Scott Op-Ed: Youngkin finally dedicated significant funding to combat learning loss. What took him so long?

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, wrote the following op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Governor Youngkin’s ALL IN VA initiative.

“In September, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced over $400 million to initiate a plan to address the learning loss that our students continue to suffer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If implemented properly, this plan could build on the work that schools should already be doing — such as expanding tutoring, reducing chronic absenteeism and boosting literacy — as a result of congressional Democrats’ investments in K-12 education.

But while I am pleased that ALL IN VA has the potential to support students across the commonwealth, the question we should ask is: What took Youngkin so long to issue a plan of this scale?

“Consider the context of the pandemic’s impact on our schools and Youngkin’s education record.

“At the height of the pandemic, school districts nationwide were forced to close classrooms to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“This was not an easy decision for school leaders. Parents and educators knew that remote learning could hinder children’s learning. But they were also rightly concerned for the health and safety of students, families and school staff. Budget shortfalls and former President Donald Trump's failed response to the pandemic left schools without the necessary resources to provide basic safety measures in classrooms or maintain students’ access to their education.

“In response, Congress took decisive action to ensure schools could reopen safely, remain open safely and help students make up for lost time in the classroom.

“Most notably, in early 2021, congressional Democrats and President Joe Biden enacted—without a single Republican vote—the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which delivered the largest, one-time federal investment in K-12 education in our nation’s history. Importantly, as chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I worked to make sure that the greatest resources went to the schools with the greatest needs.

“Through this historic $120 billion investment, the commonwealth received more than $2.1 billion in dedicated education funding to not only reopen classrooms safely, but also confront learning loss.

“In fact, school districts were required to develop plans that dedicate at least 20% of the funding they received toward evidence-based strategies to address learning loss, close achievement gaps and support students’ social, emotional and mental health.

“For example, Newport News City Public Schools in my home district used ARPA funding to implement extended school days, comprehensive after-school and summer programs, and accelerated learning programs.

“Other school systems used some of the funding to address heating, ventilation and air-conditioning problems — obvious barriers to reopening schools safely during an airborne pandemic.

“These initiatives made a key difference in our students’ recovery from the pandemic. While recent, well-reported test scores for students in the commonwealth show that we still have a lot of work ahead, our students’ academic achievement would have been far worse without the federal investments.

“Youngkin could have built on these investments when he took office by prioritizing a robust plan with dedicated funding to address learning loss — similar to the one he announced in September. Instead, Youngkin’s first months in office were known for his focus on culture war issues that did nothing to help students recover from the pandemic.

“The Richmond Times-Dispatch Editorial Board even described this campaign as ‘political gold’ and ‘a great way to start a political firestorm,’ but ‘leads to inherently bad public policy.’ He injected partisan politics into public school curriculum, repealed critical protections for transgender students, and launched a hotline for parents to report ‘critical race theory’ complaints — which ultimately had to be shut down.

“So while I am encouraged by the ALL IN VA initiative’s potential to accelerate learning for our students, we must also reject the extremism that has distracted us from meaningfully investing in students’ recovery from the pandemic. That is why I am continuing to work in Congress to deliver the evidence-based investments that students in Virginia and across the country need to achieve their dreams.”


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