Richmond to Parents: You’re On Your Own

by Chris Braunlich

A week after party-line votes killed Republican initiatives to assist parents of school-aged children financially with federal COVID-19 dollars, Governor Ralph Northam proposed sending another $223 million of those dollars to public schools, adding to millions already sent.

There is a major divide in the way Republicans and Democrats view the role of parents in a child’s education. In this age of COVID, parents need bipartisan support. They are not receiving it.

Northam’s proposal sends funds to public schools for testing supplies, personal protective equipment, sanitation supplies and technology for distance learning. While public schools have mostly not been open for in-school classes, they will receive $175 per pupil. Private schools, which mostly have been open, have not been told whether they will receive an equal per-pupil share of the funding to protect the children attending their schools.

The first GOP proposal came from Delegate Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a retired high school social studies teacher. Cox’s budget amendment would have helped parents desperately trying to ensure their child receives an education while the schools are limited by inadequate online programs. Cox proposed taking $100 million from federal COVID funds and allow parents to use them for tutoring services, educational therapies, private online tuition, nationally-normed achievement tests or college admission exams, transportation, technology, or other education consumables.

His proposal died in a straight party-line vote, despite his having first voted to protect public school funding despite pandemic-related enrollment losses. Democrats leading the House of Delegates did not permit debate on his proposal, they just voted no.

Senator Steve Newman offered a similar benefit, raising the figure to $300 million, offered only to public school parents and capped at $500 per child.

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, an obstetrician who sees plenty of mothers and children, noted she had talked “with women every day who really are on the brink of exhaustion … this is an opportunity for us to fulfill that commitment that we support them in the education of their children.”

The stresses are especially hard on low-income parents. By last month workers with bachelor’s degrees had nearly recovered the jobs lost in spring. But there were still almost 12 percent fewer jobs for those with just a high school diploma and more than 18 percent fewer for those who had dropped out.

State Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, a nurse practitioner who is also a former Navy helicopter pilot and knows something about military families, echoed their concerns: “These guys don’t have a choice, they can’t work virtually, many of them deploy, and many don’t have family in the area so they can’t call their parents to come watch their kids. If both people are in the military, these are people who just have to go to work.”

The GOP proposals offered parents options, allowing them to decide what their family needs to fill in huge gaps left by inadequate online “schooling.” For one family it might be more internet bandwidth. For another, a tutor. For others, books. For a child with disabilities, educational therapies. What is needed most is decided by the parents closest to the needs.

The loss of in-classroom teaching hurts all children but is especially dire for low-income parents unable to afford the resources or the parents of children with disabilities for whom falling further behind without in-school instruction can have tragic consequences. These parents are struggling for their children, in a unique situation that is forcing expenses on them they would not have were schools open.

“For the families, for the children, for the working Mom, for those who are trying to make ends meet in a year where there is unusual financial stress in the home,” said Dunnavant, as the Senate voted the proposal down. “We should not just abandon them.”

Federal COVID-19 funds have been distributed to local governments, to businesses large and small, to those who can’t pay their rent and to those who can’t pay their electric bill.

But the message from Richmond is clear: Parents, you’re on your own.

Chris Braunlich is president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy and a former president of the Virginia State Board of Education. A version of this commentary originally appeared in the October 16 edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

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41 responses to “Richmond to Parents: You’re On Your Own

  1. Chris, has shown the growth of influence of the cancer that is the Virginia Education Association and its parent, the National Education Association. The NEA has trapped captive politicians, which included virtually every Democrat, into Sisyphean labors for them. No amount of money will ever be enough for the schools and thus teachers, but not one cent for parents or their choices.

    It is a position with which I am sure some Democrats are uncomfortable, but they feel they will lose office if they do the right thing.

    • This is important, timely post by Chris Braunlich. It tells of yet another case showing how Virginia’s government is failing its citizens, not only when public schools are open, but when they’re closed.

