and other licensed school board employees; cultural competency.
Last Name: Qarni Organization: Governor's Office Locality: Richmond

The Northam Administration strongly supports this bill.

Last Name: Evans Organization: New American History at the University of Richmond Locality: Fluvanna

Dear Members of the House Education Subcommittee: I am writing to you as an educator, a constituent, and a concerned citizen to encourage you to support the work of the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education, specifically in support of the Culturally Competent Virginia Educators bill SB 1196 carried by Senator Mamie Locke, and HB 1904 carried by Delegate Clinton Jenkins. The brutal attack last week on our democracy at the United States Capitol clearly demonstrates the urgent need for better history and civic education in our schools, and better teacher preparation programs. It is not enough to just change or add to the Standards of Learning or revise our state curriculum. We must also ensure all of our educators are equipped with the tools and resources they need to build relationships with all students and help all students learn more complete and truthful narratives about our nation’s past so they can become well informed and engaged citizens who will lead our communities, state, and country in the future.  These changes will not happen overnight, and they will not happen only in K12 social studies classrooms.  All educators, administrators, school, and community leaders must come together now and support this important work.  Our partners in higher education, museums, and cultural sites stand ready to support this work across the Commonwealth, and it is up to you now to support it with legislation that emphasizes culturally competent best teaching practices rooted in specific content knowledge to teach African American history with sensitivity and confidence. Our students deserve no less, and we are counting on you to make the right decisions for their future. This work is more important than ever.  Respectfully, Anne M. Evans Director of Education and Outreach New American History

Last Name: Moore Locality: Hampton

HB1770 As a parent, I believe school choice is the best evolution of public education. Hampton City Schools have an academy choice program in their high schools, which is essentially school choice and their graduation rates are the highest they have ever been. HB1940 It is extremely important for next-generation Americans to be active in civil and political engagement. HB1904 This bill concerns me greatly. Who gets to decide when someone is "culturally competent"? Is it when they haven't offended someone? Is it when they can quote the class curriculum? Do salaries hinge on the evaluator's definition of "cultural competence"? This sounds a lot like critical race theory and an attempt to further divide our state/country.

HB1915 - Teachers; required to be compensated at or above national average.
Last Name: Deaver Locality: Williamsburg

Williamsburg James City County Schools has been in a remote learning setting for almost one year, as the schools closed in March 2020. With the exception of 8 days of in person learning last October on a hybrid schedule, we have been forced to stay home for education. Its been a complete disappointment to say the least. I have a second grader who thrives attending school in person. The past year has been extremely challenging for the entire family. I work part time so thankfully I can stay home to sit beside her and help with assignments, because that is truly what it takes to get her through a day of school at home. I also care for a child under the age of 2. The toll the pandemic has caused is devastating for so many. We need to bring back in person learning for these kids as soon as possible FULL TIME, five days a week. If we do not our kids with only suffer more academically and emotionally. I feel as if our school system has let us down this year and unfortunately there is no plan in sight for next year. Enough is enough.

Last Name: Glass Locality: Chesterfield

Respected congresspersons and committee members, I am a Virginia educator. I have been teaching for 11 years and I make less than 50,000. Some people argue that teachers do not work in the summer so we should only be paid for 9 or 10 months of work. Please be aware that the summer is a time most teachers work to improve their teaching skills or materials. We have mandatory trainings that must be completed during this time too. Our continuing education is frequently out of our own pocket and it is mandatory to keep our jobs and maintain our state required licenses. We receive a tax credit for some school expenses but I and most other teachers spend way more than the limit for improved materials in our classroom. Not only are we tasked with teaching the lowest income students in an equal manner with more affluent students but there have been consistent cuts in funding for school supplied resources. We as teachers pay for lab supplies, lab equipment, and even the paper for our copies and the students to write on, out of our already low compensation. We are taking up the slack in providing for the low income students that the state is not funding adequately. I have been told that since all kids cannot afford to have a specific school supply that we have to provide it for them or not use it in the classroom. We are also working in buildings that are poorly furnished and in very poor repair. Thus we buy blankets and heaters and other furnishings to help our students be comfortable. My kids come to school hungry and have very little prospect for a good meal at home. I provide snacks to help them be able to feel safe and able to learn. I have a responsibility to my family to control my spending on school related resources. I also have a responsibility to my students to teach in the best way I can, to treat them as if they matter, and that they are equal to everyone else. This kind of funding and support should not be required out of my already substandard pay. I as an individual cannot be responsible for bridging the income gap the state chooses not to cover. My kids are not responsible for this gap and neither am I. Please help resolve this social injustice and support both teachers and the families that need the support many teachers currently provide without being compensated.

Last Name: Jimenez Organization: Chesterfield County Schools Locality: Richmond

Teachers should not have to keep proving the fact that that constantly earn a better pay than what they are given. It is common knowledge that teachers work more than just contracted hours. Even if we only worked contracted hours, we would still deserve more pay. Anyone with common sense would realize that teachers deserve at least the bare minimum of a national average teachers' salary. Can we not give teachers the bare minimum? CCPS can certainly afford to give teachers better pay, no one is being fooled. Give teachers at least the national average of a salary.

Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

Chairperson and Members of the Committee, I strongly support HB1915. Applause!

