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Virginia K-12 enrollment, teacher vacancies increase; home school numbers dip



Virginia students are returning to K-12 public schools — although enrollment has not returned to pre-pandemic levels — there are fewer teachers due to increased teacher vacancies.
The rebound comes after an enrollment decline in the previous two years.


According to data from the Virginia Department of Education, enrollment numbers increased by more than 11,300 students from fall 2021 to fall 2022.

VDOE annually collects statistics on the number of students enrolled in public school on Sept. 30. This report, known as “Fall Membership,” is submitted by each school in Virginia that officially enrolls students.

Virginia K-12 enrollment is just over 1.26 million full and part-time students combined. Part-time students are nonpublic school students who take one or more classes in a public school, according to VDOE.

The numbers show schools haven’t reached 2019-20 pre-pandemic levels of almost 1.3 million students.

The current number of part-time students has decreased by over 100 since the last school year. There was a significant increase of over 500 part-time students in the 2020-21 school year, while numbers fluctuated in prior years with no apparent trend.

The number of home-schooled students, including religious exemptions, decreased for the current school year, down 8% at almost 57,000 students. The previous two school years saw a spike in total home-schooled students, reaching over 65,500 home-schooled students in the 2020-21 school year.

The category with the most home-schooled and religious-exempt students is K-5, accounting for almost half the total.


There was a 25% increase in teacher vacancies throughout Virginia from the 2021 fall report to the 2022 fall VDOE report. The number of vacancies increased from just over 2,800 to over 3,500, according to the data, which does not include personnel or transportation positions. The numbers may have changed, as they pertain to a snapshot of data from fall 2022 because school divisions do not report daily, weekly or monthly data on unfilled positions, according to the VDOE.

There was a 12% increase in teachers leaving the workforce in the 2021-22 school year compared to the pre-pandemic yearly average, according to a Nov. 2022 report published by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC. At the same time, there was a 15% decrease in newly licensed teachers, according to JLARC.

As more teachers leave the profession, fewer teachers are being licensed, according to the JLARC report. Nearly all divisions surveyed for the report indicated that finding “fully qualified applicants” was among their biggest challenges when it came to staffing.

The Richmond Education Association and other organizations have lobbied for better education funding and met with state lawmakers to provide support for educators, according to REA president Katina Harris.

According to Harris, a few changes will help increase enrollment, and lawmakers must commit the necessary funding. Harris said students would receive a better education with smaller classroom sizes, more available counselors, and more teacher support for remedial learning programs.

“At a minimum, $1.3 billion is needed to fully fund our [Richmond City] schools right now,” Harris said. “That shouldn’t be that hard to ask because the children are literally the future.”

According to the city’s budget, Richmond City allotted just over $200 million in general funds for education in the 2023 fiscal year. The city has also budgeted $200 million in capital improvement funds for school modernization and improvement for the 2024 fiscal year.


According to Yvonne Bunn, the director of homeschool support and government affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia, the pandemic contributed to the increase of home-schooled students.

There was an almost 56% increase in total home-schooled students in the 2020-21 school year. The amount of K-5 home-schooled students doubled that year.

Many parents have chosen to continue homeschooling even since schools reopened. According to Bunn, parents can tailor their children’s education to their needs.

The home environment is safer for children who deal with bullying or harassment in public schools, Bunn said.

“It takes them out of that where they can be in their home, they can be more secure in their home,” Bunn said.

According to Bunn, homeschooling in Virginia allows parents to meet their children where they are rather than children struggling to keep up in school.

“If they got average or below average, we’d go back over it to see how they could understand the material better,” Bunn said. “So that’s the key to homeschooling, one-on-one tutoring, that’s really the key.”

Virginia Commonwealth University student Celia Donnelly is a senior studying graphic design. She said that homeschooling allowed her time to pursue her interests, eventually leading to her current studies. Donnelly was home-schooled from K-12 in North Carolina, she said.

According to Donnelly, parents can provide resources, such as curriculums that adapt to specific learning styles that are not readily available in public schools or are not as standardized.

