The 2022 General Assembly started last Wednesday with a flurry of activity. We kicked off the session by co-hosting an event on Wednesday afternoon inviting legislators from both Virginia chambers to meet policy experts in education, healthcare, regulatory reform, taxes and energy. We had a large turnout with as many as 20 legislators joining us.
This year we will be laser focused on promoting more options in education for families and improving the integrity of our election laws. In both policy areas, large coalitions have been formed. These coalitions consist of grassroots groups, stakeholders and many of the local groups that have formed over the past two years as a result of the troubling information we have learned about public education in Virginia and election challenges.
We recently formed the Virginia Education Opportunity Alliance (VEOA). The VEOA coalition consists of over 20 education advocacy groups and is growing every day as more organizations learn about our work. Our strategy is to speak with one voice and demonstrate to legislators that there is a growing contingent of Virginians who are serious about advancing equitable choice in education for ALL children in Virginia. The reason this has become such an important issue is that it removes socio-economic barriers, is a credible solution to the criminal justice challenges we face in this country and has become the great equalizer of our time!
Del. Dave LaRock filed Education Savings Accounts legislation (HB1024) on our behalf. ESAs allow parents to remove their child from a public school and receive 90% of the state portion of student funding (on average $3,500). The money would be placed in a restricted bank account owned by the child’s parents. They could then use this money to send their child to a private school, homeschool or any combination of both. This is based on the idea that parents are best positioned to determine their children’s unique learning style and can customize their education based on that style.
There are several other education choice bills that have been introduced by other legislators and we will be following those closely. The Governor has had bills filed to create Charter Lab Schools. Other legislators have introduced legislation to expand the Education Improvement Tax Scholarship Credit program so more underserved children can attend quality schools and provide an option for school boards to create their own education savings programs.
As you may know, in 2021, The Middle Resolution partnered with other public policy and activist groups to form the Virginia Fair Elections (VFE) coalition. The VFE was instrumental in leading election integrity efforts throughout the 2021 election cycle and in partnership with the RNC/ RPV, made significant advancements in recruiting and placing Officers of Election and poll watchers in voting locations across the state of Virginia. In 2022, VFE will continue to be instrumental in ensuring that election integrity remains at the forefront in Virginia’s elections. This year, VFE is putting forward three key pieces of legislation to address some fundamental weaknesses in our election processes: 1) HB46— the reinstatement of photo ID to vote along with modifications to absentee ballot voting, 2) HB205/SB80–ensuring that private monies are not allowed in the administration of Virginia’s elections and 3) HB187–the repeal of same day voter registration. We believe that elections must be fair, free and transparent in order for voters to have trust in the electoral process.
A Call To Action
The 2022 General Assembly will be in session until March 12, 2022. Between now and then, we will be asking you to make your voice heard on both education choice and election integrity legislation. We will be sending emails with contact information, web links for signing up to speak at committee hearings and specific messaging you can use when you connect with your legislator. We encourage you to attend in person or watch online as the committees debate and vote on education choice and election integrity.
The House Education K-12 Subcommittee will be the first stop for all education choice legislation on Tuesday mornings at 7:30am. Senate Privileges and Elections Committee takes up election integrity bills on Tuesday afternoons after the adjournment of Session, around 1:00pm. While our bills will not be heard in today’s Committee hearings, they will be coming up for a vote in the very near future.
We will keep you abreast of the status of these and other important bills as they make their way through the legislative process. In the meantime, if you are interested in watching the sausage making process, you can watch the proceedings in the comfort of own your home. Here is the link to the Senate Committee hearings and here is the link to the House Committee hearings.
We are tremendously grateful for your commitment to advancing freedom in Virginia and we look forward to keeping you informed of the latest at the 2022 Virginia General Assembly.