1) Scholarships for Pre-K: (B+) Provided Pre-K scholarships are clearly tied to program quality and include new money to expand access in VA, I think these can work and can make a difference. This is the best part about his plan. The issues of needing new money and requiring quality are not small though. They need to be addressed.
2) Grading Teaching Colleges A-F: (C) Once again, this A-F thing oversimplifies the different aspects of education. What if the early education teaching department is an A and the high school department is an C? How do you account for different subject areas with different professors? More transparency around how well colleges do to prepare teachers is a good idea. But A-F is an overly simplistic way to do that. We need to take the idea of enhancing teacher preparation farther by adding in more ways for people to become teachers through residency programs and other alternative paths to teaching. His plan implies that he is open to alternative teacher training paths, but does not say how these would work.
3) Forcing local taxpayers to use property taxes for charter schools: (F) The idea that the state should force local government to spend local tax dollars on new charter schools contradicts every basic idea of democracy. Local City Councils and County Boards can decide if they want to fund new education options. Since they are often the primary funders of their schools, they should not be forced to pay for things they don’t think are needed. If a County Board does not think its schools are doing what they need to, it can provide funds for something different. Local government has the financial control over school districts. They don’t need the state micro-managing them.
4) Allowing Parents to Take Over a School: (D) This idea is attractive as an empowerment tool, but it does not have much of a track record of actual success. It is a moving the chairs around kind of policy idea that could lead to worse performing schools if things are done poorly. The idea that parents should have the ability to petition for changes does have merit though, and we should give them the ability to petition the state board of education for intervention if their student needs are not being met. But this needs to also take into consideration the fact that Virginia’s accreditation system masks the performance of low-income students in more affluent schools – that has to be addressed as part of this conversation. We should also talk about giving parents access to more data and information about their students and their schools in order to empower them.
5) Giving public K-12 funds to religious schools: (F) This is the most significant focus in Cuccinelli’s plan. He wants to give public money to private religious schools and doesn’t seem to think those schools have any obligations to meet state SOL standards. Our public schools and teachers have already struggled with diminished funds and higher standards. Moving scarce resources to private, religious schools makes this worse. Especially as these schools don’t have the same academic standards as public schools.
6) Local Innovation/Virtual Schools: ( C ) Throughout his plan, Cuccinelli takes the approach that the state knows best. He wants to have a statewide virtual school program. He wants the state to mandate charter schools onto local taxpayers. He wants to take local tax dollars and move them to private, religious schools. We should be moving the other way and should find ways to encourage innovation at the local level. Cuccinelli’s ideas about more flexibility with state school funds implies that the funds are adequate now and just need to be used differently. While the idea of flexibility is compelling and we’ve been moving in that direction as a state, we also have to recognize that funding for schools is down per student and resource constraints stifle innovation.
7) Reviewing state standards to make tests more analytical/reviewing the SOL's: (B) Here Cuccinelli is just copying other people’s work, but that does not mean it isn’t useful. He is essentially me-tooing McAuliffe's proposals for SOL review without any significant new ideas. There is a broad conversation happening in Virginia about our tests and I am glad to see Cuccinelli agreeing it needs to happen. We need bi-partisan consensus around this idea. We do need to look at our tests and standards, but we also need to remember that due to recent changes our tests are already significantly harder with much more analytical requirements. What we should be doing is finding a way to cut back the number of high stakes tests to replace some of them with mid-year skill assessments that let us know information is being taught and learned, but that give teachers more flexibility in how they provide individual instruction for every student.
8) School Choice: (D) School Choice is at the center of Cuccinelli's school turn around plans. Public school choice, which is called for in Cuccinelli’s plan, is already used in Virginia. The biggest challenge with this option is that crowded schools limit the ability of students to move to other schools. Cuccinelli is silent on how he would address that very real structural road block to public school choice. His next tool is funding religious schools. And his third is Charter Schools. He specifically calls for Charter schools as the way we should re-start struggling schools. It isn’t clear why Cuccinelli, or anybody, thinks Charter Schools are the only school re-start option to fix struggling schools. They should be one option, but so are governor’s schools, bringing in outside partners, changing the school design and curriculum and much more. That idea that a Charter School is the only vehicle for innovation or change is limiting and does a disservice to the many other successful school innovation models in VA.
9) Accreditation Standards for ALL Students: (F – because he didn't cover it in his plan) You can’t say you are for empowerment and opportunity if we don’t hold schools accountable for all students. Right now, Virginia’s schools can be accredited even if poor and minority students are performing poorly. There are schools around Virginia that have worse performance for low-income students than some of the schools currently slated for a state take-over. But because these schools have high populations of middle class students to bring up their average test scores, they are not at risk of being taken over. We need to shine greater light on this issue and make raising all student success a higher priority.
10) Teachers: (F – no specific proposals included in his plan) By every piece of research, teachers are the most critical factor in a student’s education. Virginia needs to make attracting and retaining the best and brightest a priority. This will cost money. Turning teaching into a profession akin to lawyers and doctors, as it is in other countries, is the most powerful long-term school reform. Unless we are willing to tackle this issue and its costs, we won’t create the world class education system all our students deserve and that our economy needs.
11) Higher Ed & Community Colleges: (F – not included in his plan). It is hard to talk about Pre-K-12 education reform and not talk about how the community college system and our excellent higher education system plays into that. But somehow, Cuccinelli’s education plan does that. It ignores Community Colleges as partners for high schools and it ignores the affordability of our higher education system and its need for well prepared high school graduates.
Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Krupicka and Rob Krupicka.
To Contact Delegate Krupicka:
Elizabeth Jones, Legislative Aide | DelRKrupicka@House.Virginia.Gov
571-357-4762 | P.O. Box 25455 | Alexandria, VA 22313