  2. Where are the standards and requirements such that money to the parents would not be wasted on bogus tutoring and other services?

    You know, this is coming from the folks who have for years been the fiscally conservatives ones. The ones who did not want to spend tax dollars without safeguards.

    Yet, here we are – as far as I can tell, not standard one to protect taxpayers and parents from bogus tutoring and related.

    And yes… take this money away from schools that they’d use for testing and contact tracing so we can emulate how Europe is opening their schools.

    Was this really a serious proposal or just more irresponsible posturing?

    • Larry, you will never understand freedom. The old saying is that the left wants people to do anything they wish as long as it’s mandatory.

      The philosophical left in this says some parents might somehow, some way use the money for something of which we disapprove. Therefore they may not have it. The teachers union left says it doesn’t care what parents may use the money for, its ours.

      Do you really think that different households don’t have different needs in supporting their children’s education? That Dr. Dunnavant has a hidden agenda with her comments?

      You also assume that the schools will spend the money more efficiently. Based on what evidence?

      Sen. Higgans verbally supported the parent funding proposals but apparently voted against them in a party line vote? Can you hazard a guess why?

      • Sherlock. I well understand Freedom. You do not give away tax dollars without rules to insure the money is properly spent.

        It’s that way with all Federal and State funding.

        And no I do not assume. The money to schools has strings on it that require it to be spent in certain ways and not spent in others.

        Yet you advocate doing none of that with money to parents and you call that “freedom”.

        I call it irresponsible.

        The “parent funding” idea is pure partisan posturing… ya’ll call that virtue signaling when the left does it.

        Ya’ll want SOLs and standardized testing for public shool teachers… licensing, qualifications, etc.

        ZIPPO for parent-hired teachers?

        so much for Fiscal Conservatism from Conservatives. All that has gone out the window… these days.

  3. Rugged individualism… the hallmark of the GOP.

  4. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The Blue Team needs to be on the lookout. The frustration of families with school aged children is going to show itself at the ballot box. This will not be forgotten for a good long while.

  5. Jen Kiggans is a Republican, not Democrat.

    • Thanks for pointing that out. I added her party affiliation to Chris’ post, as is consistent with our style, and looked her up on They got it wrong! Next time, I’ll use the General Assembly website.

    • You sure as heck can’t tell by looking at her website! Is this how the GOP runs for election in Virginia these days?

      • Once you reach this picture all doubt is removed…

        • Oh, and the standard GOP tap dance about health insurance:

          ” Healthcare is one of the top priorities for Senator Jen Kiggans. As a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, Jen believes all Virginians deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare. Jen will draw on personal experience to bring a professional perspective to Richmond working for those with pre-existing conditions and those most vulnerable among us. Jen believes that we must look for innovative solutions to make healthcare more affordable and accessible. ‘

          • Achso, the Trumpcare plan… repeal. Replace takes a little longer.
            Your roof needs to be replaced. We’ve scheduled removal of the shingles for tomorrow, and replacement when the temperature is over 85… so next summer.

      • James Wyatt Whitehead V

        The tide is turning on this issue. Sort of like the slavery issue in 1860.

  6. How can the closed public schools possibly need more money? What are the custodians, bus drivers, gym teachers, coaches, crossing guards and lunchroom workers doing? Are school resource officers (aka police) wandering around the empty halls of closed schools? What gasoline is being purchased to run buses that never drive their routes? There’s also been a notable decrease in the number of students enrolled in public schools as parents favor home schooling and private schools.

    As far as extra technology costs – what extra technology costs? The schools have been running virtually since last March.

    I also find it interesting that the aged liberals on this blog had no issue with the government handing out $1,200 checks. No need for rules on how that money would be spent. Not even a requirement that you lost your job to get the $1,200. But now … the teachers’ unions want the money to overfund schools that should be cutting back their spending and if there’s one thing aged liberals hate it is saying “no” to one of their special interest groups.

