McAuliffe’s plan would also spend more on Virginia’s community colleges, encourage them to focus more on basic job skills and collaborate more with the state’s high schools. Unlike Cuccinelli’s plan, McAuliffe’s makes no mention of charter schools or letting parents take over failing institutions.
“Terry McAuliffe views education as an investment, not an expense, and has made it a centerpiece of his campaign,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said.
But the plans issued by McAuliffe and Cuccinelli also overlap somewhat on their support for testing reforms. McAuliffe has called for overhauling the state’s Standards of Learning tests to prevent “an overemphasis on drilling students to take one-time, multiple-choice tests.”
The idea of allowing parents to mount a petition to close or dramatically remake their children’s failing school — known as a trigger law — has caught on among an unlikely coalition of progressives and conservatives seeking to reform the nation’s schools.
Backers say a parent takeover is a radical but necessary step to turn around chronically poor-performing schools. But opponents believe trigger laws could open the way to abuses by private charter school companies hoping to take over public schools.
Cuccinelli’s educational platform includes establishing a panel to consist of academics, parents, principals, leaders, educators and students — whose acronym, the plan says, would make it the APPLES Commission — that would review Virginia’s Standards of Learning system and search for ways to strengthen the curriculum and testing.
Cuccinelli’s plan calls for using tax credits to create scholarships for preschoolers from low-income families.
He also proposes constitutional amendments that would broaden the cause of school choice.
The first would remove a provision in the state constitution that bans government aid to sectarian schools. Cuccinelli’s K-12 education plan said that despite a June 2000 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that found school choice programs to be constitutional, the so-called Blaine Amendment in Virginia’s constitution restricts the state’s ability to craft broad-based school-choice programs.
The second amendment would address what Cuccinelli’s plan says is “one of the most useless charter school laws in the country” by giving the state Board of Education the power to establish charter schools. Although such schools are permitted, they must be approved by the district — and that, Cuccinelli argues, creates a conflict of interest because public schools dislike competition.
“It’s like Pepsi having to get permission from the board of directors of Coca-Cola to sell a new product,” Cuccinelli’s plan said.
Ben Pershing and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.