Virginia Parents and Students Need the READ Fund!
Proposed Virginia Budget Amendment Would Reimburse Parents for Education Expenses
By Cheryl Buford
Many parents put on a brave face, during the months of isolation and difficulties caused by the lackluster roll out of remote learning last Spring. They endured, fully assuming remote learning was a short-term blip that would soon end. However, the situation is not short-lived. The majority of public schools across the Commonwealth using remote learning for the foreseeable future.
Parents are rightly concerned about learning deficits from this arrangement. Their concern is reinforced when Virginia’s Department of Education Accreditation Task Force made a stunning decision, waiving public school accreditation for the next two school years!
Needless to say, parents are scrambling to find supplementary resources to enhance their children’s education. This is a difficult task for everyone. However, it’s especially daunting for low-income and working-class families or for families whose children have special needs.
Here’s some good news! Delegate Kirk Cox has authored a budget amendment called the Reimbursement for Education Access Decisions (READ) Fund. If approved, it would use $100 million of unspent federal COVID funds to give parents, whose children do not have in-school instruction, resources to pay for tutors, educational therapies, tuition or fees, transportation and consumable educational supplies.
If the Commonwealth truly cares about equity, the READ Fund presents a golden opportunity. “The great equalizer,” as Chris Braunlich, President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute aptly described it. The public enthusiastically supports this measure. In a recent poll, the Thomas Jefferson Institute found, 60% of the overall respondents support the measure, including 71% of Democrats and 70% of Black voters.
There’s no excuse to eliminate the READ Fund. It uses unspent federal COVID funds, and thus would not impact the state budget.
Time is of the essence! As a budget amendment, the House Appropriations Committee will decide whether to leave the READ Fund in the budget or not and the budget will be finalized by next Friday. Three Northern Virginia Delegates, Ken Plum, David Bulova and Paul Krizek are Committee members and if you’re in their District let them hear from you ASAP. For your convenience, click here for the list of the full Committee.
It never hurts to reach out to your Delegate and let them know you care about this issue. Click here to find the name and contact information for your Representatives.
Lastly, spread the word to your friends and family across the Commonwealth. READ Funds will help ALL our students to excel!
Cheryl Buford is a former U.S. Department of Education associate director for program analysis and evaluation. In 2019, she was a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Education.