“It’s all standardized, you have a lot of people who need a lot of things, so just inherently there’s going to be a lot of gaps … and homeschooling can help with that,” she said.

Donnelly’s mother valued and, through home-school, taught her the ability to “question everything and stay curious” about the world around her, she said.


Virginia lawmakers allotted $3.2 billion in direct aid for state education in the 2022-24 biennium budget. The budget also included reforms for a 10% teacher pay raise split over two years. Funds from the American Rescue Plan act directed $125 million to fund a one-time, $1,000 bonus to educators last December.

Lawmakers have introduced proposals during the current General Assembly session to tackle the deficit of teachers, as well as the increasing number of home-schooled students.

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, introduced House Bill 1566, which would require the state to pay educators a rate equal to or above the national average salary for teachers. The bill was reported from a House committee but did not advance from the Appropriations committee.

Del. John McGuire III, R-Goochland, proposed HB 1454. The bill would have eliminated the four criteria for parents and guardians to home-school their children.

Virginia laws currently require that homeschooling educators must hold a high school diploma, be qualified by the Board of Education, provide children with a program that can be delivered through distance learning or provide evidence that they have the ability to provide an adequate education. A House education subcommittee killed the measure.

Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, proposed HB 1475, which would prohibit schools from joining interscholastic organizations that would not allow home-schooled students. Similar versions of the bill to allow home-schooled students to play sports have been introduced for years. The bill passed an education subcommittee but was defeated in committee.

State budget amendments currently under debate by lawmakers also proposed an increase in education spending, according to a report by VPM. Additionally, House and Senate versions include a 2% salary increase that would extend to K-12 educators.


By Zahra Ndirangu
Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.


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Va. Department of Education Begins Developing New Accountability System



Following criticism by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration, Virginia’s Department of Education will begin to develop a new system for tracking public schools’ and students’ performance.

A June report from Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons to the General Assembly noted that most states have both an accreditation system, which assesses whether schools are meeting all requirements laid out in state laws and regulations, and an accountability system, which provides “timely and transparent information on student and school performance.”

President Grace Creasey listening to a presentation at the Board of Education’s business meeting on Sept. 14, 2023. (Nathaniel Cline/Virginia Mercury)

“Virginia’s current accreditation system combines these two systems into one system as a single accreditation system, limiting transparency into how schools maintain compliance and recognize student achievement independent of each other,” the report found. It went on to recommend that Virginia develop “a distinct, stand-alone accountability system” that provides information about how each K-12 school is preparing students.

Virginia’s current system focuses on accreditation and measures schools based on not only academic achievement, performance gaps, student attendance, and graduation and dropout rates but also factors like building safety, student-teacher ratios, and licensure. Schools are then labeled “accredited,” “accredited with conditions,” or not accredited.

The Virginia Department of Education has said the current system is unclear and should be revised to address recent declines in student performance in core subjects such as math and reading.

“This is an important move to show transparently how schools are growing children, how they’re meeting achievement measures, and how they’re readying kids for the future,” said Coons.

On Thursday, the Board of Education voted to direct the department to develop two different measures to track academic performance: an achievement index and an overall school rating.

The index measure would provide a picture of a school’s achievement level based on students’ performance on assessments, with different levels of performance, like basic, proficient, or advanced, receiving different weights.

Scott Brabrand, executive director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, said Thursday the index “allows schools to count the achievement of every child, and it also allows teachers to focus on every child in their classroom, not just focusing on those on the bubble for proficiency.”

The former John B. Cary Elementary School in Richmond was renamed Lois Harrison-Jones Elementary School in 2023. (Mechelle Hankerson/Virginia Mercury)

A second or “summative” measure would provide a school rating based on nine factors that would include not only student performance but also graduation completion and dropout rates. That metric would be similar to those used in states like North Carolina and Maryland and could take the form of A-F grades, stars, or another ranking.

While the superintendent’s association is also supporting the summative measure, the Virginia School Boards Association expressed concern that it could negatively impact a school division’s ability to recruit teachers or obtain needed resources.

