BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sen. Tim Kaine spent the day Friday meeting with people across Southwest Virginia. He was looking for feedback on education as he and other lawmakers get set to draft new legislation.
Kaine said he wants to make sure the next version of the Higher Education Act is the best it can be. Earlier in the day, he spent time in other places across Southwest Virginia talking about healthcare, jobs and the opiod crisis. But Friday night's biggest topics were sexual assault prevention and mental health, something many in the room felt is lagging.
Kaine said he was excited to be in the region Friday and feels conversations with folks in this neck of the woods are just as important as others. His final stop Friday was to visit with a classroom full of students at Virginia Tech eager to give their feedback. And Kaine was eager to pick their brains.
"Issues like campus safety, student loans, college debt -- students have really important ideas that I need to take back as we work on this bill," Kaine said.
That's the Higher Education Act, a federal law that lays the groundwork for education across the country. Broader technical and career education, teacher shortages, loan forgiveness and sexual assault prevention are the pillars of the rework on Capitol Hill going forward, and Kaine took it all in.
"A lot of focus on campus safety, campus sexual assault -- that's more what I would hear from students than what I would hear from administrators or employers that are more talking about the workforce skills that students need," Kaine said.
Both are equally important topics. Many that came out Friday were thrilled to get some facetime with the senator and impressed he cares what they think.
"It says this is the person in the room making those decisions for us and I have access to that person, so just being a young person and knowing that your voice matters because this person came down here to hear what you had to say really makes a difference," Virginia Tech Junior Emma Ruby said.
Ruby was the first to ask a question, and her comment stuck with Kaine. She and others said sexual assault prevention is their biggest ask. Kaine said he's listening and cited Ruby's comment as a perfect example.
"I think it was Emma who said 'Hey, look, Sexual assault prevention shouldn't just be take a self-defense class or carry pepper spray.' It should be how you change your culture so that people understand what limits are, what's right what's wrong. Ee need to improve behaviors," Kaine said.
We also asked Kaine about the presidential race as the number of candidates continues to grow closer to two dozen. As you remember, Kaine is a former vice presidenaital candidate, running on the unsuccessful ticket with Hillary Clinton. He gave a simple answer Friday night, stating he's not interested in either position.