MCLEAN, Va. (WDVM) — 40 young Black students across the Commonwealth of Virginia have endorsed gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s record on criminal justice reform and his plans for equitable access to education.
On Thursday, McAuliffe hosted a virtual discussion with representatives from a few of the state’s historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, to collect their ideas and hear their stories. “These young people are the leaders of tomorrow, and I want to make sure they have access to a quality education,” he said.
To increase enrollment, McAuliffe has proposed a scholarship program named for Lucy Simms, who was born into slavery and got a degree in education from the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). Students who are willing to teach for five years in one of the Commonwealth’s “high demand areas” will receive free tuition at any HBCU.
“I will pay your tuition, room, and board,” said McAullife. “We’d be the only state in America that would be doing that and that is ensuring that we have diverse teachers that are coming out of the education system — qualified, diverse teachers — to fill that need across.”
The Lucy Simms Educator Program is part of his proposal to invest $2 billion every year.
McAuliffe is also campaigning on inequitable access to technology across the state. According to the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia, one in five students in Virginia don’t have access to either high-speed internet or a computer for distance learning. Additionally, “Black and Latinx students are twice as likely than white students to not have a computer.” McAullife says Virginia is also ranked 50th in the country in teacher pay when compared to the average educator’s salary in the U.S.
“That’s a disgrace,” said McAullife.
An estimated 1,000 teaching positions across the state are unfilled — most of them in special education, elementary education, middle school education, mathematics, and career and technical education.