Vote for Me Or the Children Will Suffer

I know Tim Kaine, and I know him to be a thoughtful man. I had a chance to speak to him at some length about education reform several months ago. Back then, before his campaign began in earnest, he articulated some interesting perspectives on education. He’d visited literally every single school jurisdiction across the state to get a sense of the varied challenges schools face across our diverse Commonwealth.

I recall that Kaine was especially concerned about the impending teacher shortage and what it would take to address it. (Addressing the teacher shortage, as coincidence would have it, was the main topic of Jerry Kilgore’s recently announced education initiative.) What impressed me about Kaine was that, although he clearly thought the education system needed more money, he also acknowledged that the system needed to be changed as well.

Judging by his latest campaign salvo, however, all education needs is more money. “Join teachers in the fight for full education funding,” he urges readers of his campaign e-mail blast. He attacked Kilgore for diluting his commitment to education funding. “Under a Kilgore administration, education’s funding would compete with big road project campaign promises, and Virginia’s school children would lose.” So much for nuance.

Question #1. What’s this about “full education funding”? I thought Gov. Mark R. Warner’s 2004 tax increase, which (as my fallible memory serves) raised about $600 million per year for Virginia schools, was supposed to bring Virginia up to the Standards of Quality. In what sense, pray tell, are Virginia’s schools not fully funded?

Question #2: What’s this about Kilgore’s commitment to funding big road projects? I didn’t detect that from the Kilgore transportation plan (detailed on this blog). What big road projects is Kaine talking about? … Can we presume from his comments that Kaine opposes pouring new money into “big road projects”? Can we have his commitment that, if elected governor, he will veto a tax hike for the purpose of funding more big road projects?

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Are we talking “any” road projects, un-needed road projects, road projects solely for economic development, previously deferred road projects, projects so expensive their costs can’t be justified, projects in areas already saturated with roadways where they can’t do any good, or road projects we really need and are costing us a bundle NOT to have?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Good questions. Ask Mr. Kaine.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Kilgore did say in his statement this week that he would use General Funds for transportation projects, without specifying which ones. This year’s GA did dump about a quarter-billion in GF into transportation (really just paying back the 2002 raid.) None of it was project specific and really it was used to pay off deficits on existing projects. Kilgore’s move is actually an attempt at political cleverness, since it (1) seems to satisfy those who are demanding more transportation funding, without having to address nasty things like taxes or user fees and (2) drives a wedge into the Foundation for Virginia crowd that wants to preserve the General Fund for the financial black holes of education and Medicaid

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Here’s Kilgore’s road project pandering: “While endorsing some multi-billion-dollar transportation projects — a third crossing at Hampton Roads, widening of Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia and another bridge crossing the Potomac River — Kilgore said he would use general fund dollars and tolls and rely more on public-private partnerships to build new roadways.”


    He may not include it in his plan, but when it suits him, he’s for it. Either that, or he’s backed off those projects, and reporters should ask if he’s still for them or not.

    He has also expicitly refused to promise full funding of the SOQ’s. So basically, he’s making pledges on road projects and not on education. And he’s naming the source of state ed funding as the place he’s going to get the money for the new roads.

    Basically, Kilgore is going to have to cut other programs in the General Fund to get his new road money. Remember that Kaine and Warner already made general fund cuts in 2002…

    It’s tough right now to criticize Kaine’s transportation plan, because he hasn’t announced one. When he does, I suspect BR will be on the case, comparing it to Kilgore’s plan and making sure it squares with Kaine’s other commitments.

    In the end, candidates either need to set priorities or make promises they don’t plan on keeping. We’ll get a better idea of what’s going on when Kilgore gets more specific on education (if he does) and when Kaine gets more specific on transportation (if he does).

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous, Thanks for pointing out Kilgore’s support of the transportation mega-projects. I think you make a reasonable case that Kilgore, assuming he lives up to his rhetoric, would favor transportation over education. … Now, the next step is to convince me that the main thing ailing Virginia’s public education system is a lack of money.

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