Going positive. Ken Cuccinelli has a far reaching and detailed plan to reform Virginia’s K-12 education system. The details can be found on his web site and include four core principles and twelve recommendations.
Cliff Notes. Ken Cuccinelli is a hard man to summarize. In a similar vein, his education plan is hard to summarize too. But Bacon’s Rebellion does the hard things, so here goes. Parents should have more control and choice, K-12 STEM classes should be expanded, teachers should be better trained, distance learning should be expanded, every child should learn a second language, improving schools should be financially rewarded, charter schools should be easier to form, parents should be able to close failing schools and there should be more transparency. Phew!
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned. The biggest (and most controversial) aspect of Cuccinelli’s education plan is his proposal to change the Virginia Constitution to allow parents to use vouchers to offset the cost of sending their kids to private schools. Although he never uses the word “vouchers” one has to think that’s what he has in mind when he says, “A state constitutional amendment is needed that is narrowly drafted to allow for school choice programs that do not restrict parents’ choices about what is best for each of their children.”
Chartering the course. Cuccinelli also wants another constitutional amendment to make the establishment of charter schools easier in Virginia. Today, a local school district can veto a charter school within its boundaries. Cuccinelli thinks that the state Board of Education should be able to establish charter schools anywhere within the Commonwealth of Virginia – whether the local school district likes it or not.
The parent trap. Cuccinelli thinks that a majority of parents of children enrolled in a school determined to be failing should be able to close the school, convert it to a charter school, replace the school’s leadership or get tax credits to send the children to alternate schools.
The STEM of all evil. Ken Cuccinelli wants to use technology to teach technology. From robotics to computer programming to virtual reality welders, Cuccinelli wants to give Virginia’s schools a high tech makeover.
Etcetera. As previously mentioned, the Cuccinelli education plan is detailed and comprehensive. There are many other aspects to his plan. For example, the seemingly obligatory desire to review and revise the Standards of Learning, the need for more accountability and better reporting, scholarships for pre-K education and an A-F grading system for colleges offering education programs to train teachers.
Rebuttal. The left was somewhat taken aback by Cuccinelli’s plan. They liked some ideas such as the tax breaks for pre-K. They thought the virtual school idea was OK. They hated the private school vouchers and charter school ideas. One of the best analyses came from Del. Rob Krupicka’s web site. He gives the overall plan a D although Del. Krupicka definitely strays into some partisan rhetoric.
Rippert’s round up. The education plan is Cuccinelli’s strongest idea. People are fed up with our failing educational system and they know that we need change. The Democratic Party seems obsessed with preserving the status quo and keeping the support of the teachers’ unions. Beyond that, education is one of the few areas that can catalyze voter turnout. McDonnell solved the transportation funding problem – whether you like his solution or not. Nobody has a competent economic development plan beyond “better education creates jobs”; Cuccinelli’s tax plan is DOA in the General Assembly. What’s left? Negative campaigning and education. Cuccinelli would be well advised to push this plan as hard as he can over the next 50 days. It may be his only hope.
– D.J. Rippert