Last Name: Kirchberg Locality: Chesterfield

Teachers often work outside of contract hours and weekends, yet don't get overtime or extra pay for that effort. We go to school to get our degrees for the same amount of time as many other professionals, but are paid like a person right out of high school. Without teachers we wouldn't have our doctors, nurses, firefighters, tech geniuses, etc. If this year has taught us anything it is that the majority of people do not want to homeschool their children and that is okay. It is okay because you have dedicated people who often spend money out of their already small paycheck to buy things to make their classroom even greater. You keep talking about how we need to get kids back in school to start making things better overall after the pandemic and we have stepped up and done what needs to be done. If it is so important that students get back, then why is it not so important to pay those people that make this possible? Many teachers are forced to work multiple jobs just to make sure they can pay their bills. Teacher deserve a wage that reflects the dedicated, hard-working professionals that they are.

Last Name: Russell Organization: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Locality: Hampton

This is to urge you to support the increase of teacher’s salaries in the Commonwealth of Virginia to or above the national average. As you know teachers often work beyond the scope of their work day and often use their own resources to supplement the learning experience. In addition we loose good teacher’s to higher paying professions.

Last Name: Cox Locality: Chesterfield

HB1915- Children are the future. Teachers care for our future and should be paid in a way that reflects the sentiment that we care for the future of our country. HB1987- This should be allowed for mental health especially. Many mental health in-person appointments are missed because someone’s mental illness keeps them from leaving the house or the person doesn’t have childcare at the time where they need to make the appointment. Telehealth will help with accessibility.

Last Name: Ambrose Locality: Chesterfield

Dear Sirs or Madams, Please consider putting this through, may teachers like myself are struggling to feed our own kids and to provide for our our families on our current salary. We are constantly asked to go above and beyond our hours of work, for our students and often leave our own children to be looked after with expense that is not covered or one that we have to spend. We are losing our best staff to other career paths due to the fact they can't make a life financially with our current pay. Please consider as many of us have had to work to drastically change and pivot on daily basis's between virtual and in class or both at the same time.

Last Name: Twyman Locality: Virginia Beach

Please consider putting these bills into effect.

Last Name: Scipio Locality: Orange County,, Locust Grove

In favor of programs to better facilitate the development and progress of my community.

Last Name: Jorgensen Locality: Henrico

Teachers in Virginia are some of the most dedicated and invested I have ever seen. They have adapted quickly, professionally and effectively when COVID 19 has thrown curveball after curveball. The fact that teachers in Virginia are so underpaid, especially when considering the relative wealth in the state of Virginia is simply embarrassing. Teachers are professionals, and should be paid as such. Paying teachers AT the national average should quite honestly not be something that we have to fight for. With the teacher shortage in Virginia continuing to grow, giving teachers a competitive salary is an investment in the children of Virginia. I am a 6th year teacher, and I can guarantee that my instruction now is far better than it was my first few years; and I know it will continue to improve as long as I stay in the classroom. Children deserve teachers who have been in the classroom long enough to truly understand their needs and have the tools to meet their needs. New teachers need veteran teachers to mentor them and guide them along their way. Teachers in Virginia are leaving this profession in such a way that there soon will be no veteran teachers. People say teachers don’t teach for the money but, to be honest, we do. Yes we teach because we love children and love to help them learn, but this doesn’t pay the bills or provide a comfortable life for our families. Increasing teacher pay to AT LEAST the national average would allow teachers to stay in this profession. Teachers would not feel forced out because their pay can no longer comfortably support their family.

Last Name: Irby Locality: Charlottesville

I would like to voice my support of this bill. Teachers have the highest wage penalty out of all 50 states and DC compared to other adults with bachelor's degrees according the analysis by the Economic Policy Institute This means Virginia has the least competitive teacher salary in the country There is a growing shortage of teachers throughout the state and workforce supply is projected to get worse over the coming decade Thank you again for your time and I urge you to vote yes on this bill.

Last Name: Pannabecker Organization: Virginia Organizing Locality: Montgomery County, Blacksburg

Regarding HB1915 - Mugler -- teacher pay in Virginia is far below what it should be. As a parent of a student in secondary school in Montgomery County in Southwest VA, we - families, students, teachers, and our schools *desperately* need you to actually fund real, quality education, a big part of which is competitive teacher pay! They have one of the hardest and most important positions in our communities. In many ways we are asking teachers to do more and more and these priorities are important! To increase equitable, culturally responsive education and improve curriculum, to provide online education in the face of a massive pandemic, to enact Standards of Quality, to care for and be fully present and active in providing the best education for all students in Virginia, and then we pay one of the LOWEST pay rates for educators across the country! We need to fully fund our schools, and this means fully funding our important teachers! Regarding HB 1940 - Rasoul - Students; guidelines on excused student absences, civic or political engagement. Engaging in civic or political engagement is a core foundation of our democracy. As a parent in Montgomery County, I believe my daughters, and all students will only gain from being part of these activities and we should do everything we can to support and make it easy for students to do so. I urge the committee to pass and report this bill for voting and to support it when it comes up for a vote. Thank you for the opportunity to share comments. Sincerely, Virginia Pannabecker 705 S. Main St., Apt A-3, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Last Name: Clark Locality: Newport News

I'm a teacher in Gloucester County who is experiencing living paycheck to paycheck because Virginia teachers are paid under an acceptable salary. I should not have to worry about healthcare expenses as a salaried employee, which is the reality I am living in right now. I have an upcoming surgery and have been dealing with physical therapy, respectively, and I'm worried about credit card debt and use of my money for daily living at the same time. If we are as respected and as needed as you all say we are, then our health and living should be taken care of. We deserve higher wages.