    • Because they are not “closed”? Have you been to a school and looked at the parking lots?

      They need money because they need more classrooms because they can only put 1/2 the kids in the existing ones. They need more staff for the extra classrooms. They need testing for staff and kids and contact tracing when infected are found.

      Technology needs are MORE than they were before. They need more equipment and bigger internet pipes, etc.

      But the big thing is testing protocols. If the teachers don’t trust that there are protocols to protect them then they’re not going to be bullied. They want what European teachers have which is regular testing and contact tracing, and other things that will allow them to teach when there is still a pandemic ongoing.

      Blaming “liberals” and others is non-responsive to the issues but not surprising.

      I sit on a citizens committee for a transportation group. ALL of the transportation group – is STILL meeting AND working virtually… there are no blame-game idiots claiming there are “liberals” causing it – just the simple reality that it’s still not safe to meet in groups unless there are other precautions.

      Let me ask you this. What is going on with the Fairfax Courts? Are they in regular session with regular in-person juries? Is that also a liberal conspiracy?

      • LarrytheG – “Let me ask you this. What is going on with the Fairfax Courts? Are they in regular session with regular in-person juries? Is that also a liberal conspiracy?”

        Are you unaware of the vast difference in mortality rates by age, or are you thinking that Fairfax Courts are only used by K-12 age individuals?

        Apples and oranges, or perhaps apples and rutabagas.

        • Nathan – are you aware that teachers are also older and have comorbidities and go home to families other members who are older have co-mordities also?

          Are you aware that European and Asian school do things to protect their teachers and keep their schools open that our leaders refuse to do as we claim we should re-open like Europe and Asia?

          You guys have made this political instead of supporting the common-sense things that need to be done, masks, social distancing, testing, contract tracing – uniform standards anywhere there are schools regardless of which states – a national approach like other countries around the globe are doing.

          • You again reply with your Johnny One Note insistence that the federal government implement a top down a series of iron fisted national mandates.

            The topic is k-12 schools in Virginia. If people are doing something different on the Alaskan tundra or coastal areas in Hawaii, that’s up to them. That shouldn’t drive this conversation.

            Why are you so uncomfortable with Virginians having a say in their own governance? One would think you would appreciate it since it’s dominated by Democrats. What’s the problem?

            Education policy should be driven primarily by what’s in the best interest of the children. Accommodations can be made for individual teachers and others with special needs.

            There are enough schools right here in Virginia that are providing in-person instruction to adequately demonstrate that this can be done safely for students and teachers.


          • Teachers are not dying in the Virginia schools that have opened for full time in-class instruction. They are not dying in the Virginia schools that have opened for hybrid in-class / virtual education.

            Northam’s school reopening guidelines were prepared by scientists and included all the procedures required to safely reopen schools. Fairfax County determined that they could comply with the guidelines in a hybrid reopening. Then, the teachers had a meltdown.

            Who is ignoring science?

  7. Baconator with extra cheese

    Fixated on Europe and its whiteness…. What is Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Cameroon doing in their classrooms? I thought the teachers were all in on diversity and the end of white supremecy and the patriarchy.
    Always Europe with these Wypipo.

    • Well no. I’m responding to those that say Europe has re-opened schools with no problems and we have not while ignoring what they are doing and we are not. It applies to Asia and Austrailia, New Zealand and most of the rest of the world.

      It’s really dumb. We have the POTUS and other “leaders” rejecting most US and worldwide scientific consensus, downplaying the use of masks, social distancing and opposition to more testing then turning around and accusing teachers and schools of bad faith because other schools overseas are opening and we are not.

      We are not, because our national leaders refuse to advocate and support doing the things that Euope and Asia are doing and instead just stupidly insist that we “open” and teachers and educators across the country are rightly not buying it.

      I also point out that things like Courts, jury trials and many, many government meetings are also not going back yet no complaints from the critics who blame schools.

      why? Do you think the courts and government should get back to meeting in-person also?

