Senate Local Government Committee forms School Facility Modernization Subcommittee

    State Senator Bill Stanley (courtesy of the Senator's Facebook page)

    Chairman Bill Stanley to head unprecedented panel of 9 Senators

    “The debate over Senate Bill 750 has opened a lot eyes in State Government” the Republican Senator declared.

    RICHMOND, Va. – Senator Bill Stanley, Jr. (R), Chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee, announced this morning the creation of the first-ever School Facility Modernization subcommittee. There will be 9 members. Mr. Stanley will serve as Chair of the new subcommittee. Senators David Marsden (D) and Glen Sturtevant (R) will serve as Co-Vice Chairs. The other members will be Senators Charles Carrico, Sr. (R), Bill DeSteph, Jr. (R), Sioban Dunnavant (R), Jennifer McClellan (D), Barbara Favola (D), and Scott Surovell (D).

    In conjunction with announcing this unprecedented subcommittee, Chairman Stanley made the following remarks:

    “In his Inaugural Address, Governor Ralph Northam said there are too many “children who are sitting in crowded and crumbling schools our great state. In 2013, then Governor Bob McDonnell ordered the first ever gubernatorial inventory of the state’s public school infrastructure. It shockingly found that over 40% of the state’s public school buildings had been initially constructed at least 50 years ago, with another 20% at least 40 years ago. Only a small percentage had undergone complete renovation and modernization. Based on this survey, it is clear the average school student in Virginia, whether living in a rural, suburban or urban community, attends as the Governor pointed out an obsolete public school building by accepted educational standards. This is simply unacceptable in 2018
    as the Governor declared.

    Back in 1955, the United States Supreme Court, in Brown v Board of Education (Brown II) found that a decrepit, obsolete, school facility denied our youngsters the educational opportunities our laws require and our continued world leadership demands. “Education is the great equalizer” observed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Abraham Lincoln, in his first campaign for the Illinois Legislature, had a similar view. We pride ourselves on America being the greatest land of opportunity. And that is absolutely true: but to take full advantage of it, you need an education, and that starts with K-12.

    The debate over Sen. Glen Sturtevant’s (R) S.B. 750 started in Richmond in 2017 when the
    language first got introduced as a ballot referendum. In a sentence, the people were tired of broken promises, of sending children to intolerable conditions in school buildings that were obsolete when the parents of the children attend the same unfixed facilities. The Referendum passed by landslide margins in every precinct, an unprecedented result for any such measure in the state history, especially when you consider the Mayor and City Council and School Board refused to back it.

    This debate over Senate Bill 750 has opened a lot eyes in State Government. I thank the people of Richmond for being a catalyst for the entire Commonwealth. Studies clearly show the damaging impact obsolete crumbling schools have on school children in rural, suburban and urban localities. We need innovative thinking in this area. Senator Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have long championed fixing a glitch in federal law that served to greatly increase the cost to modernize aged school facilities. Former Senator George Allen and Congressman Eric Cantor on the Republican side did also. I mention this to underscore the bipartisan nature of this issue. It’s not merely Virginia: the average school facility in America is considered obsolete. The fundamental message from the Brown II decision is clear: Virginia, America is simply too great to send our children to crumbling schools.”

    Senator Stanley further announced that Paul Goldman, the former Chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, would be special council and policy advisor to the Subcommittee. Mr. Goldman and former Republican Senator George Allen wrote a seminal 2009 New York Times column that is credited with convincing leaders across the country of the need to new approaches to this old, too often unappreciated situation.

    The Committee will have the following goals:

    1. Hold meetings in every part of the state to seek input from citizens, local education officials, teachers, business leaders and other interested individuals on how to best tackle the situation.
    2. Do an update of the 2013 McDonnell study.
    3. Work with the Northam Administration on developing policy options and legislation.
    4. Work with our Congressional delegation and convince lawmakers it is in the national interest to build a more effective national-state-local partnership to develop innovative solutions.
    5. Work with the many experts in our great colleges and universities, along with the many state and national organizations who have already done terrific research in this area.
    6. Review current state laws impacting the issue of school modernization financing.
    7. Reach out to the Trump Administration on the federal role in school infrastructure financing, a policy matter that once had great bipartisan support as shown in the famed Nixon-Kennedy 1960 first debate.
    8. Set up a statewide advisory committee on School Facility Modernization to assist the subcommittee.
    9. Have a draft report ready on or about December 1 to be circulated to all interested parties.
    10. After receiving input, have a final report ready for publication on or about January 1, 2019 to be circulated to members of the Northam Administration General Assembly with the goal of introducing legislation on the subject during the 2019 General Assembly Session, as well as creating a blueprint for assisting the City of Richmond with the implementation of S.B. 750.