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Before the 2016 legislative session began, the late Sen. John Miller told an audience at the Williamsburg Regional Library that his priorities would be “education, education, education.”
In her bid for Miller’s 1st District Senate seat, Shelly Simonds, a Newport News School Board member and former teacher, said she would continue Miller’s legacy by advocating for education funding and initiatives.
“Someone who hasn’t been a teacher is not going to understand the reality of education today,” she said.
“I am very engaged in the community and I have the right mix of skills to carry on John Miller’s legacy.”
Simonds, 48, lives in the Hilton area of Newport News and has served on the school board since 2012. In November she ran for the 94th District House of Delegates seat, but lost by 15 percentage points, attributing her loss to low voter turnout, particularly from Democrats.
She is running against 93rd District Del. Monty Mason in Tuesday’s primary election. In the November general election, the winner will take on a Republican candidate, who will be nominated during a party caucus this weekend.
The 1st District includes the City of Williamsburg, parts of James City and York counties and parts of Newport News, Hampton and Suffolk.
Simonds said she has followed education legislation since she joined the school board and, if elected to the Senate, would advocate for the state to fund new school construction and more school counselor positions. She said she would also champion causes like fair working conditions and criminal justice reform.
Fighting the school-to-prison pipeline, or school circumstances that push students out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system, would be one of her top priorities, Simonds said.
“That’s a goal that I have,” Simonds said. “If I can get up to the General Assembly, I want to be a leader on this issue because it affects our children day to day.”
Like Miller, Simonds said she would campaign for fewer SOL tests and work to effectively implement the high school education redesign passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. She said she would also advocate for grants for educators who have innovative ideas for increasing students’ physical activity, an issue Miller had tried to address as well.
“It’s a challenge to figure out where you’re getting the time for more physical education in schools,” Simonds said. “A good innovation grant program would encourage school systems to come up with their own creative solutions.”
Two primary elections will be held on Tuesday. Check out our election preview to find out if you can vote in the 1st District Senate race.