Last Name: Semler Locality: Fairfax County

As a teacher for Fairfax county schools I think it’s imperative that we give educators the competitive salaries they deserve reflective of the important work we do. I have devoted my life to this field and have utmost respect to my fellow educators who for years have sacrificed for their students. Many educators cannot afford their own cars or are living in debt cycles especially if they have children of their own. We need to pay our teachers better to have happier teachers and better teacher retention. Thank you for your consideration on this important topic.

Last Name: Ward Organization: Virginia Public Education Partners Locality: Midlothian

I support HB1915. Virginia's teachers are the lowest paid in the country - this is not a point of pride for Virginia. Please take action so that Virginia's public education system does not decline. Teacher shortages will only get worse if something is not done about the pay gap. Please pass this legislation.

Last Name: Graham Locality: Chesterfield County

VA has the least competitive teacher salary in the country. There is a growing shortage of teachers throughout the state and it is projected to get worse over the next 10 years. The Commonwealth needs to fund teacher salaries at or above the national average. Enacting and fully funding the provisions of HB1915 will more adequately compensate teachers and reduce the projected shortage of staff.

Last Name: Keegan Locality: Richmond City

I am writing in support of HB1915. I have been a teacher for 20 years. We struggle to attract and keep teachers. Our job expectations have increased, but our salaries have remained abysmal. Teachers are choosing to leave the profession because they no longer feel valued. Why would they feel valued when Virginia's salaries are the least competitive in the country. There are teacher shortages everywhere and Virginia is no different. We must attract and retain young professionals. As a state we can not continue to put education professionals on the back burner. If we want to continue to bring new teachers into the profession and retain veteran teachers we must compensate them. I came to Virginia 25 years ago to teach. I saw opportunity for professional growth, strong educational supports and a state government that valued education. As the years passed, I feel like policies and budget cuts have chipped away at those values. Teachers are professionals. They need to be treated as such and compensated in a way that reaffirms that Virginia values education. Please support bringing teacher salaries to the level (or above the level) or the national average. Help put education first. Thank you for your time.

Last Name: Bowker Locality: Richmond

I am writing to urge you to pass HB1915 to require teachers be paid at or above the national average. Please eliminate the wage penalty and enable teachers to earn a competitive teacher salary. A shortage of teachers throughout the state will harm the Commonwealth's students, all of whom are deserving of high quality teachers, especially in the aftermath of closed schools due to the pandemic.

Last Name: Shane Riddle Organization: Virginia Education Association Locality: Richmond City

The Code of Virginia (§22.1-289.1) states: It is a goal of the Commonwealth that its public school teachers be compensated at a rate that is competitive in order to attract and keep highly qualified teachers. As used in this section, “competitive” means, at a minimum, at or above the national average teacher salary. According to the most recent state-by-state comparison, Virginia’s average teacher salary is $9,037 below the national average, which ranks our state 33rd nationally. In contrast, Virginia continually ranks among the wealthiest states in the country, most recently ranking 11th nationally in median household income. State support for public education continues to lag behind pre-recession levels. Going into the 2019-20 school year, state spending per pupil (inflation-adjusted) was 8% lower than it was in 2008-09. While some ground was made up during the 2020 regular session of the General Assembly, all new spending was unallotted at the reconvened session with very little restored during the special session. State funding per student is still down 4% this year compared to FY09. This reduced spending translates not only to lower salaries but to fewer teachers and support staff, larger classes, reduced course offerings, outdated materials, reduced access to technology and delayed building improvements. These effects are most keenly felt in smaller, rural, and/or less affluent localities that are less able to make up for the loss of state support at the local level. Among the proposed budget amendments introduced last month, Governor Ralph Northam included a 2% bonus for SOQ funded instructional and support positions in FY22, contingent on general fund revenues meeting the forecast for FY21. Alternatively, the governor stated he intends to push for the one-time bonus to be converted to a permanent pay raise of at least 2% if revenues continue to come in ahead of forecast. The VEA appreciates the governor’s recognition that our educators have put themselves and their families at risk and have worked tirelessly taking care of our students throughout the pandemic, but bonuses do not lift educator salaries. Delegate Mugler's bill, HB 1915, will provide a solid path to increasing educator pay to the national average. The VEA supports HB 1915 and we call on all Education Committee Members, as well as, the full Virginia General Assembly to sign-on in support of HB 1915. Let's show educators that the Commonwealth values them for their unwavering dedication to the profession of public education and to the students they teach.

Last Name: Irby Locality: Charlottesville

Teachers have the highest wage penalty out of all 50 states and DC compared to other adults with bachelor's degrees according the analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. This means Virginia has the least competitive teacher salary in the country. There is a growing shortage of teachers throughout the state and workforce supply is projected to get worse over the coming decade . Please compensate public school teachers at a rate that is at or above the national average. Please fund a 4.5 percent annual increase from the 2022-23 school year through the 2026-27 school year This starts July 1, 2022, which is the next budget period, so our current shortfall will not affect it Thank you.

Last Name: McCullough Organization: VASCD Locality: North Garden

Virginia ASCD strongly supports adjustments to teacher salaries that will bring them in line with those of surrounding states, help to mitigate our growing problem with teacher shortages, and enable teachers to live and raise their families in the communities in which they work.

