Lawmaker focuses on fix for outdated schools

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Franklin County Sen. Bill Stanley knew the challenges that rural communities and urban areas were facing, but his tour of outdated schools across the Commonwealth revealed a statewide story.

"We went to southwest Virginia. We went to Norfolk. And then we went up to northern Virginia," Stanley told WDBJ7. "And we were surprised that we actually found schools in northern Virginia that were suffering in the same ways they were suffering down in southwest Virginia.

Stanley chairs a subcommittee that will recommend a statewide bond referendum that could raise up to $4 billion for school modernization. The panel will support legislation that would determine who is first in line for funding. Another bill would help communities with public private partnerships that could make school construction more affordable.

"When you go inside a school and you go inside a classroom with the ceiling falling down and mold affecting children's health and water dripping from leaks in the roof," Stanley said. "I think it really brings home how important this issue is and how dire the situation is."

Stanley is working hard to make sure the proposal isn't derailed by other regional priorities, including funding for roads.

"And so the choice that they're going to have to make in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads," Stanley said, "is do you want to save nine minutes on a commute or do you want to save a child from poverty and give them a quality education. And I think that choice is easy."

If the state will put it to a vote, Stanley said he believe Virginians will throw a lifeline to communities that are struggling to provide that quality education.