A photo of a man speaking at a podium
VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., welcomes attendees to the 2023 Virginia Education Summit on Monday. (Brian McNeill, Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

At VCU, lawmakers gather to discuss key education issues

The ninth annual Virginia Education Summit is organized by the Hunt Institute in partnership with the Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health and the House Education Committee.

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Virginia Commonwealth University on Monday hosted the first day of the 2023 Virginia Education Summit, an annual event that brings together Virginia lawmakers, experts and practitioners to discuss a range of critical education issues facing the state.

The ninth annual summit is organized by the nonprofit Hunt Institute in partnership with the Virginia Senate Committee on Education and Health and the House Education Committee. It was co-chaired by Senate Education and Health Chair and President Pro Tempore Sen. L. Louise Lucas and Del. Carrie E. Coyner, who has served as chair of the Early Childhood/Innovation Subcommittee of the House Education Committee.

Throughout the day, lawmakers engaged with educators and other experts on topics including the business case for early childhood education investment, implementing the science of reading in Virginia schools, school funding, and strategies to recover from learning loss.

Today, the summit will be held at Chesterfield Recovery Academy, which opened in 2022 as Virginia's first high school designed for students who are in early recovery from substance use disorders. Topics being discussed will include supporting student wellness across the continuum, the importance of early exposure to postsecondary and career pathways, and workforce readiness and the role of internships.

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., welcomed attendees to the event on Monday, held in James Branch Cabell Library. He thanked the Hunt Institute and the lawmakers for coming together to address rapidly evolving education needs at all levels.

“Looking at the entire spectrum of education is really important right now. This is a time of change,” Rao said. “The changes are happening and really are impactful from the Pre-K level all the way through to postgraduate.”

Rao also thanked the lawmakers for their support of higher education and VCU, saying it has expanded access to higher education and reduced student debt. Additionally, he said, the support of higher education continues to be a key part of Virginia’s competitiveness both nationally and internationally.

“We are an accessible institution that focuses on bringing as many people to VCU as possible, and our students are not leaving with the debt that they left with before because you’re helping us address that,” Rao said. “If I leave you with any thought on top of everything else I’ve said, it is a sincere, heartfelt thank you. I am your guy who’s happy to do this day in and day out for you, but when you [allocate] resources it makes [VCU] able to accelerate our accomplishment of this really critical mission that impacts society here in the commonwealth of Virginia.”