Last Name: Figueroa Locality: Charlottesville

I ask you to consider increasing the salary levels for teachers in VA to or above the national level. Right now, school districts in VA are struggling to retain and hire teachers because VA has one of the lowest pay. Teachers are so important for our economy to function, as this pandemic has shown us. Lets reward all their efforts and hard work fairly.

Last Name: McFadden Locality: Chesterfield County

Hello, My name is Molly McFadden and I am a special education teacher (#1 critical teaching area in VA based on VDOE https://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/workforce_data/index.shtml) in Chesterfield County. This is my 9th year teaching, 8 of which have been with Chesterfield County, and 1 year working in Richmond Public Schools with Fit4Kids as a Wellness Integrator. After reviewing the data about VA teacher pay (https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2020/RD40/PDF), I am heart broken at what I read. I know we have always been underpaid, but I had no idea how much lower we are than other states. Our percent change in salary from 1999-2000 to 2016-2017 is -8.1 (https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d17/tables/dt17_211.60.asp). Virginia ranks #32 in national average salaries (https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2020/RD40/PDF). In VA, teachers have the highest wage penalty out of all 50 states and DC compared to other adults with bachelor's degrees (https://www.epi.org/publication/teacher-pay-penalty-dips-but-persists-in-2019-public-school-teachers-earn-about-20-less-in-weekly-wages-than-nonteacher-college-graduates/). How can this be true? The graphs on that website are an incredible representation of where VA stands. Chesterfield County did a study this year looking at teacher salary and teacher retention. It found that as a county, the teacher salaries are less than the average of surrounding counties. It also found that the main reason teachers leave the county is for better pay and more career opportunities. This year, more than any other year, has made me question my choice of this profession. Chesterfield just voted on Tuesday (1/12/21) to send all students back to school 5 days a week during the Covid-19 global pandemic. Teacher morale is lower than I have ever seen. I can plead for more pay, as so many have done before me. I can tell stories about my wonderful students, how much I love them, and what we accomplish everyday. These things have been said time and time again. As a society, teachers are expected to do their job and accept "thank yous" and "jean passes" as reward enough. It's not enough, and it hasn't been for a long time as shown by the amount of amazing teachers who leave the profession. The money is there and can be found to give teachers. I hope a silver lining of schools being closed this past year due to Covid-19 is that everyone truly sees how important teachers are and the role we play in society. Thank you for your work and support for HB1915. Feel free to visit me and my class anytime, we would love to have you and show you the wonderful work we are doing. Molly McFadden, mollyLmcfadden@gmail.com

Last Name: Wingfield Locality: Ashland

HB1915 is a necessary start to improving teacher pay in Virginia. I say a start, because even the national average pay is not adequate to cover the educational investment I have made to be a teacher, the out of pocket investment put into my classroom, or the personal investment and liability I take on as a Middle School Science Teacher for the City of Richmond. Over the years at the old building where I work, my health has also suffered. I have broken out in a full body rash multiple times after teaching in the building during the winter, and I believe it to be due to mold spores. The air ducts and broiler system are old and dysfunctional. An air quality test was done over a year ago, and I cannot get access to the report. I have entered my classroom many mornings to find the temperature registering at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The out of pocket money I have spent on medical expenses and climate/air quality improvements is absurd. I love teaching. But I’m not sure it’s worth these investments and the tolls they are taking on my physical and financial health. Please help.

Last Name: Wilson Locality: Midlothian

Virginia's average teaching salaries are below the national average. Apart from that, in Chesterfield, we were told that we are welcoming back students 5 days a week beginning February 1st. We have not been given specifics as to when we are receiving the vaccine, and we received an email asking us to cancel appointments for vaccines at other locations because the end result could be wasted vaccines. Chesterfield County prides themselves on being a "good" school district, but consistently acts without considering their teachers-despite their teachers being the very reason Chesterfield County can continue to offer an excellent education to their students. We deserve to be paid at least the national average, and I believe we should be paid more. We have been put in a dangerous environment where our health, and the health of those in our households, is being put at risk. The current salary is, frankly, a disgrace to the wonderful educators that are risking their safety and their lives educating classes full of students during a national pandemic. Pay teachers what they deserve to the paid so that quality teachers do not continue to leave the profession in favor of a profession that pays a more livable wage.

Last Name: Wood Locality: Yorktown

As someone who comes from a long family line of teachers, I am fully supportive of this bill. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that teachers are the backbone of society & this is the way to repay them for going above and beyond to shape the lives of everyone going through the public education system!

Last Name: Germeyer Locality: Frederick County

Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee, I strongly support HB 1915. Thank You

Last Name: Hannon Locality: Fairfax

Teachers are struggling to be compensated at a more competitive rate. I started my career teaching 9 years ago after working 6 years in the corporate field. I have seen many highly qualified teachers leave to pursue private sector jobs because they simply cannot make ends meet teaching. Almost all teachers I know have some kind of “side hustle” to supplement our income. My husband has been teaching for 15 years and we have two kids. Owning a townhouse in Burke, VA, we had to live with my in-laws for 1.5 years to get the money to successfully live on our own. Since then, my husband has had 3 additional jobs he juggles on top of his teaching gig to help us meet the bills, save for our sons’ college funds, and get to enjoy life. Currently, he works at the gym two days in the morning (T/Th at 6 am), teaches an additional section of English online for FCPS on Tuesday nights at 6 pm, and has a weekend job where he scores UFC fights for a statistical analysis company in downtown DC. Last year, I additionally worked for online campus and taught Tuesday nights at 8 PM do that we could pay off our SUV and save some money. We work hard! We aren’t the only teachers working for additional income to make ends meet; almost all of my colleagues have an additional job. I don’t know of too many other jobs where this is the case. Our pay is very dependent on state funding and currently we have freezes on step increases as local jurisdictions struggle to make up the rest. I’d love to say this is my first freeze, but it’s not. I think this pandemic has taught many how hard it is to teach, how passionate teachers are, and how qualified we are. We juggle a lot of responsibilities and we STILL move mountains, despite the daunting tasks put ahead of us this year as we adapted to virtual learning. Please consider this bill. Our futures and that of my 2 and 4-year-old sons depend on it! Thank you.

