Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Republican candidate for governor, unveiled this week aneducation proposal that would legalize state funding of private schools and give parents the power to petition the state to convert a failing school into a charter school.
Cuccinelli stresses that the plan values the Commonwealth’s children over all and gives opportunity to kids in underperforming areas.
“It’s not good enough if the children who live in the right ZIP code are excelling in the classroom and moving up to college and graduate schools, while families trapped within a low income community have a mediocre education at best and a failing school at worst,” he said in a statement.
The Republican’s proposal would give a majority share of parents at a school the Virginia Board of Education has deemed failing options to reform the school, including changing the leadership, converting it to a charter school or even closure. The plan would also establish scholarships to let parents enroll their children in public schools they want and tax credits to enroll in private schools.
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Cuccinelli also plans to advocate for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would end the restriction on public funds for “sectarian” schools, in order for parents to have more choices for their kids.
The proposal seeks to reform the Standards of Learning tests (SOLs) to move away from memorization and toward problem solving.
Cuccinelli also wants to double the number of females enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs by 2020.
Some teachers have lauded the proposal for the opportunities it would provide to students and their families, but others have been quick to criticize it.
Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber wouldn’t give the proposal a passing grade, saying it would be detrimental to schools.
“Mr. Cuccinelli’s plan deserves an ‘F’ for ignoring the needs of Virginia’s students while promising to funnel more public money to private interests, at taxpayer expense,” Gruber said in a statement after the policy was released Tuesday. “He has already proposed a tax plan that we estimate would cut $422 million each year from K-12 education funding. His latest proposals to divert money from public education will only add to the cuts students and teachers in public schools already face.”
The VEA has endorsed Cuccinelli’s Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who released his own education proposal in May. McAuliffe also proposes SOL reform, more workforce training from community colleges and pay bumps for teachers.
E.W. Jackson, the pastor and attorney running for lieutenant governor on Cuccinelli’s Republican ticket, has also proposed a constitutional amendment to free up education money. Jackson would provide public funds for homeschooled students, an idea the VEA was also quick to condemn.