Guzman and Davis Debate Future of Education in Virginia


Delegate Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) and Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach), who are both running for lieutenant governor, started their education debate on Twitter during the 2021 General Assembly session. On Saturday, the two candidates met on Zoom in a debate hosted by James Madison University to continue their discussion about the future of education in Virginia.

Responding to a question about how to ensure that every child gets a quality education, Guzman said, “We need to make both an unprecedented level of investment in every level of education, from universal pre-K through universal higher ed, so that every student has access to the best schools in the nation with well-paid, well-trained educators and support staff who have collective bargaining rights.”

Davis replied, “An easy answer to this question is choice. Why does Virginia act as if a student to a wealthy family in northern Virginia has the same challenges as a student to a single mother in Harrisonburg has?”

Davis said, “The answer is having choice, the answer is having alternate options under our public school umbrella for children to go to and for parental choice, so that all the resources necessary to educate our children to allow them to reach their full potential are provided.”

Future of Private, Magnet, and Charter Schools

The candidates were asked if private schools, magnet schools, and charter schools have a continuing role in Virginia education.

“We have plenty of private schools right now, so there is a choice for parents to send their children there,” Guzman said. “I would not advise it, because there is less accountability and no oversight.”

She continued, “We cannot move to any other options until we fully fund our public schools. Maybe after we get there then we can talk about it. We have to protect the quality of our public education in Virginia to ensure that we have the best schools in the country.”

Guzman said, “Delegate Davis talked a lot about school choice today. But school choice is code for draining money from public schools. He also likes to lecture me as a social worker about wrap-around services. That’s condescending and a distraction from the real issue, [which] is that these schools drain money from our public schools. I would also state that I oppose any effort to transfer the power to grant charters away from the local school board.”

Davis replied, “I love when someone talks about how private schools are not accountable and I realize that they’re the only ones that still had in-person learning during this whole thing, so I don’t think you want to go there.”

He said, “The answer is, yes, we need all of the above. We need our charter schools, we need magnet schools, we need the Governor’s academy.”

“Charter schools are tremendous at helping the undeserved areas, bringing in the wrap-around services and the additional resources that work,” Davis said. “That’s what they need. At the same time, we need Governor’s schools and magnet schools to make sure that the best and the brightest are continually challenged.”

Teacher Shortage

Moderators asked how the candidates would address Virginia’s teaching workforce shortage.

“The answer I would say is, we have to pay them more,” Guzman said. “I hate to reduce the supply and demand, but we have to make it more desirable for teachers to teach in Virginia. Maryland and Pennsylvania pay their teachers more than we do in Virginia. We shouldn’t be losing our young talent from Virginia. We shouldn’t be watching them move to teach in other states.”

Davis said teachers should be paid based on their skills. He said retaining teachers is partly about pay and partly about showing the teachers they are appreciated through raises given at key moments, not just when the economy is booming.

“If you want to show teachers how much they’re valued, how much of an asset they are not just to students, but to the Commonwealth, then you give them that raise when times are tough,” he said, “Don’t do what the Democratic administration and leadership did this year. You don’t say, we’ve got a raise for you coming out in the 2020 session, but because of COVID, we’re not going to defund everything, but we’re going to defund our teacher raises.”

Commenters watching the video were largely positive about Davis. Phil Kazmierczak said, “[Delegate] Guzman wants to throw money at the problem while [Delegate] Davis wants to focus on solutions that actually work — like school choice.

Commenter Brigid Kahng said, “As a parent of school-aged kids I’m liking Glenn Davis’s response WAY better. School choice!”

Watch the full debate here:

– – –

Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].

Related posts