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Former Virginia first ladies talk improving state’s education system in Leesburg

Former Virginia first lady Lynda Robb talks education at the Loudoun County Government Center. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi
Former first ladies of Virginia, local politicians and some of the top women leaders in education gathered in Leesburg Friday to discuss their vision for public education in the state.

The women's event was in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam's campaign.

The former first ladies talked about Lt. Gov. Northam’s early childhood and K-12 education agenda, which focuses on preparing students for high tech and computer science based jobs, investing in early childhood education and helping children living below the poverty line.

“We have to think of how much more our children, our grandchildren are going to need maybe not just the bedrock things that we studied, but this great future that’s coming to us through the internet, through the new discoveries that have been made,” former Virginia first lady Lynda Robb said.

Robb, the wife of former governor and U.S. Sen. Charles Robb, advocated for leveling the playing field in education so that a child in a lower income community could access the same quality education as a child from an upper-class school district.

As teachers are forced to meet the demands of producing higher graduation rates and giving students with more specialized skills to prepare them for the workforce, former Education Secretary of the Commonwealth Anne Holton said teachers needed to be paid their fair share.

“Money is not all of the answer, but money is part of the answer. Our teachers deserve not to be on food stamps … they deserve not to have second jobs so that they can support a family,” Holton said. “We need them to be able to be fully focused on helping educate the next generation and that’s going to take resources, it’s going to be a long-term solution, but one thing we can’t do … we cannot have massive tax cuts, that’s a bad investment for the future.”

National Education Association (NEA) Secretary-Treasurer Princess Moss bashed the work of President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, calling her the most “unqualified education secretary that we’ve had in our history.”

Moss noted DeVos' ties to Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed GIllespie. According to Public Access Project, DeVos’ husband Richard DeVos Jr. contributed at least $40,000 to Gillespie’s gubernatorial campaign.

The NEA Secretary-Treasurer also said that school vouchers -- a system which DeVos has been a strong proponent of -- could hurt Virginia’s public schools.

Proponents of the voucher program say parents and students are afforded greater school choice, while opponents argue that vouchers lead to segregation and take funds away from public schools.

“Vouchers pulled funding from our public schools and we heard these ladies talk about the funding that’s needed to make sure that we have quality programs for students,” Moss said. “So, it’s important that we don’t take this election lightly because a lot is at stake, whether public education lives or dies is at stake.”

Gillespie is an advocate of charter schools and school choice, which he says makes it easier for parents to see all the education options available to them, as well as expand programs for high-ability learning students.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.


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