Federal Legislator Interview

During National Policy Seminar (March 20-23, 2022), Virginia’s Congressional members were very hard to schedule time with. We were able to schedule a joint zoom meeting with the eleven conference attendees from Virginia and Educational Legislative aids, Karishma Merchant and Montrel Tennessee from Senator Kaine’s office, and Brendan Nigro from Senator Warner’s
office. Each attendee was able to briefly introduce themselves and explain what area of CTE they represented as well as what area of Virginia they represented.

We were able to speak to the staff about CTE teacher pathways and initiatives for recruiting and retaining new teachers, as well as the many Work-based Learning initiatives currently in play within the commonwealth. We highlighted Virginia’s first-in-the-nation Energy pathways and new curriculum available in the upcoming school year. We also discussed the continued involvement and support of both Senators in the CTE Caucus and how much that leadership on their parts was appreciated. We were also able to remind the Senator’s staff about the importance of the CTSO’s within the whole CTE experience.

Ms. Merchant from Senator Kaine’s office advised that some of the Senator’s priorities were to get other lawmakers on both the House and Senate sides – both sides of the aisle – to support and participate in the CTE Caucus. He is also working hard on the Jobs Act that will help expand ways to certify and train teachers and also offer Pell Grants for high-skill, short-term programs. He is also looking at the continued expansion of Perkins funding to catch up to 2008 levels.

Mr. Nigro from Senator Warner’s office advised that some of the Senator’s priorities were also in the Jobs Act and looking into semi-conductor production in the US instead of outsourcing this to other countries, also looking at the teacher pipeline and teacher loan repayment as ways of recruiting and retaining teachers within the Commonwealth but also within the country. The Senator is also working with others on a “Grow your own teacher” program.

We have had the pleasure of working with both Ms. Merchant and Mr. Nigro for several years and they both, as well as the Senators, are familiar with Virginia ACTE. It is always a nice experience to speak with them and gain insights into Federal legislation affecting Career & Technical Education. It is always good to keep those connections fresh and also just to have time to listen to what the legislators are working on and share information from within our state. While we did not get to go to the Capital to meet with them, I feel that the meeting was still successful, and that Virginia’s Senators do have a good understanding of Career & Technical Education.


Laura Smith

Region II Experienced Fellow