Delegate Phillip Scott from Virginia’s 63rd District hosted a community town hall focused on education last night with Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears.
The Republican legislators took to the stage at Grace Church of Fredericksburg to answer “pre-loaded” questions from a moderator and members of the audience, fielding inquiries on topics that included special needs students, pandemic learning loss, school choice, sexually explicit books, state and federal funding and others.
“This is not something that’s ‘pie in the sky.’ We’re observing it in other states,” Sears insisted.
Sears was equally direct with a question regarding learning loss from the pandemic.
“They were already not…learning prior to COVID. They’re failing and failing spectacularly.”
Sears again emphasized the differences in response between public and private schools, criticizing the former for lowering passing scores in an attempt to motivate students.
“It didn’t work. If you lower the scores, you lower the expectations and the children fail.”
The much-debated topic of sexually explicit books in school libraries also entered the townhall’s discussions.
“These are books that you need to be 18 to purchase, but they (students) can have access to them at the public school library?”
While not calling them to be banned or taken from shelves, Scott stood firm in his convictions as a parent, stating he believed the content to be inappropriate for his own daughters while also questioning the tone of the public discussion around the issue.
“The conversation is ‘how much can we give them exposure to?’ instead of saying, ‘how can we create a safe environment where they (kids) can grow up, can learn, can be protected and they can maintain their innocence for as long as possible?’ Because there are are plenty of places that will take that away from them.”
The last question for the evening was posed by Spotsylvania County School Board member Dawn Shelley, who asked how the state plans to address special needs education, drawing attention to how teachers are expected to maintain a class of 20+ students at a time. Lt. Governor Sears’s Chief of Staff Julianne Condrey acknowledged these issues while attributing them to outdated federal standards that will need to be addressed.
Delegate Scott plans to hold future townhall events on different legislative issues in the near future.