As a member of the House of Delegates Education Committee, Shelly is in a unique position to help improve and strengthen our public schools and advocate for updating our crumbling school infrastructure. Shelly currently serves on the State Commission on School Construction and Modernization and has helped write legislation to bring our crucial school buildings and education facilities up to date. Our most recent state budget also contained a historic $1.2 billion investment in school construction grants and loans, thanks in part to the work of the Commission. Shelly was also able to secure a $275,000 investment in the state budget to pay for a new drone (UAV) high school program at Denbigh Aviation Academy, which is one of our premier STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs in Newport News Public Schools.
Our fast-paced and high-tech economy demands that we provide the best possible education to our students and this is why Shelly has worked across the aisle to promote both STEM education and career and technical education while in office. She was a co-founder of the bi-partisan Career and Technical Education Caucus in the House of Delegates. Shelly also introduced a bill this year to include a career coach for every high school to help students connect to workforce opportunities, because not all career pathways require a college degree. Career counselors can help our students access the certifications and apprenticeships that lead to good paying jobs and successful careers.
The State of Virginia has some of the best private and public universities in the country. As a member of the House Education Committee, Shelly is committed to making higher education more affordable and available to all of our citizens. She also will fight to make sure professors, including adjuncts, get fair pay for the incredible contribution they make to the lives of our students in Virginia. You can see all of the bills from the Education Committee here.
In addition to addressing pay in higher education, Shelly is committed to finding solutions to the crisis in teacher shortages in K-12 education. Teacher pay in Virginia is currently at $7,900 below the national average and we must raise compensation if we want our education system to be the best. Excellence in Virginia public schools begins with excellent teachers and we are losing teachers to better paying jobs, with better lifestyles, everyday in Virginia. Shelly has a vision for making teaching the best job in Virginia, with better pay, professional development opportunities, more time for collaboration and instructional planning. That’s why Shelly introduced a bill this session to require that every elementary school teacher receive an uninterrupted 30 minute lunch break, everyday. Unfortunately this bill died in committee, but she is still determined that teachers have a healthy work environment, where they can sit and eat a civilized lunch, just like their colleagues in other professions. If we don’t address these issues, and the pay gap between teachers and other professionals with similar levels of education, we will continue to hemorrhage our teachers to other professions and our students will suffer.