The Constitution of Virginia guarantees a high quality, free public school system for all children in the Commonwealth. However, Virginia has not always lived up to that promise. As the daughter of a third generation educator, Jennifer understands that a quality education is not just a lofty goal, but the key to success and financial independence. For that reason, Jennifer is committed to ensuring that Virginia provides its children with a high quality, free public education, and that Virginia builds a world-class system from pre-k to higher education.
Expanding Early Education Opportunities:
Studies show that ninety percent of a child's brain development occurs before the age of five. Early education programs can have a dramatic effect on all children's success in school and can reduce expensive remedial education and social costs later in life. Jennifer has worked to improve Virginia's early education initiatives by:
* Sponsoring legislation to permit localities to expand eligibility for kindergarten;
* Supporting expansion of early reading intervention programs to ensure that all eligible first- and second-graders get the extra reading help they need; and
* Supporting increased availability of pre-K programs to more children.
Competitive Teacher Salaries:
Virginia's teachers are paid below the national average, despite the fact that the per capita personal income of Virginians exceeds the national average. Teacher salaries should be competitive to attract and retain the best and the brightest people to teach our children. As a member of the House Education Committee, Jennifer has supported initiatives to raise teacher salaries to at least the national average. She also helped pass Governor Kaine's budget amendments to fund a three percent pay raise for Virginia's school teachers and a four percent raise for higher education faculty, and fought efforts by House Republicans to alter education funding formulas that could hurt our teachers.
Expanding Career and Technical Education Opportunities
There is a growing shortage of students and employees with the skills and training needed to perform many of the technical and mechanical jobs in the market today. Jennifer has supported efforts to promote and expand career and technical education opportunities in Virginia schools by supporting legislation creating standard and advanced technical education diplomas.
Our economy is evolving to a point where a high school diploma is no longer enough to land a job with a decent wage. Yet many high school graduates cannot afford to go to college or technical school. Jennifer has worked to ensure that all Virginia high school graduates can afford college by:
* Supporting legislation establishing the Community College Transfer Grant Program to help community college students transition to four-year colleges and universities.
* Supporting establishment of a tuition moderation incentive fund to keep tuition and fee increases for in-state undergraduate students capped at six percent.
* Supporting increased funding of financial aid for undergraduates at public and private institutions.
* Fighting measures that could price certain students out of college by increasing tuition on students who take more than four years to obtain a degree.
* Fighting measures to limit out-of-states students that would lead to tuition increases for in-state students.