General Assembly committee tables constitutional amendment targeting educational disparities

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:33 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia State Senator Bill Stanley (R-20) was angry Wednesday, after a House of Delegates committee tabled a constitutional amendment he proposed to address educational disparities across the Commonwealth.

The Virginia constitution guarantees a public education for school-age children. Stanley’s amendment would require “equitable educational opportunities.”

“And that is to say that the child that is living in Petersburg or in our rural areas is getting the same type of education as the child who is attending public schools in our more affluent areas such as northern Virginia,” Stanley said during a virtual hearing.

A major obstacle, Stanley said, is the outdated facilities in many of Virginia’s school districts.

“We have to start now,” Stanley said. “Every day we don’t do something the condition of these schools get worse. They start crumbling more and the inequities start to build.”

The constitutional amendment cleared the State Senate, but it stalled in the House Privileges and Elections Committee, where lawmakers from northern Virginia raised concerns.

“The Senator brought up Halifax County. They took it on themselves and voted to raise their sales tax,” said Del. Mark Sickles (D-Alexandria). “And I don’t see why people can’t take initiatives, even in rural and small town Virginia, to solve their own problems.”

In a phone interview after the committee voted to table the measure, Stanley said he was mad.

“Regionalism has taken over,” Stanley told WDBJ7. “And again, I don’t think they even care to know the kind of education some of our children are receiving in our inner cities or in our rural areas, because they have theirs and that’s good enough for them.”

Stanley said the vote left him more determined than ever, promising to bring the issue back next year.

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