Last Name: VanDerhoff Organization: As a Fairfax County teacher and member of AFT Local 2401 Locality: Springfield

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, My name is Emily VanDerhoff and I am a first grade teacher in Fairfax County and a member of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2401. I am writing to express my support for HB 1915, sponsored by Delegate Mugler. Virginia has been facing a long-standing teacher shortage which is expected to grow as a result of educators leaving the profession due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators' feelings of being undervalued has reached an all-time high. Our workload has greatly increased as we adapt our instruction for virtual and hybrid teaching. Working 60-70 hour weeks has now become the norm for many teachers, including myself as we put in countless unpaid hours creating the best learning experience we can for our students in an ever-changing environment of pandemic teaching. At the same time, many Virginia districts, including my own are due to enter a second year without a salary step increase or cost of living adjustment because our local government cannot afford to match the state funding for a salary increase in the FY22 budget. Looking at salary data from 2014-2019, salaries for teachers in Virginia were 32.7% lower than the salaries of their college-graduate nonteaching peers. This represents the worst teacher pay penalty out of all 50 states and DC. If Virginia does not take action to raise teacher salaries to compete with the national average, we will continue to lose our most valuable resource in education: our educators. Please vote in favor of HB 1915. Thank you.

Last Name: Bryan Locality: Stafford

Educators leave the field at a rate that is much higher than entry. The entry requirements for teaching alone outweigh the starting pay. This is why many college students do not choose the field of education. Teacher turnover impacts students and therefore society. In order to keep the best teachers, pay needs to raise. The U. S. Department of Education found that as teachers leave the positions are not filled (Carver, Darling-Hammond, 2019). Many teachers must work a second or even third job especially early in their careers just to make ends meet. The Commonwealth needs to invest in the future of the children by investing in the educators of today.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents is in strong support of HB 1915. We have advocated for several years that a plan be developed to bring teacher salaries to the national level. Dr. Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Luttrell Locality: Frederick County

When I saw this bill introduced, my excitement was beyond enough to get me involved and I wanted to follow it through the process of our great legislature. I believe that for far too long, teachers in Virginia have been underfunded. Our average salary ranks 32nd among the states. If this Commonwealth wanted to show it's appreciation to teachers and especially during this pandemic, this bill would go a long way to doing that. I cannot speak for every teacher, but as a current one, I am working two jobs to keep a steady and comfortable income. I understand that money does play a key factor for something like this, however, I believe a budget could be worked out in order to better attract and retain high quality teachers for the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Thank you.

HB1918 - Student driver safety; driver education program shall include dangers of speeding.
Last Name: Russell Organization: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Locality: Hampton

This is to ask you to support HB 1918 - Driving is a big responsibility. It is incumbent upon us to help keep our youth as safe as possible by emphasizing to them the seriousness of being safe while operating a motor vehicle. It is worth the financial impact if any.

Last Name: Guido Organization: Gweedo Memorial Foundation Locality: Yorktown

My name is Tammy Gweedo and I live in Yorktown Va I strongly support bill HB1918 My son Conner was killed by an unlicensed speeding driver leaving his Junior Homecoming Dance at Tabb High School 10/26/2019. This student was allowed to park on school property for several weeks before the crash with a parking permit that was issued to him by the school No one should be issued a parking permit without having completed the School and States curriculum as well as obtaining the parents consent Had the school been required to have a valid drivers license presented before issuing a parking permit I may not be where I am today, without Conner. I can’t save Conner now but this law can help save others We want to ensure that the high schools are doing their due diligence across the State protecting all students and drivers Currently the form is different from High School to High School across the State with little A uniformed approach provides consistency and protects our youth while being compliant with all rules Part 2 of this bills requests increased funding for Driver Improvement classes in the High School Teenage crashes are still the #1 cause of death in the United States We have to do more to affect change to support our teenagers. Driver education as defined from current students is a joke. It’s a free period, time for them to catch up on other more important classes or just to text and post on social media Driving is a privilege and one that should not be taken likely. Putting a 16 year old behind the wheel of a killing machine is not to be taken lightly. Yet the mentality is it’s just another class and one that no one looks at for your ultimate curriculum yet it’s truly so important We have to find ways to speak to our youth and make this important Increased funding will allow us to take a deep dive into this program to enhance the quality and urgency needed to make this learning relevant I urge you to support this bill in hopes we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again as no one should ever have to bury their child Thank you

