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State Should Pursue Education Initiatives

Having grown up in the Fairfax County Public School system and with a daughter at West Potomac High School, ensuring Fairfax County students receive the highest quality education is a top priority of mine. Education is an investment that we make in our children to ensure that they are given the tools and opportunities to live up to their potential. We are fortunate to live in an area with a school system that is recognized for its excellence.

Governor McAuliffe, in his new 2016 budget, recognizes the pressing need for increased funding of education and proposed a $1 billion increase in state funding for K-12 and higher education.

Additionally, the Governor wants to spend $139.1 million to help districts hire additional teachers for schools and $41 million for cost-of-living-adjustments.

I support these proposals because they will help to reduce class sizes and help to make FCPS an attractive employer by allowing it to pay faculty enough to live close to work.

I am disappointed the legislature failed to include many of the Governor’s proposed amendments in either the House or Senate budgets. However, we are making individual efforts to increase funding for education. For example, Del. Mark Sickles has proposed a budget amendment for foreign language programs, which would mostly go to toward FCPS title I schools, three of which are in the 44th district.

While this, and a few other proposed amendments to the 2016 budget would help toward strengthening our schools, Richmond still has a long way to go toward improving education funding. I have co-patroned several pieces of education legislation. If passed, two of the more important bills will help improve the quality of education for students with learning differences and limited English proficiency.

Visually impaired students use tools such as Braille in order for them to learn. The current law requires a determination of the appropriateness in the use of Braille for visually impaired students, but does not require the student to be evaluated by a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired. HB 166, of which I am a co-patron requires this evaluation and requires that visually impaired students receive instruction in Braille or the use of Braille unless deemed unnecessary by the team determining the student’s IEP or 504 plan. I hope that this legislation will enhance visually impaired student’s learning experience by giving them the correct tools they need to succeed.

I am also a House patron on SB 538, which requires the Board of Education to authorize the use of an alternative to the Standards of Learning (SOL) end-of-course English reading assessment for students with limited English proficiency. These students are placed at an unfair disadvantage to demonstrate their knowledge, since evaluations are in an unfamiliar language. Having an alternative to SOL testing will empower students with limited English proficiency to demonstrate their knowledge, while still meeting state educational standards.

I am glad the Governor and legislature are taking important steps toward improving Virginia’s public schools, both through funding and legislation. I am also thankful for the local leadership of Karen Corbett Sanders, who is representing the Mount Vernon District with distinction on the Fairfax County School Board. I hope that through the efforts of state and local leadership, together, we will enable students to better reach their educational goals.