Meet Schuyler VanValkenburg
For Schuyler VanValkenburg, the public school teacher running for the open seat in Virginia House of Delegates District 72, educating isn’t just a 9–5 gig. When EveryDistrict caught up with Schuyler on the campaign trail, he was heading off to volunteer for the weekend at the Center for Civic Education’s We the People National Finals, which promotes teaching and learning about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Schuyler serves as the We the People constitutional competition coach at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County where he teaches, and he’s been involved with the We the People program now for five years.
Education is at the core of why Schuyler is running for the House of Delegates. “Public schools are the lifeblood of our community in Henrico County, and what Betsy Devos and the Trump Administration are proposing will have a devastating impact on our teachers, students, and schools. President Trump’s budget includes devastating cuts to education services nationwide and here in Virginia. The budget’s $2.1 billion in cuts to essential teacher training and class size reduction programs would hit Henrico particularly hard, threatening $1.1 million in funding in our community. Trump and Devos’ cruel budget also includes a $1.2 billion cut to after-school program grants, which has given more than $300,000 to underprivileged schools and students in Henrico.”
Schuyler’s life story explains why ensuring a quality public education system is such an important issue for him. Growing up in a former manufacturing town, education was the key to finding a good-paying job. Schuyler grew up in Johnstown, NY, nicknamed the “Glove City” for the many glove and leather manufacturing companies that located there in the 19th century. At the high point, thousands of people in and around Johnstown earned steady wages thanks to the jobs created by the manufacturers and associated industries. During World War II, Johnstown and the surrounding area produced many of the “Military Black” leather gloves worn by American servicemen.
However, as a child growing in the “Glove City,” Schuyler witnessed the manufacturing industry decline. In the second half of the 20th century, manufacturing jobs moved overseas, taking with them a key driver of economic growth in the city. Schuyler’s family recognized early on how important education would be as jobs moved elsewhere, and his mother impressed upon him the importance of a good education for his future.
Schuyler excelled in school and enrolled in the University of Richmond in 2001, where he majored in history and completed his teacher’s licensure. He began his teaching career in the Henrico County Public Schools and has been a teacher for twelve years now. A lifelong learner, he has completed his Master of History at Virginia Commonwealth University and is a National Board Certified Teacher.
Before jumping into the District 72 race in January, Schuyler had never run for office before. “As a government teacher, I have long believed that we need competitive elections at every level of government. No Democrat had run in the 72nd for 10 years. I have long considered running for this seat, and I decided that the time is now.”
In addition to expanding educational opportunities for Virginians, Schuyler is committed to leveling the playing field and creating economic opportunities for all Virginians by updating the tax code and investing in infrastructure. He supports extending healthcare coverage, including expanding Medicaid, which would give 400,000 Virginians healthcare. Schuyler is also committed to tackling the opioid crisis by investing in programs that assist in recovery.
As a teacher, Schuyler has seen firsthand the importance of civic engagement, and is committed to encouraging more participation in the political process. He supports making voting easier — not harder — for Virginia residents, reforming the campaign finance system, and ending gerrymandering to create competitive districts. Schuyler supports equality for all Virginia residents, including preventing discrimination against the LGBTQ community, ending the gender pay gap, preserving a woman’s right to choose, and promoting child leave policies.