Last Name: Guido Organization: The Gweedo Memorial Foundation Locality: Yorktown

Mister or Madam Chair and Committee Members. Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today. My name is Tammy Gweedo and I live in Yorktown Va I strongly support bill HB1918 My son Conner was killed by an unlicensed speeding driver leaving his Junior Homecoming Dance at Tabb High School 10/26/2019. This student was allowed to park on school property for several weeks before the crash with a parking permit that was issued to him by the school No one should be issued a parking permit without having completed the School and States curriculum as well as obtaining the parents consent Had the school been required to have a valid drivers license presented before issuing a parking permit I may not be where I am today, without Conner. I can’t save Conner now but this law can help save others We want to ensure that the high schools are doing their due diligence across the State protecting all students and drivers Currently the form is different from High School to High School across the State with little A uniformed approach provides consistency and protects our youth while being compliant with all rules Part 2 of this bills requests increased funding for Driver Improvement classes in the High School Teenage crashes are still the #1 cause of death in the United States We have to do more to affect change to support our teenagers. Driver education as defined from current students is a joke. It’s a free period, time for them to catch up on other more important classes or just to text and post on social media Driving is a privilege and one that should not be taken likely. Putting a 16 year old behind the wheel of a killing machine is not to be taken lightly. Yet the mentality is it’s just another class and one that no one looks at for your ultimate curriculum yet it’s truly so important We have to find ways to speak to our youth and make this important Increased funding will allow us to take a deep dive into this program to enhance the quality and urgency needed to make this learning relevant I urge you to support this bill in hopes we can prevent such a tragedy from happening again as no one should ever have to bury their child Thank you

Last Name: Chillon Organization: AAA Locality: Richmond

AAA supports HB 1918, we strongly support additional education surrounding the dangers of distracted driving and speed. We understand there is a fiscal impact and we hope additional funding would be provided to Department of Education to help cover the cost.

HB1940 - Students; guidelines on excused student absences, civic or political engagement.
Last Name: Willcox Organization: Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia Locality: Great Falls VA

I would like to thank Chairwoman Tyler as well as this whole committee for allowing me to speak in favor of this extremely important piece of legislation. My Name is Ashton Willcox and I am testifying in front of this committee today to speak in favor of HB1940. I am the Vice-Chair of the Teenage-Republican Federation of Virginia. This Bill is crucial for Young People who want to get involved in politics, and will allow them to be excused from school for these reasons. As someone who has worked on more than 5 campaigns, and is now in leadership for two large grassroots organizations I cannot stress enough the importance of being civically involved, and being allowed those opportunities to participate. Through being civically engaged, I have been able to try to make the change I believe in, and strive for policy, campaigns and other changes that I believe are necessary for the commonwealth, both locally and nationally. Specifically passing this bill means a lot to teenage republicans because it allows us to attend our parties nominating conventions without the potential of receiving an unexcused absence from school. If this Bill is enacted, it will encourage civic participation, and allow young people across the commonwealth the opportunity to have their voices heard. It is my generation, and those who attend high schools throughout the commonwealth that will be the leaders of our next generation, and we should encourage that. I am extremely proud that myself and fellow Republicans have teamed up with fellow Teenage Democrats to lobby for this extremely important piece of legislation as we have come together even with our political differences for a bipartisan cause of encouraging civic participation by the youth of this commonwealth. For these reasons, I support HB1940 and I am excited about the impact it will have on Virginia’s Youth in the years to come.

Last Name: Willcox Organization: Teenage Republican of Virginia Locality: Great Falls VA

I would like to thank Chairwoman Tyler as well as this whole committee for allowing me to speak in favor of this extremely important piece of legislation. My Name is Ashton Willcox and I am testifying in front of this committee today to speak in favor of HB1940. I am the Vice-Chair of the Teenage-Republican Federation of Virginia. This Bill is crucial for Young People who want to get involved in politics, and will allow them to be excused from school for these reasons. As someone who has worked on more than 5 campaigns, and is now in leadership for two large grassroots organizations I cannot stress enough the importance of being civically involved, and being allowed those opportunities to participate. Through being civically engaged, I have been able to try to make the change I believe in, and strive for policy, campaigns and other changes that I believe are necessary for the commonwealth, both locally and nationally. Specifically passing this bill means a lot to teenage republicans because it allows us to attend our parties nominating conventions without the potential of receiving an unexcused absence from school. If this Bill is enacted, it will encourage civic participation, and allow young people across the commonwealth the opportunity to have their voices heard. It is my generation, and those who attend high schools throughout the commonwealth that will be the leaders of our next generation, and we should encourage that. I am extremely proud that myself and fellow Republicans have teamed up with fellow Teenage Democrats to lobby for this extremely important piece of legislation as we have come together even with our political differences for a bipartisan cause of encouraging civic participation by the youth of this commonwealth. For these reasons, I support HB1940 and I am excited about the impact it will have on Virginia’s Youth in the years to come.

Last Name: Lyon Organization: Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia Locality: Locust Grove, Virginia

I am here once again on behalf of myself and the Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia to ask for your support on HB 1940. The passage of this bill would not only ensure that middle and high school students have an avenue to get involved in our politcal system, but it would also send a message that the State wants to protect their first amendment rights. Although punishing a student with an excused absence for accessing their first amendment right to attend political events may not directly be limiting their first amendment rights, it certainly does nothing to protect their first amendment rights, which is why in the opinion of myself and the TRFV the state should be the ones to take a stance on this issue instead of school boards. Additionally, I have heard the concerns of those who are concerned that the language of the bill may be too vague, but as a former high school student, I can tell you that students will skip school and most of the time are not worried about the absence being excused and will likely not attempt to make up a politcal event to try and get an excused absence. Therefore opposing the bill based on the potential of the language is too vague would just put students who are or want to get involved in the politcal system at a disadvantage because they would be facing an unexcused absence.

