As you may know, Virginia was a little slow to get on board with civil rights. In 1954, Prince Edward County CLOSED its schools rather than integrate them after Brown v. Board of Education . Yes, closed. A public school for both blacks and whites did not open in the county until 1964.
Given this history, I shouldn’t be surprised by yesterday’s 5-4 vote against HB 1111, a bill that would improve educational outcomes for Virginia’s most-needy students.
The bill, introduced by Delegate Adam Ebbin, was straightforward. Allow any Title I elementary school in the state the option of opening its doors before Labor Day. Title I schools are those with a high percentage of needy children and that typically have difficulty meeting the state’s educational achievement goals.
Why open before Labor Day? Research shows that many students without a rich summer experience lose ground on standardized tests over the summer. For example:
- Two-thirds of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
- Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
When this pattern continues throughout the elementary school years, lower income youth fall more than two and one-half years behind their more affluent peers by the end of fifth grade. Allowing these schools to open earlier, before Labor Day, would begin to address this achievement gap and help Virginia’s most needy students get a better education.
But the bill was killed in committee, largely because of the opposition of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association and King’s Dominion. So once again, schools will be closed in Virginia, just like they were so many years ago.
Their reason for opposing the bill? “This bill hinders tourism,” said King’s Dominon Marketing Manager John Pagel in an interview with the Alexandria Gazette. “We support the traditional calendar, which is a revenue generator for the state.”
Filed under: Advocacy, Education, Politics Tagged: | adam ebbin, alexandria gazette, brown v. board of education, civil rights, Education, education policy, john pagel, king's dominion, michael pope, mimi carter, price edward county, public schools, richmond, state legislature, virginia hospitality and tourism association, virginia legislature