“Whether it is at A-F, a series of stars or descriptive labels, VSBA is concerned that unless the rating system is used to drive resources and supports students and schools in challenging environments, the label will do more harm to schools and increase the likelihood of a school not making needed strides and academic achievement,” said JoWanda Rollins-Fells, a member of the group’s board.

Board member Anne Holton, an appointee of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said she needed more information about whether the summative measure would contribute to residential segregation before supporting the proposed accountability rating system. Some researchers have argued that poor school ratings increase the likelihood of parents moving their children to private or charter schools, leading to decreased funding a public school receives from the state.

“I think that would be an important factor for us to consider as we move forward,” Holton said.

Last fall, the previous board began reviewing the state’s current accountability system to address Virginia students’ declining scores on state and national assessments.

Since then, Youngkin, who has been vocal in his criticism of the state’s current accreditation system, has appointed three new board members. Currently, eight of its nine seats are filled with his appointees.

Board President Grace Creasey, one of Youngkin’s appointees, on Thursday, said the board had discussed accreditation and accountability for a year because of the “complexity” and “lack of transparency” of the state systems, which she said don’t effectively measure student performance.

“We’re really starting to put the skeleton of this project together in order to get to a very robust end goal, and so I’m very happy [with] the guardrails that we’ve created today to inform our work further as we move forward,” she said after the meeting.

Kimberly Bridges, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the new approach to accountability “will be helpful to schools, teachers, leaders, students, as well as parents.”

Bridges, who served on the working group that helped craft the June recommendations, said she had hoped the board would have considered in more depth the degree to which achievement measures should prioritize proficiency or growth. The working group had urged the board to include both factors in any measures.

Creasey said growth measures may not be informative for parents, while proficiency measures would allow direct conversations about achievement between administrators, teachers, and parents.

On Thursday, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and Virginia School Boards Association requested the board delay voting on any of the new accountability measures to give the public time to review the options.

Creasey, however, said the development process will last a year and allow public comment and stakeholder input opportunities.

“The process had to start somewhere,” she said.

An updated timeline calls for VDOE to collect data on the indicators included in the new accountability system from August 2024 to July 2025 and implement the system in August 2025. The board would vote again on the proposal next summer.


by Nathaniel Cline, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia Welcomes the 139th Batch of State Troopers to the Frontlines



A Fresh Wave of Protectors for the Commonwealth.

In the heart of Richmond this past Friday, the 15th of September, the Virginia State Police Academy proudly celebrated a pivotal moment. The 139th generation of Virginia State Troopers, a diverse and rigorously trained group, was handed their diplomas in a ceremony filled with pride and hope.

Colonel Gary T. Settle, the Virginia State Police Superintendent, shared his admiration and belief in this new generation, commenting, “For 91 years, the Virginia State Police has stood as a beacon of security, ensuring safety for every individual residing, working, or merely passing through the great Commonwealth of Virginia. The dedication we’ve observed from these graduates reassures us that they are more than ready to uphold the lofty standards that come with our emblem.” His words resonated with the promise that the legacy of service and dedication the State Police embodies will continue.

These fresh troopers have undergone an extensive and comprehensive training regime. Their preparation involved a grueling 1,300 hours spanning a vast array of topics. Not only were they schooled in the expected areas like constitutional law and emergency medical care, but also in more sensitive and essential subjects such as de-escalation techniques, strategies for assisting individuals experiencing mental health crises, and promoting fairness and impartiality in policing. Starting their journey on February 27th, earlier this year, these recruits were immersed in 28 weeks of academic, physical, and hands-on training, proving their dedication and resilience.

Illustrating the appeal and prestige of the Virginia State Police, the 139th Basic Session witnessed a rich tapestry of backgrounds. Recruits hailed from all across the Commonwealth and from states such as Arkansas and Texas. Furthermore, international representation was seen from places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Saipan. Such diversity is a testament to the universal desire to serve and protect communities.

As they transition into their roles, the week of September 18 will see these troopers disperse across Virginia to their designated duty assignments. But the learning doesn’t stop here; each trooper will undergo an additional six-week intensive with a Field Training Officer, familiarizing themselves with their new patrol regions and ensuring they’re best equipped to serve their communities.