Last Name: Hillis Organization: Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia Locality: New Kent County

I am Brady Hillis, Chairman of the Teenage Republican Federation of Virginia, today each of you get the unique opportunity of seeing Teenage Republicans and Democrats work together on policy and legislation. During times like these in our nation's history it is more than ever imperative that younger generations work together to strive for the common goal of helping Virginians, I am speaking today to ask for your support for HB1940. This legislation will not only help students get involved with politics but it will create opportunities that students and teenagers will be able to use for career and college readiness. I have heard some of the opposition to this legislation and quite honestly I believe most of the opposition's points are excuses, from the excuse of civic and political not being clearly defined, to some saying we should be leaving it up to the individual school boards. From my experience my school board is politically aligned one way and so are the administrators at my public school, if I were to request for something like this to be passed at the local level the door would be slammed in my face. I hope that the fellow members from my own party will vote their conscience on this bill and not worry about political scorecards or the fact that a member from the opposite party introduced this legislation. Far too many times my party has outright ignored the younger generation and I do believe that this legislation will help mend that divide. HB1940 will get more teenagers involved in the civic process whether that be at the local, state, or federal level. I hope each member today supports the legislation, please do not disappoint the younger generation.

Last Name: Karush Organization: Citizens' Climate Lobby - Fairfax County and Alexandria chapters Locality: Fairfax County

On behalf of the Fairfax County and Alexandria chapters of Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL), I would like to express our strong support for H.B. 1940. As volunteer climate advocates, we understand that civic engagement is a habit that takes time for people to form. Encouraging participation starting in middle and high school can help this important habit take root. Our focus in CCL is lobbying Congress for carbon pricing legislation. We do this by meeting with members of Congress or their staff several times a year and conducting outreach and media activities in our communities. Many CCL chapters, including our own, count high school students among their volunteers. We have had the privilege of lobbying alongside students on Capitol Hill, in our districts and, during the pandemic, via videoconference. We have found that members of Congress and other elected officials appreciate hearing from young people, particularly on issues like climate change, which impacts their generation more than any other. For their part, students are empowered by their participation in these activities. Through them, they gain a deeper understanding of our democratic institutions and the importance of being an active citizen. These are critically important lessons that are difficult to impart inside a civics classroom. A formal policy that allows an excused absence for such activities will make it easier for young activists to participate and will send an important message to all students about the value of civic engagement. We thank Del. Rasoul and his co-patrons for introducing this legislation and urge the committee to pass it. Sarah Karush Co-Leader, Fairfax County Chapter Citizens' Climate Lobby

Last Name: Root Organization: The ACTPC (Albemarle Charlottesville Teen Progressives collective) Locality: Albemarle county

I am commenting on behalf of passing the HB1940 bill to ensure that leaving school is excused when attending political events. Politics is a big part of adolescence and finding your voice, in the 21st century, and all students should be allowed to participate in political events at their own risk without consequences.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Association of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents has concern regarding HB 1940. School divisions often try to work with students in this manner. However, attendance in school must be the first consideration and this bill as drafted is too broad. Thank you, Tom Smith VASS

Last Name: Neale Organization: VASSP Locality: Hot Springs

The Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals OPPOSES passage of HB 1940 and has particular concerns with adding language that would direct principals to excuse a student to attend a political event. Principal discretion is important when reviewing and granting excuses for a student to miss an instructional day; and requests for excused absences are taken seriously and on an individual basis. Responses from principals included concerns about codifying overarching and undefined generic terms and included questions about what would constitute a political event. Would this language include that a student should be excused to campaign for a political candidate? Bet Neale Director of Government Relations VA Association of Secondary School Principals

Last Name: Syed Organization: Virginia Young Democrats Teen Caucus Locality: Springfield

As a junior at John R. Lewis High School, I believe that providing an opportunity for students to take an excused absence and participate in civic engagement is crucial for all schools across the commonwealth. With this policy already being implemented in Fairfax County Public Schools, I would urge everyone to support HB1940. Firstly, civically engaged youth leads to better and more informed citizens, who are more likely to create change within their community. Although many of us are unable to vote, this would provide us an opportunity to advocate for issues we care about and ensure that we are also being represented by our elected officials. A lot of what we believe often goes unheard, although it will be effecting our generation the most. Voting in favor of this bill will allow us to use our voices and share the needs of this generation. Furthermore, this level of civic engagement will continue throughout our adult life as we later take part in political processes such as voting.

Last Name: Miroff Locality: Fairfax County

Virginian youth cast 20% of all ballots in this Commonwealth this last federal election according to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The youth of Virginia leads that metric, only tying with Georgians. Virginia students have a desire for engagement in civic life that I have seen amongst my peers as a high school student. Engagement is a habit that should start early and continue. Schools should educate their students about this tremendously important aspect of life and encourage students to discover it. I urge you to resolutely support this bill so that the next generation of voters can start their engagement in politics early. Our Commonwealth deserves to continue placing first in youth civic engagement.

Last Name: Hurst Organization: John R Lewis Junior Class Office Locality: Springfield

This opportunity for civic engagement is crucial to learning and development.