  8. Baconator with extra cheese

    You like to point out the inportance of how BIPOCs feel about issues with your charts. Since Orangeman-Bad is a racist and his racist policies have cause Covid to disproportionally impact BIPOCs and our eduction system is founded in whiteness and also fails BIPOCs it makes sense to me we take BIPOC feelings into consideration and they may feel much more safe in a BIPOC system of education like Cameroon or Belize.
    Plus we will save tons of money by firing our non-BIPOC teachers and cutting the number of schools in half. And we score points for smashing whiteness in the process. Health care costs should plummet… I’m pretty sure Cameroon and Belize aren’t real big on insurance, drug benefits, and Covid tests. But we will be able to claim equity!

    • You’ll have to explain what BIPOC is.

      You know the funny thing – youse guys IMPUGN public teachers but they are the very same people you want to teach your kids. HOw does that work?

  9. LarrytheBiden is channelling his inner 1984 and communicating in fluent Newspeak. Closed is open and open is closed.

    The closed schools are secretly open.

    No, they’re not. Not in the state’s largest school district, Fairfax County. No buses on the roads, no students at their desks. The schools are closed.

    The schools need money for “more classrooms”. The absurdity of that idea is beyond the pale. Do you suggest tents? Otherwise, a mass school construction effort is a multi-year issue.

    They need money because they need more classrooms because they can only put 1/2 the kids in the existing ones. Not in Fairfax County. A hybrid in-person, virtual plan was adopted following the “science” of Ralph Northam’s re-opening plan. It was announced to the public. It was science based. Then came the teachers’ union saying “no” to science. I thought the aged liberals on this blog believed in science.

    “If the teachers don’t trust that there are protocols to protect them then they’re not going to be bullied.” Lol. Plenty of districts in Virginia are open for in-school teaching, plenty are open for hybrid in-school / virtual teaching. Do you see mass shutdowns at these schools? Do you read reports of long lines of teachers going to the hospital with COVID? Why is the “science” of Northam’s reopening plan inapplicable in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties? Easy – because the liberal school boards have no real belief in science even when the science comes from scientists working for a woke Democratic governor. They like working from home. I do too. Unfortunately, teachers, doctors and grocery store checkers can’t do their jobs effectively from home.

    The aged liberals on this blog cry for Republicans to “follow the science”. But when it comes to school reopening, Northam’s scientific reopening plan and teachers’ unions … suddenly science doesn’t matter.

    • DJ-the-idiot blathers once more about silly stuff.

      Down my way -the school parking lots are full of teachers cars.

      Once again, I ask how Fairfax compares to Henrico. It’s easy to check.

      Is Henrico just as bad or worse than Fairfax?

      The only “science” we should follow is the kind that most of the scientists around the world support AND that most other countries FOLLOW for the schools.

      To keep the school open, – you have to test to quickly find and isolate infected. If you do not do this – and just wait until someone IS infected, then you have to contact trace – quickly and if you do neither, what happens is what happened at the White House – many folks get infected.

      some folks can’t help but be fools on this djrippert, you know and it’s pretty rampant to boot!

      If we had uniform/standardized testing/contract tracing for the schools, I’d be with the critics but it just blows my mind that the critics don’t want to do what the other countries are doing to get the schools open. They’d rather impugn/condemn the teachers – the same teachers that they want to teach the kids. What kind of sense does that make?

      • Baconator with extra cheese

        What most of the other countries follow?
        Do you realize in the world that just barely 50% of people have acccess to clean running water and effective sanitary sewers?
        And science is whiteness…. and whiteness caussed these issues. The sacred teacher’s union supports groups who push that crap. So why are teachers and you bringing science into this?
        Most countries aren’t wrapped up in the whiteness you propose
        And we are learning that testing is always biased and leads to disproportionate impacts.