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Bold Step Forward: Governor Youngkin Inks Historic Virginia Budget



Unprecedented Tax Relief and Strong Commitments to Education, Safety, and Economic Growth.

In an era where political division often seems the norm, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin struck a chord of unity and progress on Thursday, September 14, 2023. Standing on the Capitol steps, Youngkin put pen to paper and sealed his promise of change, officially signing the Virginia State Budget.

Pledging his commitment to all Virginians, Governor Youngkin’s new budget has been touted as a beacon of conservative commonsense, prioritizing lower living costs, strengthened education, and unwavering support for law enforcement.

The highlight? A whopping $1 billion in tax relief, supplementing last year’s significant $4 billion cut. This initiative will notably return up to $200 to single taxpayers and double that for married couples. Moreover, small businesses will benefit from a tax relief that promises to save them an estimated $10.3 million annually by 2024.

In the realm of education, Youngkin and his team have earmarked $653.3 million for K-12 education and schools. The fund will combat learning losses, bolster support staff, and further extend the Virginia Literacy Act. In addition, the budget allocates a well-deserved 2% raise for teachers and school staff from January 1, 2024, enhancing their previous 10% raise proposal.

Our communities’ safety isn’t overlooked either. The budget presents a thoughtful $155.6 million new allocation targeting a gamut of mental health services, from crisis centers to psychiatric programs in hospitals. This initiative acknowledges the urgent need to address mental health challenges, especially in today’s complex societal landscape.

Economic growth remains a centerpiece of Youngkin’s vision. Investments in infrastructure, such as the $150 million set aside for the Interstate 64 expansion between Richmond and Williamsburg, coupled with the establishment of the Virginia Power Innovation Fund, signal a forward-looking strategy. The budget also earmarks funds for flood victims, stormwater management, and more, underscoring the administration’s commitment to a resilient and sustainable future.

Delegate Barry Knight and Senators Janet Howell and George Barker lauded the budget, emphasizing its bipartisan nature and its robust support for public schools, law enforcement, and mental healthcare.

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s signing of the Virginia State Budget sets a promising precedent for the future. While the budget’s figures are impressive, it’s the underlying message that resonates the most: a pledge to work across divides, prioritize citizens, and create a thriving Commonwealth for all.


Cutting Costs For Virginians

• $1 billion in tax cuts. On top of last year’s cuts, which totaled $4 billion, Governor Youngkin has signed over $5 billion in tax relief.

• Reinstates the state-wide sales tax holiday for school supplies, clothing, and footwear.

• Sends taxpayers back their money, up to $200 for single filers and $400 for married couples filing jointly.

• Increases the standard deduction to $8,500 for single filers and $17,000 for married filers.

• Provides tax relief to more veterans by eliminating the age restriction on military retirement income tax relief.

• Increases the business interest deduction from 30% to 50%, which will save small businesses and employers $10.3 million annually in tax year 2024.

Restoring Excellence In Education

• $653.3 million in aid for K-12 education and schools divisions.

• $418.3 million of that is one-time General Funds targeted to fight learning loss and chronic absenteeism.

• $152.3 million is to hire more support staff for students and teachers.

• $6.7 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund dollars devoted to expanding the Virginia Literacy Act to grades 4 through 8.

• $54.6 million from the General Fund to give teachers and other school staff a 2% raise starting on January 1, 2024. This is on top of the 10% raise for teachers that the Governor proposed last year.

Keeping Our Communities Safe

• $155.6 million in new spending for mental health services, including:

• $58.0 million to create crisis receiving centers and crisis stabilization units

• $34.0 million for permanent supportive housing and housing for individuals with serious mental illness

• $18.0 million for a targeted pay raise of an average of 5% for all Community Service Board staff

• $11.7 million for school and community-based children’s mental health services

• $10.0 million for 15 additional mobile crisis teams

• $10.0 million to contract for psychiatric emergency programs in hospitals

• $4.4 million to increase funding for the first three steps of STEP-VA

• $4.0 million for the Virginia Mental Health Access Program

• $15.0 million to increase support for the Operation Ceasefire Grant Program

• $9.5 million for healthcare workforce initiatives to close the nursing and behavioral health workforce shortage.