Last Name: Padilla Locality: Crozet

As a high school senior in albemarle county, I have witnessed firsthand the desire of young people to partake in civic engagement. This bill would allow for teens who otherwise have conflicting schedules to participate in sessions which collide with school hours.

Last Name: paredes Locality: mclean

as a student i would really like to be able to be excused to protest my rights and the rights of others

Last Name: paredes Locality: McLean

yes this is a good thing

Last Name: Hashim Organization: John R Lewis High School Class office Locality: Fairfax County Public Schools

On behalf of John R Lewis High School’s class office and myself: we urge that all students in Virginia can take partial day excused absences to participate and advocate in civic and political events.

Last Name: Lewis Locality: Vienna

This is important especially as a student.

Last Name: Logan Locality: Charlottesville

I am a student at Monticello High School in Charlottesville. I believe HB 1940 is important because it allows youth to make our voices heard in our communities and in politics which is currently difficult because most of the significant decision-making goes on during regular school hours. It is especially important that our voices are heard because the decisions that are being made now will determine what our country and communities will look like as we become adults and are of voting age. Our democracy is only able to properly function when the voices of all citizens are heard, respected, and addressed and this bill would help bring us one step closer to this goal.

Last Name: Kelly Organization: Wahs Young Democrats Club Locality: Charlottesville

I am a student at Western Albemarle High School and I see this law as a very important step in inspiring local change and providing opportunities for the youth.

Last Name: Witaconis Locality: Palmyra

This bill is so important because it will provide youth with an entire window of career opportunities. I know that me, only with many others, wish we had the time to participate more in our community. However, it can be extremely difficult with school. This bill is so important to me, and so many others that wish to advocate in and participate in the community.

Last Name: Perez Locality: Farifax County

The civic engagement bill is essential to raising the next generation of citizens and ensuring that they are politically aware. As a student at McLean High School in Fairfax County, I've already seen the benefits of allowing students to have an excused absence for civic engagement since we had a similar bill pass. It's important that this sort of opportunity is granted to every middle and high school student in the Commonwealth, not just those in FCPS.

Last Name: Smith Locality: Vienna

I am a student I’m 10th grade The practice of civic engagement has an important impact in educating young people about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and allowing them to develop skill sets that are valuable to them as they undergo the transition to adulthood.

Last Name: Quila Locality: Vienna

As a student, I think it’s important to engage in civic and political events but a lot of them are during school so it’s conflicting with our education.

Last Name: Li Locality: China

Civic engagement bill is important because I’m a student and I got to get the ladies

Last Name: Kem Locality: Falls Church

I am a student and I support this bill because it will energize students to be able to engage with politics they support.

Last Name: Gore Locality: McLean

Being a HS student in the commonwealth, I think it’s super important for students to get involved. As we know, there is always a struggle getting people out to vote, but if we start the process of getting our teens involved in their communities it will not only support and help bring communities together, but they will stay together long after these students leave their high and middle schools.

Last Name: Salahi Locality: Falls Church

This bill would allow students to welcomed into the democratic process instead of shoved into it at 18. Ibelieve that this bill will lead to more young adult voters as they have introduced to the importance of voting mat a young age and it will not only affect presidential election but hopefully also local elections which in some regards are more important for getting your voice heard. And that’s what this bill is asking, for young people’s voices to be heard in the political arena without being reprimanded.

Last Name: Latif Locality: Vienna

I am a student

Last Name: Moore Locality: Hampton

HB1770 As a parent, I believe school choice is the best evolution of public education. Hampton City Schools have an academy choice program in their high schools, which is essentially school choice and their graduation rates are the highest they have ever been. HB1940 It is extremely important for next-generation Americans to be active in civil and political engagement. HB1904 This bill concerns me greatly. Who gets to decide when someone is "culturally competent"? Is it when they haven't offended someone? Is it when they can quote the class curriculum? Do salaries hinge on the evaluator's definition of "cultural competence"? This sounds a lot like critical race theory and an attempt to further divide our state/country.

Last Name: Bates Locality: Fairfax

I'm a high school student, and I've been involved with the Democrats for the past 3 or 4 years. Civic engagement represents one of the most important aspects of democracy, and it must be afforded to all members of that democracy. This is especially true for teens, who cannot vote. Engaging in protests, communicating with our elected officials and volunteering constitute our only means of participating in the democratic process. The fact that some students are denied the opportunity of participating fully in that system undermines the basic tenets of democracy, of ensuring the voices and concerns of all are heard and addresses. Furthermore, civic engagement provides an opportunity for extracurricular education in government and civics. Students may in fact learn more about government and gain more passion for social studies in one day of civic action than in the same amount of time in a classroom.

Last Name: Klaits Organization: None Locality: Vienna

I am a student in Fairfax County where they have implemented a similar version of this bill. I have witnessed first hand the positive impact that the implementation of an excused day for civic action has. The conversation that arose from this made school a more welcoming place for political and civic conversation. It also made political involvement more of a group activity since many teens enjoy doing things with their peers. Overall this bill has improved political engagement significantly among high school students!

Last Name: Hogan Locality: Fairfax County

Hello, I am a student at Marshall High School in Falls Church. I believe this is so important because most people in school can’t vote so the least they can do is participate in civic and political events like marches. FCPS has already voted to let kids have an excused absence to attend these events and I think, along with many others, that a new law to let students take part in these events would benefit the entire student population in Virginia. Thank you.

End of Comments