No Clear Victory for Early Education in the Virginia Governor’s Race
On November 3, voters in New Jersey and Virginia head to the polls to select their states' next governors--the only two states with major statewide elections this year. Earlier this week Early Ed Watch took a look at early education in the New Jersey governor's race. Today we turn to Virginia.
The latest poll in Virginia's gubernatorial race shows Democratic former state senator Creigh Deeds trailing Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell by 12 points.
Early education has been trailing in the Virginia election as well. In a race that has been dominated by debate over transportation, taxes, and social issues, education has been relegated to the background. This may be because neither candidate has taken a polarizing stance on education issues. Both Deeds and McDonnell would like to raise teacher salaries—which average $48,655—to the national average of $54,170. Both favor charter schools. And both would like to increase spending on education.
But calling for better education is an easy (and popular) stance to take in an election. What is difficult (and, at times, unpopular) is deciding how to make improvements to the school system, and with what funds. Deeds has managed to secure the endorsement of the Virginia Educators Association. He is also the only candidate to release a detailed plan for improving early education—a plan that predominantly builds off of current Gov. Kaine's Virginia Preschool Initiative. Deeds says he would set a goal of having 90 percent of all children enter kindergarten school-ready (currently, that number is at 85 percent) and expand the current preschool system to reach more 4-year-olds.
McDonnell has not specified his views on VPI funding or expansion, though he did vote in the legislature for legislation that established the program. Rather, McDonnell's education platform focuses on his plan for financing educational investments from within the existing education budget, rather than increasing total education spending through tax raises. McDonnell promises to increase the amount of education spending that goes "to the classroom" and to teachers from 61 to 65 percent by decreasing the funding for education-related administrative costs. But he has provided few details about how he will accomplish this or what specific expenditures should be cut.
An editorial in the Washington Post last month criticized both candidates for lacking more substantive plans to improve education in Virginia, saying, "neither [candidate] has fully developed proposals that he is really pushing."
Despite the economy, Virginia was one of 13 states that increased funding for early education in the 2010 fiscal year. According to yesterdays' Pre-K Now report, this 17 percent increase in funding is estimated to serve 5,5417 more children next year, bringing the total number of children enrolled in the Virginia Preschool Initiative to 21,072. These changes are a testament to current Governor Kaine and to the Virginia legislature's commitment to Pre-K. Unfortunately, neither candidate's platform on education tells us much about how early ed will be handled during the next administration.