• $10.0 million to establish the Safer Communities Program.

• $5.1 million to support TDO/ECO transportation activities and local law enforcement agencies.

• $1.2 million for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to backfill reduced fine and fee revenue receipts.

Reinvigorating Economic Growth And Making Government Work for You

• $150 million devoted to widening Interstate 64 between Richmond and Williamsburg.

• $125 million devoted to the Virginia Business Ready Sites Fund, plus $75 million to empower the Commonwealth to procure sites and make them ready for large employers.

• $18 million devoted to the victims of the Southwest Virginia floods that occurred in 2022.

• $17.0 million for managing stormwater encroachment in the City of Virginia Beach.

• $12.3 million devoted to closing the remainder of the unemployment insurance appeal backlog.

• $10 million devoted toward developing an inland port in Southwest Virginia.

• $4 million will go toward launching the Virginia Power Innovation Fund to make Virginia the landing ground for future energy technologies and supply chains.

• $6 million devoted toward economic development activities related to the Partnership for Petersburg.

• $700,000 for the Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance to support Virginia’s dairy farmers.

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Food and Drug Administration Approves COVID Boosters for Upcoming Season



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the latest round of COVID-19 boosters as public health officials brace for another cold and flu season.

An advisory panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to vote on recommendations on Tuesday, the final step in the process before people will be able to get the shots.

“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

“The public can be assured that these updated vaccines have met the agency’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality,” Marks added. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”

The updated COVID-19 booster shots are made by Moderna and Pfizer.

The FDA said in a statement that people 5 and older can get one dose of the updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccine as long as it’s been at least two months since their last dose of the vaccine.

Vaccinated children between six months and 4 years old can get one or two doses of the updated vaccine. Unvaccinated children in the same age range are eligible for three doses of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or two doses of the updated Moderna shot.

“The updated vaccines are expected to provide good protection against COVID-19 from the currently circulating variants,” the FDA said in a statement. “Barring the emergence of a markedly more virulent variant, the FDA anticipates that the composition of COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated annually, as is done for the seasonal influenza vaccine.”

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have been trending upward in recent weeks, though officials aren’t expressing alarm at the rise in severe illness.

The number of hospitalizations has risen by nearly 16%, while deaths increased by almost 11%, according to data from the CDC.

The percentage of Americans getting COVID-19 shots has steadily decreased since the first round of vaccinations rolled out in the last weeks of 2020.

More than 81% of the country got at least one dose of the original vaccine, but 70% completed the primary two-dose series. Just 17% of the U.S. population decided to get the bivalent vaccine that was approved last year, according to CDC data.


by Jennifer Shutt, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia Eyes $28M from Kroger in Opioid Settlement



Major Step in Addressing the Opioid Crisis.

In a significant move towards accountability in the ongoing opioid crisis, Attorney General Jason Miyares declared a tentative agreement with grocery giant Kroger. Under the agreement’s terms, the company will offer reparation to participating state and local governments for its role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic, which has grievously impacted countless lives.

The payout, amounting to a staggering $1.37 billion, will be disbursed in installments spanning over 11 years. If all goes as projected, the Commonwealth of Virginia stands to gain a potential $28 million from this settlement. The funds are intended to provide relief and bolster recovery services for individuals and communities grappling with the consequences of opioid addiction.<br><br>

In a heartfelt address, Attorney General Miyares voiced his concerns about the opioid tragedy, emphasizing the dire need for such settlements: “The opioid crisis has tragically claimed the lives of countless innocent Virginians. This significant settlement offers aid and recovery services to those who urgently need it.” He further highlighted the dedication of the Office of Attorney General in combatting this crisis throughout Virginia.

The agreement will only affect states where Kroger has a presence, whether under its primary brand name or through its various subsidiaries. For Virginians, familiar brands like Kroger and Harris Teeter are included. However, Kroger’s expansive portfolio boasts names known nationwide, including Dillons, Fred Meyer, Smith’s Food and Drug, Ralphs, and many others. An intriguing detail is that the final settlement is still pending, hinging not only on the financial commitment but also on vital changes to business practices.

