UNIVERSAL CHILD CARE AND EDUCATION
Jenn’s mom was the 12th of 14 children and the first member of her family to go beyond the 8th grade and graduate college. She went on to become an early childhood educator and college counselor. Jenn’s dad was a third-generation educator. Jenn’s parents taught her that a good education is the key to economic opportunity, thriving communities, and a healthy democracy. As a graduate of Chesterfield Public Schools and the mother of children in Richmond Public Schools, Jenn has a long record of fighting to increase education investment and improve our schools to build Virginia’s future.
The path to success in school and life begins at birth and is shaped before kindergarten- 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5. The foundation for an equitable and high-quality education starts with infant care and early childhood education.
As a working mother of two young kids, Jenn also knows how hard it is to find affordable, quality child care. As a legislator, Jenn has seen firsthand the child care crisis in Virginia. Even before the pandemic, Virginia was ranked 41st in the country in child care affordability, putting a major strain on Virginia families and our economy. The pandemic has worsened the child care crisis. More than 40% of Virginia’s child care facilities closed, and it has sent a ripple effect through Virginia’s economy – including women dropping out of the workforce at record rates. The crisis has disproportionately impacted women and Black and Brown communities in Virginia.
Equity is at the heart of Jenn’s education plan from birth to career. Access to quality education should not depend on what zip code you live in, but decades of underfunding have resulted in Virginia having some of the top and lowest performing schools in the nation. These inequities exist in Virginia’s early childhood, K-12 and higher education systems. These disparities hurt students’ ability to access a future of economic opportunity, which in turn impacts how our communities and democracy thrive.
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
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