2019 Election Issues: Education

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In a look at historical trends, Gallup found that Americans’ satisfaction in the country’s primary and secondary education quality is at a 15-year high. In its report, Gallup said that education quality is typically not seen as a partisan issue as it’s “perceived as more of a local than a federal issue.”

In Virginia — if you’re paying attention to TV ads or campaign platforms — education has been made a central issue ahead of the Nov. 5 elections.

A Washington Post-Schar School poll from September shows Virginians care about education more than the economy and health care, with 70 percent of the 876 Virginia adults sampled saying education was very important ahead of the election.

Candidates have focused on several concerns under the education umbrella, including public education quality, teacher pay, school funding, student safety and higher education issues, during their campaigns.

Where does Virginia’s education system stand?

Thousands gathered outside the state Capitol in January for the “Red for Ed” rally, in order to push lawmakers to better fund education.

In the midst of the rally, Del. Steve Landes (R-Augusta), the vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that Gov. Northam’s proposed 5 percent pay boost to teachers would be in the House budget.

Northam had proposed a total of a 5 percent teacher pay raise in his budget amendments after the General Assembly passed a 3 percent raise the year before. The governor’s amendment increased it by 2 percent, which cost an estimated $88 million.

“I am proud of Chairman Jones and Vice-Chairman Landes for the hard work and dedication they have shown to ensuring our teachers know how much they are appreciated in the Commonwealth,” House Speaker Kirk Cox (R – Colonial Heights) said after Landes’ announcement.

Northam’s budget amendments added $268.7 million in education spending, including school safety funds and hiring more school counselors. 

How local candidates are prioritizing education in their races

Both candidates in the 10th Senate District race, Republican incumbent Glen Sturtevant and Democrat Ghazala Hashmi, have spent months pushing their education platforms to voters. Education is the first issue each candidate addresses on their campaign websites even.

Sen. Sturtevant, R-Chesterfield, has called on improving school quality, freezing college tuition and his site for reelection claims he has fought “for more funding for education every year – so that more of our tax dollars are spent in the classroom.”

Hashmi, an administrator and professor at Reynolds Community College, has focused on how she believes education impacts Virginia’s future and economy. The Democratic candidate has called for finding affordable higher education options in Virginia and has argued how quality public education for all families as a way to build “a fiscally-sound investment in the future of the Commonwealth.”

Shelia Bynum-Coleman, the Democratic challenger to Speaker Cox, has shared her concerns with school overcrowding, argued that teachers are still underpaid and believes “the current legislature has not adequately funded our schools.”

During his reelection campaign, Cox has touted his effort to bring a pay raise for Virginia’s teachers and the funding brought by the state lottery.

Stay with 8News for all your 2019 General Assembly election coverage.

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