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What’s going on in Virginia’s education system?

A stop sign is sticking out and flashing on a yellow bus at a Henrico school.
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The crisis in our education system is a growing concern as students head back to the classroom.

The crisis in our education system continues to persist. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted where the cracks are. Now, communities are navigating how to teach and learn post pandemic. 


KEYRIS MANZANARES: Students and teachers alike are facing a variety of roadblocks heading into the new school year including educational inequity, teacher shortages and mental health challenges. 

RYAN JAMES: 2020 was great until it wasn't, and COVID, it really did affect. Virtual learning was rough, there [were] a lot of inequities, a lot of inequalities that were very visible and prevalent. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Ryan James, who's been a teacher for 12 years and currently teaches at Lucille Brown Middle School in Richmond, says students face inequities depending on their zip code. 

RYAN JAMES: When you look at certain counties, there are a lot of resources that certain counties get versus other districts. Whether you're talking about resources as in, you know, laptops and technology, or you're talking about resources as in new buildings and infrastructure. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: The quality of education in our state is also impacted by the shortage of teachers. A report from the Virginia Department of Education shows that during the 2022/2023 school year there were nearly 3,600 teacher vacancies. James Fedderman with the Virginia Education Association says educators are fed-up and grossly underpaid. 

JAMES FEDDERMAN: So, we're talking about educators who are bringing home a paycheck that has no money, so it's essentially a stub. Because they're having to use all of their money to pay for insurance, the cost of living and not to mention the amount of money that educators are taking from their own paycheck to provide for school supplies. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: Another pressing concern is student mental health. J.R. Tucker High School counselor Jackie Smith says they've seen an increase in anxiety and depression. Social media has also changed the way students communicate. 

JACKIE SMITH: Kids really are lacking language, and we know language is really important. Having words is so important for you to express yourself and for you to be understood and to feel understood. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: As the new school year gets underway, Smith says addressing these challenges is instrumental to quality learning. 

JACKIE SMITH: I am really hopeful about this school year. I feel like kids are kind of getting back into a groove. We are still addressing learning loss, we are still addressing mental health. 

KEYRIS MANZANARES: For VPM News, I'm Keyris Manzanares.

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