Photo: Virginia House GOP

Press Release: Former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker, retired teacher, and 2021 candidate for Governor Kirk Cox on Thursday called for aggressive and unprecedented steps to attack learning loss and get Virginia Students back on track after extended remote learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cox outlined ten specific proposals, all of which could be paid for with federal relief funds, to help students recover after suffering through unnecessary extended remote learning. Cox’s plan would mobilize current, former, and substitute teachers to provide an unprecedented level of one-on-one and small group tutoring to students through the rest of this school year and this summer to address learning loss suffered over the last six months. The plan calls for increased investments in direct tutoring, additional stipends for teachers, tax incentives for retired and substitute teachers, direct reimbursements to parents for supplemental learning programs, and extended summer remediation opportunities for all students.

“Last July, I joined a number of fellow legislators in urging Governor Northam to prioritize five days of in-person learning. He didn’t listen, and for months our school buildings sat shuttered while students languished in virtual and remote settings that did not meet their needs, despite the best effort of Virginia’s hardworking teachers” said Cox, a 30-year retired government teacher. “We need to get students back in the classroom now, and I am glad that the Governor, President Biden, and other Democrats are finally starting to follow the science. That does not, however, excuse them from being held accountable for the damage their failed leadership has done.”

According to the latest data available from the Department of Education, 69% of Virginia school divisions have returned to some form of in-person or hybrid instruction. More are planning to return to in-person instruction in the coming weeks.

Cox continued, “Every single school division needs to return to five days of classroom learning for those who want it as quickly as possible, but we also need to recognize that going back to the classroom is simply not enough. We need a plan to attack the learning loss and get every child in Virginia back on track, regardless of their zip code or their background. And we need to reward the teachers who go above and beyond to make it happen. The General Assembly’s focus, and the focus of Virginia’s next Governor, must now turn to addressing the damaging effects caused by extended remote learning and making sure no child falls behind permanently. A lost year cannot become a lost generation.”

Cox specifically called on the General Assembly to take the following actions to attack learning loss immediately:

Provide additional state funding for one-on-one and small group tutoring on a personalized level through local school divisions for the rest of the 2021 school year and the summer

Create the READ Fund to directly reimburse parents for supplemental learning opportunities, supplies, and additional tutoring

Open summer remediation programs to all students through opt-in program, with costs covered by federal relief funds

Require DOE to issue statewide guidance on remediation best practices, with an emphasis on math and reading, no later than March 31, 2021

Require DOE to develop a statewide screening process for school divisions no later than March 31, 2021, that will help identify the specific learning losses and academic recovery needs of their students

Provide overtime and supplemental stipends for teachers willing to work with students after hours in in-person small group settings

Increase teacher compensation for participating in summer school programs and make that compensation tax free for 2021

Mobilize retired and substitute teachers to serve as temporary instructors for tutoring and summer schools by allowing them to earn tutoring and summer school compensation state-tax free for 2021

Partner with universities to allow teaching students to earn credit toward student teaching requirements for serving as tutors and summer learning instructors

Provide flexibility and streamline re-enrollment process for students returning to public schools this fall

“The evidence overwhelmingly shows that the best strategy for addressing learning loss and remediating students is direct, one-on-one or small group tutoring. We need to make sure every student has access to personalized tutoring, small-group learning, or summer remediation programs. To do this, we need to mobilize every available educator in the Commonwealth and direct every available resource to getting our students back on track. There is not one penny of new state spending more important than this task,” said Cox.

Cox concluded, “My sincere hope is that the General Assembly will recognize this is a bipartisan opportunity to lead, but if the Governor and Democrats try to shirk their obligations to our students, we will take this message to every corner of the Commonwealth and hold them accountable for their failures. I spent 30 years teaching in our classrooms, and I’m personally prepared to go back in the classroom this summer to help our students. It’s what we have to do. Our students and families deserve it and more importantly, need us fighting for them now.”