Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jen Little for Mathews County School Board

I first met Jen Little back in 2007 at an event in the early stages of the last presidential campaign. One of the things that immediately jumped out at me was that she was extremely passionate about giving back to the community -- especially when it came to public education. That is why I wasn’t surprised to see that the Farm Team (an organization that promotes women in politics her in Virginia) cited her “enthusiastic dedication to serving [her] community” as one of the reasons she’s earned “the trust of [her] constituents and the respect of [her] fellow Democrats” and received the Farm Team’s endorsement in her bid for another term on the Mathews County School Board.

Her passion for community service isn’t the only reason to support Jen’s campaign. For instance, she is quick to point out that public education shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It should be about what’s best for our children. As someone who has spent significant amount of time organizing around education issues, I can tell you that it’s great to see a school board member who actually realizes that partisan politics shouldn’t be placed above our children’s future. Don’t get me wrong, I want to support strong Democrats (which Jen definitely is), but education is truly an issue where we need to focus on what can be done to ensure students are receiving the skills they need to secure a bright future.

Jen understands this and even points out that Virginia’s constitution even stresses the importance of education because a free High Quality public education is the ONLY social provision in the constitution. And our children are the reason public education exists.

Because education is so important, Jen also believes we need to make sure that we properly support those who devote their lives to providing students with a high quality education. I have never met somebody whose gone into education to become rich, but that doesn’t mean we should take those who go into the field for granted. Nonetheless, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and others who help our children learn have been forced to do more with less as the costs of insurance have continued to rise while there have been no compensation increases (including the elimination of step increases that have traditionally been there for employees who continue serving over the years).

Forcing them to do more with less is not a way to keep excellent teachers in the classrooms. And in a time we’re still struggling to recover from the greatest economic crisis since the great depression, it’s also worth noting how this impacts already struggling families because the public school systems are the largest employer in many counties throughout Virginia -- including Mathews County.

While the local school board obviously only has authority in the county they represent, its important to know that there’s action taking place at the federal and state levels that impact the local school systems. I frequently cover hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, for instance, and one of the biggest topics that comes up is NCLB and Race to the Top. These programs have a direct impact on what a school system is required to do. Programs like these might have been passed with great intentions, but Congress has far too often failed to also hold up to properly funding these mandates. I’ve seen how localities struggle under these burdens, which is why I agree with Jen when she says the state and federal government needs to stop passing unfunded mandates and that the federal government needs to redefine their role in K-12 education.

What this all tells me is that the Farm Team was correct in recognizing that Jen’s passion for community service is one of the reasons she makes an excellent school board member. Her history of putting a quality education for students before party politics, willingness to stand up against unfunded mandates, and desire see school employees properly supported are just a few reasons I’m also honored to announce my support for her re-election campaign. Mathews County has been well served with Jen Little on the school board and she deserves another term.

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