See below for a statement from the Fairfax NAACP regarding the Virginia State Senate Education Committee voting to kill HB2305 – the “Governor’s School Bill” – last Thursday.
FAIRFAX NAACP RESPONSE TO VOTE ON HB 2305
On February 18th the Virginia State Senate Education Committee voted 9-6 to pass by indefinitely HB 2305, also known as the Governor’s School Bill, effectively killing it. The bill asked merely that the VA Board of Education issue guidance that would increase access to historically underserved populations and improve the pipeline of students from these communities, so they might also participate in the full spectrum of educational offerings available in their communities. The bill was defeated due to the votes of the following: Senator John S. Edwards, Senator John Cosgrove, Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, Senator John S. Edwards, Senator Steve Newman, Senator Mark Peake, Senator David Suetterlein, and Fairfax County local Senators Chap Petersen and Dick Saslaw.
Despite shamefully low enrollment for Black and Hispanic children in Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) as well as recommendations from the recently commissioned Education Work Group which stated it was resoundingly clear changes needed to be made, local legislator Chap Petersen claimed the bill, “stigmatizes a very hard-working local community in Fairfax County which I am proud to represent and be married into,” before voting to kill the bill. As Senator Petersen’s wife is Korean, he leaves us to wonder what community he believes is not hard-working enough to deserve an excellent, enriched education.
The TJHSST Class of 2024 figures show the number of Black students admitted to TJHSST as **TS, too small to report. The number of Hispanic students was 16, or 3.3% of a class of nearly 500 students. And the number of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch is 1.2% in a county where approximately 31% of students qualify for the program. Despite these disturbing facts, the VA State Senate killed a bill that was a step toward desegregating our public schools and broadening access to this public resource.
The Fairfax County School Board took steps they hope will desegregate TJHSST, but for the counties whose school boards failed to do so, the death of HB 2305 ensures that Virginia will continue to its long history of separate and unequal access to higher level academics, gifted programs, accelerated learning spaces, and Governor’s schools. We are in the New Massive Resistance, where our government says it wants equity and inclusion, while maintaining the racist structures that allow segregation to thrive.
Fairfax NAACP President, Karen Campblin has requested a meeting with Senators Saslaw and Petersen to discuss this prime opportunity to develop appropriate guidelines that will broaden access and improve enrollment rates at TJHSST and other Governor’s schools for underrepresented communities, which in large part includes economically disadvantaged, Black, Hispanic, and differently-abled students. Fairfax County families should accept nothing less in the way of ensuring the same high quality public education is available and equally accessible to all students.