NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — State legislators and local school board members took a field trip… to the classroom.
Norfolk Public Schools held its annual “Legislator Day” Tuesday at Richard Bowling Elementary School to allow public officials to share all the positives going on at the school, as well as an opportunity to discuss what the district needs to succeed.
“Children can’t vote, so we have to be their voices for them,” said Noelle Gabriel, chairwoman of the Norfolk School Board.
Gabriel is thankful for all those who showed up to discuss the issues she said the district is facing, including school accreditation, the literacy gap, achievement gap, school maintenance and mental health needs.
“Some of the things we see are the social and emotional needs our kids have. Those are some of the broader areas we’ll discuss, but it’s really going to be putting the ideas out that sponsor bills to help us achieve those items we mentioned,” she said.
Del. Steve Heretick, who represents the 79th House District, agreed that mental health was a priority in education. He said they would work to increase the number of student guidance counselors in school, although doing so would be $80 to 85 million more what’s currently budgeted for those services.
“It’s a constant process of learning what the needs are here, trying to go to Richmond and try[ing] to get that money out of the budget. Remember, every time we take a dollar out for schools or other things, we take away from something else,” he said.
Heretick says the conversations and relationships made through events like “Legislator Day” are critical to getting what teachers and students desperately need.
“We represent the localities. The part of our job — and it’s the biggest part of our job, I think — is to educate our kids, give them safe, productive environments to learn. It’s no secret that one of the biggest aspects of our budget in any given year is education. So, to try to get the biggest bang to buck, so to speak, and get our resources where they belong,” he said.
Delegate-elect Nancy Guy also attended the event. She hopes to do something about student-teacher ratio and other shortfalls in the public education system.
“Nothing’s more important. Nothing is more important. The thing that drove me into this race is that public education is the backbone of democracy and we have been starving it here in Virginia since the recession,” Guy said.
To see the full list of issues discussed at “Legislator Day,” click here.