Virginia wasn’t alone in the negotiations. Several states, led by their respective Attorneys General from North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, California, Colorado, Illinois, and, of course, Virginia, united in this effort. The united front showcases the collaborative approach states are taking against the opioid crisis. Up until now, Virginia has secured an estimated $1.1 billion from national investigations and lawsuits against the pharmaceutical sector over the opioid disaster.

While the settlement marks a significant stride, it’s a poignant reminder of the devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic, urging the need for sustained efforts in healing and prevention.

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Was That Chicken Cutlet Grown in a Lab? These States Want You to Know.



Select U.S. restaurants have begun serving laboratory-grown chicken, spurring long wait times for reservations by diners curious to taste it.

In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave final approval for a few California-based companies to begin selling lab-produced chicken across the country.

While it may be years before lab-grown meat is available at grocery stores, a handful of states are tightening rules on labeling the new food, which is produced by growing cells acquired from living animals into muscle tissue.

Consumers interested in sustainable foods that avoid the slaughter of animals are driving the growing industry. But, pushed by the cattle and poultry industries, more states are defining what can be sold to consumers as “meat” and are requiring prominent labels on products cultured in labs.

Under a USDA agreement, UPSIDE Foods and GOOD Meat, as well as the latter’s manufacturing partner JOINN Biologics, will sell their products with the label “cell-cultivated chicken,” while the department develops further labeling rules.

However, some states are imposing their own additional requirements.

Texas passed the most recent bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May. Starting Sept. 1, cultivated products in Texas must include the term “cell-cultured,” “lab-grown” or similar wording on the packaging near the name of the product, in type at least the same size as the text around it.

The Texas Farm Bureau, an advocacy group of farmers and ranchers, had listed the bill as one of its legislative priorities this year.

Goodbye almond milk, hello nut beverage? Lawmakers advance milk labeling bill.

In 2018, Missouri became the first state to pass legislation requiring different labeling for traditional meat versus products not derived from livestock or poultry.

Such products marketed in Missouri as meat without the words “plant-based,” “veggie,” “lab-grown,” “lab-created,” or a similar phrase before or after the product’s name may be referred to a county prosecutor and the attorney general for potential violations, according to a memorandum from the state. The products also must state that they are “made from plants,” “grown in a lab” or a comparable disclosure.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming enacted similar legislation the following year.

In 2020, Oklahoma enacted a law giving state officials the authority to enforce meat labeling practices.

This year, Iowa considered a bill to prohibit lab-grown proteins in public schools, but it didn’t pass. A Michigan labeling measure remains in committee.

Kentucky’s 2019 law deems a food misbranded if it is labeled as meat but contains cultured animal tissue.

The cattle industry in Kentucky is extremely important to the economy, said state Rep. Michael Meredith, a Republican who sponsored the measure. People are interested in knowing about the origin and makeup of their food now more than ever before, he said, and legislators wanted to ensure labels are clear.

“I think the public is very skeptical of the product,” Meredith said. “I have talked with people — and I come from a fairly rural area — and folks are just appalled, and it’s not even funny.”

He added, “I think it’s going to be really, really hard to push something like this in rural America as a market.”

However, the cell-cultured meat industry has made significant strides in recent years. As of 2022, the global number of cultivated meat companies rose to 156, with headquarters in 26 countries, according to the Good Food Institute’s State of the Industry report. The nonprofit, which advocates in favor of protein alternatives and prefers the term “cultivated” meat, found that all-time investments in the industry had reached $2.8 billion globally last year.

The institute argues that U.S. state legislatures are taking steps to undermine the market through “label censorship,” which it calls unconstitutional and unnecessary.

“It’s always been our position that state label censorship through legislative efforts was kind of a ‘solution in search of a problem,’” said Laura Braden, associate director of regulatory affairs and an attorney at the Good Food Institute. “Consumer choice rather than label censorship should determine winners and losers in the marketplace.”

