When I was the named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, my school had a ceremony with lots of politicians, media, educators, and former colleagues, along with current and former students. It was a grand celebration for the Richmond community. At the end of the ceremony, I immediately ran past all the dignitaries to hug my former students who had traveled from all over the state to say congratulations. After that moment, I made my way back across the room to hug Virginia State Senator and current candidate for the Virginia 4th Congressional district, Jennifer McClellan.
Senator McClellan wasn’t a politician looking for a photo opportunity, she is and has been a friend to me but more importantly to the students in the Richmond Juvenile Detention Facility. She had been to the school before to talk to the students about their experiences as young people growing up in an urban environment and how she could help them and other teens avoid ending up in similar situations. She turned those conversations into legislation that is helping to end the school to prison pipeline by ending mandatory reporting to law enforcement for minor infractions that could lead to misdemeanor charges for students. She also proposed legislation to end discipline disparities that disproportionately affect Black and Brown students in Virginia schools. The measure of a politician isn't what they can do for voters; it’s what they do for the most vulnerable citizens who don’t have access to the ballot. She has routinely shown up for these populations of children and disenfranchised adults.
In her time as a state senator, Jenn McClellan has been a champion for public education across Virginia. She has pushed legislation to improve early childhood education by expanding access to more families. She also has supported K-12 education by fighting for more funding for educator pay, education resources, and education infrastructure to replace crumbling school buildings around the state. In addition, she has championed opportunities for the working class to further their education by expanding access to college opportunities and ensuring Dreamers qualify for in-state college tuition to help them pursue the American Dream.
I had the pleasure of working with Representative Donald McEachin several times in my role as an educator in Richmond. His office sought advice from myself and other educators on legislation in Washington DC and how it would affect the community. That’s what a great politician does. They get an issue and ask for advice from their constituents. I can’t think of a better, more qualified person to continue that legacy than Jennifer McClellan. I urge all champions of public education to support Senator McClellan in the special election primary on December 20th and in the special general election in February.
Below is a list of Senator McClellan’s accomplishments in the Virginia General Assembly as a legislator:
In the legislature, Jenn has laid the groundwork to stabilize and invest in the child care industry.
- Championed the passage of the Child Care Stabilization and Quality Care Act, which provided greater financial stability for child care and early childhood education providers by launching a new two-year pilot program creating flexibility in how federal subsidy dollars are used, and allowed for portable background checks to address workforce shortages. Jenn’s bill made Virginia “a leader in moving down the path of providing flexibility and stability to the child care sector,” according to Voices for Virginia Children
- Cosponsored legislation that created a statewide unified system for early childhood care and education
- Supported a bill that strengthened background checks for child care providers
As a legislator, Jenn has led the fight to fully fund Virginia’s K-12 public schools and address inequities in the education system.
- Led the passage of a 2021 bill that invests $50 million in hiring more school support staff, such as social workers, nurses, and mental health professionals
- Spearheaded legislation that created the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, which will make funding recommendations to fix crumbling schools across the Commonwealth
- For two years in a row, chief sponsored a bill to increase Virginia public school funding by $2 billion by fully funding the Virginia Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality, including addressing educational inequity
- Passed two bills to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, which had led to increased racial disparities in Virginia’s education system
- Fought for higher educator pay and increased support staffing, including a 2020 amendment to give teachers a 5% raise, and a 2019 amendment to hire more administrators and school staff
- Received the Virginia Education Association “Legislator of the Year” award in 2021, and numerous Virginia Education Association Legislative Champion awards for her work to improve school funding
- Created the School Construction Fund and Program to provide grants to Virginia K-12 schools that need support for construction and modernization. Fought for budget amendments that provided $1.2 billion for school construction in the 2022 budget.
- Passed a law requiring that every Virginia elementary school have a full-time principal and providing funding for hiring needed principals.
Jenn has also been fighting for equity and affordability in higher education.
- Supported legislation that will require more transparency from higher education governing boards
- Cosponsored the bill which will make tuition-free community college available to low- and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields
- Cosponsored legislation that allows DACA Dreamers to qualify for in-state tuition