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Leahy: The Big Question Virginia Will Have to Face Beyond Reopening Public Schools

Getting public schools reopened as soon as possible is a popular talking point among Republican gubernatorial candidates looking to reconnect with the suburban voters who deserted them during Donald Trump’s presidency.

It’s not the worst political strategy. But reopening alone is a shallow and ephemeral issue. The bigger question, one Republicans and Democrats alike will have to answer, is what happens after the doors are open and the kids are back at their desks.

And that’s where the problems begin for both major parties, because in far too many cases, kids will be going back to public school buildings that are decrepit, sick or antique. It’s a problem Paul Goldman (now a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor) and I wrote about many times in this space.

In one of our earliest pieces, from Sept. 2014, we wrote [1] that then-Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones (D) preferred to cut the city’s property tax rate rather than address its crumbling public school infrastructure. Jones said “only 11 percent of our population is being served by the [Richmond Public Schools],” and he needed to look out for everyone.

A more hard boiled reading of that quote would say that poor kids can’t vote, let alone make campaign contributions. Government will get to them when it’s convenient to do so.

Matters haven’t improved much at all since then. If anything, they’ve gotten worse. State Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (R-Franklin) picked up the school infrastructure idea, pushing a multibillion dollar plan in the 2019 General Assembly session [2].

It went nowhere. The cause of death: bipartisan indifference. Instead, Virginia’s political class jumped on board the casino gambling bandwagon because blackjack and slot machines aren’t just sexier, they also generate money for politicians to spend.

Oh, and campaign contributions [3], too.

Continue reading at the Washington Post [4].