As Virginia leaders push for taking down monuments of Confederate leaders, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is running for governor, wants to take down “living monuments.” That starts with crumbling school buildings.
Fairfax on Wednesday announced a proposal to rebuild all K-12 public school buildings in the state that are more than 40 years old. To do so, the state would spend $30 billion over 10 years, the lieutenant governor said.
“Even as we rightly tear down bronze and stone monuments to the Confederacy and the racial oppression that is ingrained in that history, we also must tear down the ‘living monuments’ in our educational, economic, criminal justice, housing and health care systems that have carried that oppression from generation to generation to generation,” Fairfax said.
Money for the initiative would come from the state budget with hopes of some federal assistance, Fairfax said.
Fairfax is one of five Democrats expected to seek the party’s nomination for governor next year, along with Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-Prince William, Attorney General Mark Herring and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Fairfax made the announcement outside Chimborazo Elementary School in Richmond, which opened in 1905 in the city’s Church Hill neighborhood.
More than 60% of Virginia’s public schools are 40 years or older, according to a 2013 study ordered by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell. That study pegged the total estimated renovation costs at roughly $18 billion.
Under the Fairfax-dubbed “40-30-10” education plan, the state would also raise teacher pay to above the national average and guarantee a paid summer job, internship or other summer academic, athletic or arts enrichment opportunity to students in the state between the ages of 14 and 24.
“Now’s the time to make these investments,” he said. “We want to create a different future. It starts here.”
The rebuilt schools would also serve as hubs for adult education and civic gatherings, among others things, according to Fairfax’s plan.
The education plan is one of four parts of Fairfax’s major policy agenda. The lieutenant governor is expected to release plans on policing and criminal justice, housing, and health care “in the near future,” according to a news release.
He’s not the only gubernatorial candidate releasing policy proposals more than a year before the election.
This week Carroll Foy announced her “Racial Justice Framework,” which she hopes will help address racial inequality in the state. Mass protests in Richmond and across Virginia in recent weeks have highlighted disparities.
“These times bring racial disparities across systems in the commonwealth to light — inequalities in our health care system, our educational system, our economy, and more,” Carroll Foy said in a statement.
“Virginians have come together, protested, called on elected officials, and signed petitions all in efforts to advance the call for comprehensive reform. The time is now for clear and thoughtful change.”
She added: “My protest is in passing legislation, and finding a way to put an end to the two types of criminal justice systems here in Virginia and throughout this country: a system that degrades African Americans and other marginalized communities, and another that works well for everyone else.”
Carroll Foy’s proposal includes legalizing marijuana, having the Virginia State Crime Commission study the effectiveness of mandatory minimums and creating a special prosecution team designed to address police misconduct, among other things.
It would also require the implementation of a citizens’ review board, a hotline to report police brutality and reinstate parole for rehabilitated, nonviolent offenders.
“This framework is just a start, and is designed to lead several challenging conversations about racial discrimination and its profound impact of marginalized communities,” Carroll Foy said.
Beyond criminal justice reform, Carroll Foy wants to implement paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, along with revisiting how school dress codes are enforced for girls of color.