        • Most other countries that are developed and actually have universal public education AND are using scientifically-recommended protocols to keep their schools open – the same schools that critics in this country cite in their advocacy for US schools to open.

          you say testing is “biased”. Jesus H. Keeerist.

          science is “white” – world wide science is “white” ?

          sorry guy, you’ve gone around the bend here in my view.

      • You replace my use of “Biden” with “idiot”. Well, you’re learning.

        Was Northam’s reopening guidelines a science based document or not? This is a “yes or no” question. Our dear governor is a doctor after all.

        Did the liberals who run Fairfax County Public Schools correctly use Northam’s science-based re-opening guidelines to determine that it was safe (by the science of the guidelines) to reopen in a hybrid manner? Again, a simple yes or no will suffice.

        If you answered “yes” to those two questions … why are Fairfax County Public Schools closed?

        Why would you support the anti-science agenda of the Fairfax County public school teachers in perpetuating a weak approach to teaching when the science of Dr Gov Northam, MD’s reopening guidelines allowed for safe reopening in a hybrid manner?

  10. Hmmm 1984, eh? Yep, terrible when people guide their thoughts, actions and beliefs on works of fiction. Ever read Ayn Rand? Hell, we had a Speaker of the House who thought Atlas Shrugged was history.

  11. “Down my way -the school parking lots are full of teachers cars.”

    My daughter teaches in Chesterfield. Teachers are required to teach on-line from their (empty) classrooms instead of from their homes, which is why the parking lots are full of teachers’ cars.

    She told us that Chesterfield will gradually start re-opening schools, starting with elementary grades. Half of the students will go into school Monday & Tuesday, Wednesday is for cleaning the classrooms, and the other half will go Thursday & Friday. Students are supposed to go on-line the 2 days they aren’t in class.

    • Spotsylvania started hybrid in-person. 2 days for half, other half virtual – I think from the same in-person class.

      My understanding is that Henrico has a jingle – “Online til 2021” or some such. I keep asking how Henrico is different from Fairfax because both are large school systems and both are still virtual yet all we hear about is Fairfax even though Henrico is Jim Bacon territory. He should write a post about Henrico, no?

      • How is Henrico or Fairfax different from Chesterfield or Spotsylvania? As an aside, Chesterfield public schools have more students than Henrico public schools.

        Here’s a thought – the liberals on Henrico and Fairfax public school boards would rather screw the students than open up according to the science of Northam’s reopening guidelines. Meanwhile, the conservatives on Soptsylvania and Chesterfield school boards believe in the science-based reopening plan published by Democratic governor Ralph Northam.

        Now, tell me again – who is playing politics with school reopening?

        Also, given that Trump was perhaps rightly pilloried for his lack of a national approach to COVID why isn’t Northam criticized for his lack of a statewide approach to school reopenings?

        • If these school systems were significantly different than many other school systems across the country -you might have a point.

          But they are not – so you make your point that the ones that are virtual are, by definition, kid/parent-screwing liberals or some such.


          Now THAT’s intelligent. But par for the course with Conservatives these days. it’s all a massive liberal conspiracy!

  12. I’m a Democrat, but would have had no problem voting for the version that limited it to the parents of public school students, *provided* that there was a provision that this aid automatically expires when the COVID state of emergency is over. So long as the funding was not coming out of existing public education money–it sounds like it wasn’t and was a supplement.

    I suspect it died because many saw it as a Trojan Horse for vouchers, but putting in an expiration provision would go a long way to allay that fear.

  13. Some parents who have to work have had to select private schools. Why shouldn’t cares funding be used to support them? Some have had to hire in house coaches while they are at work. If a public school can set up day care, why can’t they host school? Oh my, this is a mess. Larry G has a point, the money needs to be somehow regulated. However, school boards know there is a shortfall coming and they are scooping up every dollar. The money will not be spent on testing or contact tracing. It will all go in one pot and replace local tax revenue shortfalls.

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