It’s no wonder education is at the top of the issues list for state Senate candidate Amy Laufer. As a parent, a former teacher and a former Charlottesville School Board member, she has expertise with this particular topic that is both broad and deep.
It’s an issue that ought to concern state voters as well. Education makes up a significant portion of public budgets, both at the state and local levels.
And it’s foundational to so many other quality-of-life issues.
“I really do believe that education is the basis for a healthy community,” she told The Daily Progress.
How to boost education?
Virginia needs to attract more K-12 teachers into the profession, and to do that — as well as to better honor its current teachers — it needs to continue raising teacher pay.
The commonwealth also should restore funding levels to localities that were stripped following the Great Recession. Virginia balanced its budget by pushing responsibilities down to the local level, but without providing money for the standards and mandates it requires.
Ms. Laufer also advocates improving vocational and technical education and ensuring that more students are able to graduate from high school with certificates allowing them to go directly into the workforce.
Expanding broadband access is another of her priorities. “It’s almost as if it’s a matter of human dignity,” she said of the need to extend reliable internet service into rural areas. “We can no longer just ignore people.”
Students who can’t do their homework, agricultural businesses that can’t compete in the marketplace, patients who can’t take advantage of telemedicine are penalized by the lack of access.
Ms. Laufer has an ambitious slate of reforms on her platform. Adding universal pre-school, expanding Medicaid again by abolishing the work mandate for receiving benefits, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in the next decade, reforming the criminal justice system and lowering incarceration rates — all add up to change on a large scale.
They could add up to expenses on a large scale, too (although Ms. Laufer points out that reducing prison populations would simultaneously reduce prison costs).
Some of these proposals might not prove practical or financially feasible once they are fleshed out in detail. But honing the details and then convincing voters and fellow legislators of proposals’ merits are part of the democratic process.
In describing how she would negotiate that process, Ms. Laufer made some comments that win our respect.
She’s not opposed to cutting back on some programs in order to find money for better priorities. We also believe that government programs should be carefully reviewed and not allowed simply to exist into perpetuity.
“People work very hard for a paycheck,” Ms. Laufer told The Progress. “We should make sure that government spends that money to best help the taxpayers.”
And she says she’s more interested in pragmatism than in scoring political points.
“I don’t think a good idea [has to be] either Democratic or Republican,” she said. “Get the ego out of the room” and let ideas rise and fall on their merit.
“I’m going [to Richmond] because I want to solve problems,” she said. If everyone did that, there would be a real reduction in partisan bickering, she added.
Ms. Laufer has the right spirit and the right attitude for public service and deserves this chance to step up to a bigger playing field. The Daily Progress endorses her for state Senate from the 17th District.