Overhaul Outdated Funding Formulas
For years, legislators in Richmond have tweaked the funding formulas for our public schools with disastrous results. Students across the Commonwealth lose out on $800 million every year. I am working towards restoring pre K-12 funding to at least pre-recession levels. I have been able to partially restore At-Risk Add-On funding, which will help schools better serve at-risk students in our community. Virginia must also change the funding formula so that school divisions with declining enrollment like Giles and Pulaski won’t lose out on needed resources from the state.
Attract The Best Teachers To Our Schools
Virginia is ranked 29th in the country in average teacher pay. That’s unacceptable. Teachers in Virginia earn, on average, about $7,000 less than other educators around the country. But it’s worse in the 12th District; teachers in Giles County make about $10,000 less than just the state average. I’ve consistently voted to increase teacher salaries each year I’ve been in the General Assembly.
Reduce the Burden of Standardized Testing
Virginia has improved the way our teachers, schools, and students are evaluated but there is still more work to be done. Study after study has shown that Virginia’s method of testing our students is inadequate. As your Delegate, I am fighting to give freedom back to school divisions while still ensuring success for all students.
The costs students face to attend college is constantly rising. From tuition to room and board, to course supplies, I am fighting to keep college affordable. Which is why I introduced HB 2380, which requires that institutions of higher education include in the online course catalogue or online registration system information about which courses use exclusively low or no-cost educational materials. In addition, I have helped ensure state funds will be used to freeze tuition rates for the next year, providing an average savings of 45% to students and families.
I said I would fight to expand Medicaid because it made moral and economic sense, and we did. In 2018, Virginia finally passed Medicaid expansion which is bringing $12.2 million in new spending and over 2000 jobs to the 12th district. Most importantly, thousands of our neighbors have access to healthcare for the first time.
I am a journalist, not a doctor. Any decisions regarding women and their health care need to be made by the woman, in consultation with her family if she chooses, and her doctor. These decisions shouldn’t be made by lawmakers in Richmond.
Fight the Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis is a battle that’s become all too familiar for our District, with too many lives already lost. We must expand access to life-saving treatment options and medications. We have to change the stigma around substance-use disorders and address the crisis as an illness, not just a series of poor choices.
Expanding Medicaid would directly impact and increase access to mental healthcare in Virginia. In addition, we need to give our police officers, sheriff’s deputies, fire departments and rescue squads the training and resources they need to handle mental health crises. Rural communities like ours face especially tough circumstances. Individuals in crisis are often transferred to treatment centers on the opposite side of the Commonwealth on their own dime. We must fundamentally change the way we view and treat mental illness. Virginia has to address the lack of rural mental health care providers and reinvest in support for our state hospitals.
Reduce Gun Violence
We must change the way we address the thousands of Virginians who die each year by bullets from guns. I think we do that by realizing this is a public health crisis: more people in the commonwealth die from gun violence than in car crashes. My focus remains on those most susceptible to homicide and suicide from firearms. I will work to protect men and women of color in cities from dying on the streets, to help women find safety after taking the courageous move to leave a dangerous relationship and to encourage parents to make sure children don’t have unsupervised access to a gun. As someone who has been personally touched by this issue, I will take the same objective, pragmatic approach to investigate solutions as I had when I worked as a journalist.
Attracting Jobs to the NRV
With Southwest Virginia’s largest economic engine and one of the world’s leaders in innovation sitting in our backyard, we are in a very unique position to attract more good-paying jobs to the 12th District. As we continue to attract the nation’s brightest minds, our local and state governments need to do all they can to keep that talent right here in the New River Valley. That means creating opportunities for small businesses and innovations while evaluating regulations that can deter growth. As your Delegate, this is my number one priority.
Access to Broadband
There are many parts of the district where access to broadband internet is limited or nonexistent. In our digital world, the Commonwealth is doing all of us a disservice by not investing in the infrastructure and technology to bring broadband access to rural communities. By partnering with new businesses who are doing this great work day in and day out, I hope we can finally solve this problem for Southwest Virginia.
Protecting Our Natural Resources
For generations, families in the New River Valley have respected and protected their land. From the pristine waters of Wolf Creek to the untouched natural beauty of Pearis Mountain, our land is our most valuable resource. We must resist any threat to our rivers, streams, and forests. I introduced HB 2112, which curtails the ability of natural gas companies to enter private property to conduct surveys without landowner consent. I stand proudly with landowners in their fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and, as your delegate, have championed these efforts by supporting stop-work orders when our water and soil is in danger of contamination.
Transforming Our Energy Sources
For too long, our representatives in Richmond have stalled the transformation of how we power our homes and businesses. By removing restrictions on how Virginians get our energy, we can bring more investments in renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal. We must increase diversity and competition in our energy mix to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and lower utility bills.