McDonnell and education (public and private)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell spent Saturday night in Petersburg being feted by the people connected to St. Joseph’s Catholic School. McDonnell played an important role in keeping the school afloat. Less then a year ago it was on the verge of shutting down facing massive debt and mounting costs.
In a move, that at the time probably seemed simple but could play electoral dividends, McDonnell used his campaign database to send out a fundraising e-mail on behalf of the poor Catholic school. In order to stay in business, school leaders needed to raise $1 million in only three weeks. Fueled by a prominent story in the Washington Post and the e-mail solicitation by McDonnell, the school raised the necessary funds and is now still open.
It may seem like a small event at a tiny school in only one section of Virginia, but the story resonated across the commonwealth. McDonnell’s decision to help out probably created die-hard supporters that will fight for him until election day.
But the situation also raises questions about McDonnell’s stance on education in general. This of course is a private school struggling to stay afloat, but the Republican has received criticism over his stance on public education. Last week in Hampton he delivered brief remarks before the Virginia Education Association’s democratic debate. When McDonnell talks education he usually doesn’t say the things that people who focus on public education want to hear. He often references his commitment to school choice and the extension of charter schools.
Democrats hammered McDonnell’s education stance following the forum last week accusing him of voting against increases to K-12 education funding during his time in the House of Delegates.
It will be interesting to see where McDonnell goes on education in the next few months. His campaign promises that he will release a comprehensive education plan in the weeks ahead. In a time where funding is scarce and options are few, will he propose expanding education or scaling it back? Democrats have never been afraid to pump more cash into education regardless of what the costs may be.
Education can be a dicey issue. It is extremely important to people with children or careers connected to schools. For people without those connections arguing for expansion, especially in tough economic times is a hard sell. The democrats, for the most part, already have their position clearly set. That leaves McDonnell with an opportunity to offer up a plan that may bridge a wide gap.
Read McDonnell’s remarks from the VEA forum and the Democratic response after the jump..
At VEA Forum McDonnell Outlines Bold Plans to Improve Education in Virginia
-Performance Pay for Teachers; More Charter Schools; More Money into the Classroom; New Technology; Greater Career and Technical Opportunities; Increased Discipline, Financial Literacy and Civics-
(Hampton)- Speaking at the Virginia Education Association’s annual convention this evening, Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Attorney General of Virginia, outlined his support for bold new ideas to improve public education in the Commonwealth.
McDonnell highlighted his support for performance pay for teachers, more charter schools in Virginia, and getting education dollars out of administration and into the classroom.
Speaking prior to the event about his innovative plans for education McDonnell noted, “Virginia’s teachers work tirelessly to educate Virginia’s future leaders. I know this first hand. All five of my children graduated from, or currently attend, public schools in the Commonwealth. My sister teaches in the Amherst County public schools. Over the past twenty years we have significantly increased funding for K-12 education in Virginia, and our children have benefited. The Standards of Quality are fully funded. We cannot accept any unaccredited or failing schools in Virginia. We need to fund education well, while also looking for innovative and creative ways to ensure that our children are getting the very best education in the nation. A great education leads to the opportunity for a great job.”
McDonnell continued, “I agree with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that we need more charter schools and performance pay for our teachers. We need to introduce greater choices and greater rewards into our public education system. A vibrant system in which opportunities abound will prepare our young people for a competitive and changing world. Virginia has very few contract or charter schools. That will change when I am Governor. We have many great teachers who deserve to be rewarded for their success, not just for their time served. As Secretary Duncan wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week, ‘Teachers above all want a professional learning environment that supports them and recognizes and rewards excellence.’ He is right. We also need to support our teachers with much better technology in the classroom. We must provide young people with solid discipline and training in civics and financial literacy. And every principal must be challenged to find new ways to expand opportunities for students in math, science, engineering, technology and health care.”
McDonnell concluded, “The education of our children is not a partisan issue, it is a posterity issue. What future will our children have? It depends on the courage we have in instituting the innovation we need in our public education system. I will be a Governor who brings parents, teachers and students together to make sure our schools are America’s best.
McDonnell will present specific education policy proposals in the months ahead.
FACT CHECK: McDonnell Voted Against Warner’s Record K-12 Investment
McDonnell Touts Increased Funding, But Voted Against It
HAMPTON — Gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell bragged Thursday night about increased public education funding in Virginia, despite his record of voting against the largest single K-12 investment in Virginia history.
“Over the past 20 years, we have significantly increased funding for K-12 education in Virginia, and our children have benefited,” McDonnell said in remarks released prior to his speech at the Virginia Education Association Convention in Hampton.
As delegate, McDonnell voted against Mark Warner’s 2004 budget, which represented a $1.5 billion investment in K-12 education – the largest investment in Virginia’s history.
“Bob McDonnell has shown that he will say anything to get elected,” said Jared Leopold, Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia. “But what matters is his record of not standing up for Virginia’s children. McDonnell opposed Mark Warner’s record investment in our schools, and now he wants to take credit for the success.
“Talk is cheap, but Bob McDonnell’s record doesn’t match his rhetoric. Bob McDonnell bragging about education funding is like Jim Gilmore preaching fiscal responsibility.”
McDonnell also said Thursday that a quality pre-kindergarten program would help stem dropouts. However, as Attorney General, McDonnell publicly opposed Governor Kaine’s increased investment in pre-kindergarten.
NOW: Candidate Bob McDonnell, 4/23/09: “Over the past 20 years, we have significantly increased funding for K-12 education in Virginia, and our children have benefited.” [McDonnell Press Release, 4/23/09]
THEN: Delegate Bob McDonnell, 5/7/04: Voted against the 2004 bipartisan budget deal that invested a record $1.5 billion in new aid for local public schools “for hiring new teachers and expanding such programs as preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds and English as a Second Language classes.” Only 35 of 132 legislators opposed the increased funding. [HB5001 Bill History 2004; Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/8/04; Virginian-Pilot, 5/8/04]
NOW: Candidate Bob McDonnell, 4/23/09:: “We have to continue to work hard to have a good pre-k program…I think less of them will drop out if we do a good job at the ages of four- and five years old.” (VEA Forum, 4/23/09)
THEN: Attorney General Bob McDonnell, 10/6/07: Opposed Governor Kaine’s initiative to expand preschool education. “Liberals in Virginia are saying we need to raid the rainy-day fund so we can start some more programs for pre-K education,” McDonnell said at the Defending the American Dream summit in Washington. (The Washington Times, 10/06/07)