State of the Commonwealth: Education

In his state of the Commonwealth speech last night, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made the case for two education initiatives: Giving teachers an extra three percent pay raise, and funding pilot programs to expand the Virginia Preschool Initiative.

I’ve got nothing against paying teachers well. What I object to is rewarding all teachers, the good and the bad, equally. The Governor didn’t say how many millions of dollars it would take to increase teacher salaries by three percent, but it’s a significant amount of money. Why not use that money to reward the really good teachers, the ones we want to keep in the system, instead of rewarding the deadwood?

As for the preschool pilot programs, I would say that testing new ideas is good, experimentation is good. Let’s see if the preschool programs accomplish what they’re touted to accomplish. But if the pilots are to be genuine demonstrations of feasibility, not simply a way to get the camel’s nose under the tent, then I would suggest following the advice of Bacon’s Rebellion columnist Chris Braunlich:

The General Assembly has been asked to fund both the pilot program and creation of a quality ratings system. Legislators would be wrong to reject it out of hand. But they would be more wrong to approve it without insisting on a pilot that will actually study the effectiveness of universal preschool or a rating system that will give some sense of what this will all cost somewhere down the road.

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2 responses to “State of the Commonwealth: Education”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Personally, I am more interested in the finacing of ADA renovations forthe City of Richmond.

    Green building and energy conservation also make sense.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    With respect to Education budget initiatives and pilot programs.

    ANY new or pilot program needs to include two requirements:

    1. – The program will automatically “sunset” unless extended
    2. – The program will have measures of effectiveness metrics and benchmark criteria.

    We must be willing to prove to ourselves that money is truly an investment with a return and stop presuming that more money and more programs will produce effective results without verifying that they actually do so.

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