Still, legislators in states such as Wyoming, where the law requires labels on lab-grown meat to include “containing cell-cultured product” or similar wording, say they want labels clearly understood by the public.

“It never hurts to have our Department of Agriculture doing this work alongside the USDA,” Wyoming Republican state Sen. Brian Boner said. “We’re just going to have a more robust system where folks will know exactly what they’re purchasing when it comes to meat products.”

But such measures have met resistance.

The Missouri law prompted a lawsuit arguing the state made “a brazen attempt to stifle the growing grocery category of plant-based meats,” according to a statement from the ACLU of Missouri, which is part of the lawsuit—including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Good Food Institute and Tofurky, a plant-based protein company, a coalition of organizations challenged the law for violating the First Amendment.

“I don’t think this was about consumer confusion,” said Amanda Howell, a managing attorney at Animal Legal Defense Fund. “I don’t think this is about ensuring clear and non-misleading labels. I think this was about taking First Amendment rights away from companies and making them call themselves things that you know would be unintelligible to consumers. And if a consumer can’t tell what a product is, they’re not going to buy it.”

Howell said states are acting now because they sense the growing market possibilities.

“These are very animal agriculture-heavy states; their GDP relies on those animal producers, and they feel beholden to their constituents to pass these laws designed to attack plant and cell-cultured meats.”

Mike Badger, executive director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, said poultry producers have long been expecting the approval of cell-cultivated chicken.

‘Fake Meat’ Battle Spreads to More States

The association represents independent farms that market directly to consumers, unlike poultry giants like Tyson Foods, which has been investing in lab-grown meat companies for a few years. While the traditional poultry farm community isn’t overly concerned about the possibility of competition, Badger said, there are still ethical concerns for consumers choosing cell-cultivated chicken.

“I think the really big question here is this: What’s driving the demand to create this new lab-grown protein?” Badger asked. “Is it only the fact that people think it’s more ethical than having a living chicken that dies for your table? And if that’s the case, how are the ethics of all the other stuff coming into it?”

Backers of cultivated meat argue it is better for the environment. Traditional meat is one of the top contributors to the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2019, a sizable portion of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions came from the global agriculture industry.

A 2021 article by university researchers in India published in the Journal of Animal Science and Technology suggests that lab-grown meat could fulfill the increasing demand for meat using fewer natural resources.

But Badger cited an April preprint by researchers at the University of California Davis that found lab-grown meat’s environmental impact could be higher than retail beef based on current production methods.

“It’s very early in the whole process,” Badger said, “and there’s a lot of questions to be sorted out.”

Stateline is a sister publication of the Virginia Mercury within States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: Follow Stateline on Facebook and Twitter

by Madyson Fitzgerald, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal
Rain Shower
7:01 am7:08 pm EDT
Feels like: 54°F
Wind: 9mph N
Humidity: 95%
Pressure: 29.99"Hg
UV index: 1

Upcoming Events

10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 23 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:00 am Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Wee... @ Abram's Delight Museum
Sep 24 @ 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Abram’s Delight: Annual FIWF Weekend @ Abram's Delight Museum
Join George Mercer’s Company of the Virginia Regiment at Abram’s Delight in Historic Winchester Virginia DATE: September 23 & 24, 2023 TIME: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm LOCATION: 1340 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Winchester, VA[...]
10:30 am College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Sep 27 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
College Day @ Corron Community Development Center
Join us for College Day at the Middletown Campus, 10:30 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Sept. 27, in the Corron Community Development Center. Meet with reps from more than 40 public and private universities, including Bluefield[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Sep 27 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth C... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sep 30 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fall Wild Edible Plants: Earth Connections Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Carriage Barn in the Historic Area. Join professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch to learn about the remarkable seasonal wild edible and medicinal plants of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This full-day hike will cover native and[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 4 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 7 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Oct 7 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
11:00 am The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Oct 8 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
The Farmer’s Forge @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. The forge is fired up and the blacksmiths are hard at work showing off their skills. Members of The Blacksmiths’ Guild of the Potomac have set up shop in the forge, located behind[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Oct 11 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]