Senate Democrats Stand Up for Students, Kill GOP Efforts to Undermine Public Schools

Today, the Democrat-led Senate Education and Health Committee killed several bills from House Republicans that attempt to strip away public school funding, endanger the safety of our students, and implement policies that divide our children.

Caucus Chair Mamie Locke said: “As I’ve stated many times this legislative session, the sudden interest in racism and division being taught in our schools seems to not-so-coincidentally coincide with national efforts to mute any conversation that might make a student uncomfortable.

“That notion is inherently absurd. I have been told all my life that I don’t belong because of my race, because of my gender. Students today are subject to that same treatment. If we refuse to talk about our differences, Virginia’s children will remain naive in the echo chamber of their own situation. How does that promote fairness? Equity? Empathy?

“The next generation deserves better than what Governor Youngkin and Virginia Republicans want to give them. Senate Democrats have been and will continue to be the brick wall against these egregious educational ‘reforms.’”

Bill killed in Committee related to diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  • HB787 (LaRock): Prohibits the instruction of ‘inherently divisive concepts’
  • HB1093 (Batten): Removes the statewide requirement for cultural competency training for educators

Education and Health Committee Chair Louise Lucas said: “Safety is one of the most basic human needs, and our children must feel safe if they are to learn to their fullest potential. However, bills we heard and killed today threaten students’ safety and create environments that are not conducive to their overall health and wellness.

“Maintaining students’ health necessitates disease prevention; dismissing the existence of a global pandemic is not an excuse for infecting our children with a deadly virus. Also, students’ mental health must be addressed at school, particularly after the difficult years they’ve had. Access to counselors is sometimes the only outlet a child may have to report abuse at home, or talk about topics they’re not comfortable disclosing with family.

“These resources are vital to maintain a thriving community, and I’m proud to have stood up for our students’ health and safety this morning.”

Bills killed in Committee related to student safety:

  • HB306 (Freitas): Religious exemption; parents opt-out of vaccines for children
  • HB1034 (Ransone): Requires parental consent to receive counseling services in school

Public Education Subcommittee Chair Ghazala Hashmi said: “While the Senate Budget proposed during this legislative session provides unprecedented funding for public education, we still must use our resources wisely. Imposing unfunded mandates on our localities, like requiring a school resource officer to be placed in every school (a decision that Virginia has always left in the hands of localities), pulls local funding away from much-needed programs and efforts.

“Other initiatives from House Republicans that we rejected this morning aim to spend public funds on private- and home-school students. Siphoning this money away from school divisions inhibits our ability to maintain our #4 ranking of public education in the nation, and opens the door to even more dilapidated school buildings, distressingly underpaid teachers, and non-funding of essential programs that lift up Virginia’s students.”

Bills killed in Committee related to school funding:

  • HB511 (March): Allows homeschool students to participate in public school athletics programs
  • HB1024 (LaRock): Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts, which would divert public school funding to private schools