Mo’ Money II: Tim Kaine Rolls out Education Plan

Before Tim Kaine formally ran for governor, he made a point of visiting every school district in Virginia — and there’s a lot of them — to learn as much as he could about Virginia’s K-12 system and how to improve it. There was a time when he seemed determined to bring fresh thinking to the problem. But those days are over. The bottom line of the Kaine education plan: Spend mo’ money. Lots mo’ money…. Just open your wallets wide.

The Kaine campaign’s latest e-mail blast lists a number of initiatives (which I would link to, but it’s not even on the website yet):

  • Make “high-quality pre-K available to all Virginian four-year-olds” on the grounds that 90 percent of brain development happens before age five and 35 percent of children are not ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. Kaine says there is a 17-to-one return on investment for pre-K. Pardon my skepticism. Show me the data.
  • Fully fund” public schools. The Kaine press release alludes to the “historic $1.5 billion investment” in public schools made possible by the Warner administration’s 2004 tax increases. That was designed to meet Virginia’s Standards of Quality, but presumably, that’s not enough. Kaine doesn’t explain why it’s not enough, and he doesn’t say how much more money he’s talking about. He just makes it sound like an open-ended commitment.
  • Raise $1 million in private funds for scholarships for students who want to pursue careers that serve the public good. This is a feel-good initiative that no one can argue with, but it has little more than symbolic value.
  • “Implement regular and meaningful teacher evaluations” to improve children’s classroom experience. Another meaningless gesture — unless it’s backed up with the ability to reward teachers fo rexcellence or punish incompetence.
  • Increase access to Governor’s Schools and AP classes. Tell me how much it’s going to cost.

Once more, folks, we have a Business As Usual approach to education that does nothing but concoct new and creative ways to throw more money at the problem. No restructuring. No re-engineering. No rethinking pedagogy. No experimentation. No extra flexibility. No holding anyone accountable. No demands on teachers or school administrators. Just demands on taxpayers. Just mo’ money.

It looks like the Virginia Education Association wrote Kaine’s education plank for him. What a disappointment…. And what a tactical mistake. Jerry Kilgore has been painting Kaine as a traditional “tax-and-spend liberal.” Yesterday, that sounded like a retread soundbite, too unoriginal to bother posting on this blog. Today, it sounds frighteningly accurate.

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  1. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Virginians really need to look at the “Standards of Quality”. They are an early 90’s idea that is a jobs program (1200 or so?) for computer techs who can’t get work in the private sector and a purchasing program for computers. The Devil is always in the details. Does someone have a hyperlink to the specifics of the Standards of Quality?

  2. criticallythinking Avatar

    Here is the problem with making high-quality pre-K available to everybody.

    If it is publicly funded, we won’t be able to fund religious preschools. But many kids who go to preschools go to religious preschools.

    If we make money available but only for non-religious preschools, a lot of those parents will go for the money rather than for the religion — it’s hard enough to make the decision to spend the money, but when you can get the same thing for free? This will drive religious pre-schools out of business (at least to the same degree as religious schools are, existant but catering to a much smaller population).

    But this will drive up the costs enormously. Most estimates for funding full preschool make the mistake of starting with the non-attending population. But when you make something free, those paying will come over.

    You can’t only open it to the people not already paying, that would be discrimination.

    Fully funded preschool is an attack on religious institutions.

    Note that this is not its intent, but is rather an unfortunate and unnecessary side-effect of stupid supreme court rulings about separation of church and state.

    Once the religious voters who send their kids to preschool are educated about this, so they understand that this isn’t money to reimburse them for their current choice of pre-school, they will not be enamored with the idea.

    BTW, we already have head start for children who need help. And we also have several other programs for children who show special needs — which can be as benign as inability to pronounce words correctly.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Tim Kaine–Union approved!

  4. subpatre Avatar

    The SOQs are in place to link diplomas, issued and certified by the state, to a measurable amount of (learned) education. A rewording is they prevent the state from looking the fool for giving diplomas to students who didn’t learn –or weren’t taught– anything.

    The state Constitution guarantees a public education; the standards make sure ‘education’ is more than a dozen (expensive) years of babysitting. If anyone has better ideas, we’re all ears.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Subpatre, I think you’re confusing SOQs (Standards of Quality) with SOLs (Standards of Learning). If so, you aren’t the only one who’s confused. SOQs regulate the “inputs,” typically mandating a minimum number of different kinds of educational professionals per school/classroom. SOLs track the “outputs,” or what students actually learn.

    The SOQs are periodically reviewed and updated (by whom, I’m not sure). Generally, each review ratchets up the standards, stating that schools need more of this and more of that. If you’ve ever wondered why, year after year, despite ever increasing amounts of money being funneled into state schools, politicians and school lobbyists are always declaring that Virginia is falling short of its legally mandated funding requirements, that’s why. The SOQs, as best I can figure them, are an engine for ever-escalating costs in K-12 schools.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The war in Iraq has cost


    Instead, we could have paid for
    24,740,597 children to attend a year of Head Start.

    Which of you voted for that budget buster?

    Halliburton made!

  7. subpatre Avatar

    Jim – you’re correct… that I was confused. Thanks.
    I’ll leave the post up for other (similarly) lost souls.

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