VA race for governor draws Obama and highlights stakes for public education

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by Félix Pérez

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The race for Virginia governor is the marquee election in the nation this year, evidenced by the fact that former President Obama chose it as his first political appearance since leaving office. Obama will campaign this week for Ralph Northam.

The electoral contest, pitting former Army doctor and Lieutenant Gov. Northam against Washington, D.C., corporate lobbyist Ed Gillespie, has elevated public education as a core campaign issue.

Most recently, Gillespie came under criticism when it was reported his tax plan, when fully implemented, would result in a $404 million loss in state aid to public schools. The funding loss would affect both large and small school districts.

“Ed Gillespie’s tax plan would be a disaster for our public schools, for the students who attend them, and for their parents and communities,” said Jim Livingston, a math teacher from Prince William and Virginia Education Association president. “Mr. Gillespie is offering up a tax plan favoring the wealthiest Virginians while practically assuring that our schools will be forced to cut vital programs and increase class sizes. Clearly, that’s not what is best for kids, who are the Commonwealth’s future.”

Dr. Northam said he wants to prioritize state investments in increased teacher pay, and promote policies that attract high quality educators.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may not be on the ballot, but her shadow looms nonetheless. Like DeVos, Gillespie supports vouchers and and all manner of charter schools, including those that are online and those that are for-profit. He has pledged, if elected governor, to sign legislation creating Education Savings Accounts — a voucher scheme — depleting available resources for public schools. Gillespie’s campaign received more than $100,000 from the DeVos family.

Dr. Northam opposes private school vouchers. He cast a tie-breaking vote while a state senator to protect public education from private school vouchers. “Vouchers take money out of public education, and that doesn’t align with my priorities. Even if it helps a select few, it certainly doesn’t help all of our children. And that has to be our goal — a plan to help all our children,” said Dr. Northam. He has pledged, among other things, to uphold Virginia’s regulation of charter school growth and accountability and to invest in the neighborhood public schools that the overwhelming majority of students attend. A volunteer medical director at a hospice for children, he spearheaded the expansion of pre-K in Virginia that created spots for more than 13,000 students.

Obama and Dr. Northam will host a rally together in Richmond the evening of October 19.

Reader Comments

  1. DeVos, like “her” President, seem enjoy stirring up trouble with very little thought for the impact of their ideas. It is more important to please their own egos and promises than it is to do what is most beneficial to the people of this country. We may have the wealthiest administration in history, but I truly think it is far from the most intelligent (ongoing proof whenever either chooses to open their mouth). Both are proof that nothing positive happens when you put a person with little or no experience into certain jobs– President & Sec. of Educ.

  2. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams disagreed on many things…But both agreed that you must have Public Education in a Democracy! Support for public education is important in America! Taking money from public education to give to private schools that do not have to meet education standards, such as qualified teachers, is UnAmerican and against our values as a country! Having been a teacher at very successful public schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and DODDS schools overseas for 41 and 1/2 years, I know how important it is to have funding for high quality programs in public education! Support public education for the future of all American students.

  3. NO VOUCHERS, NO CHARTER SCHOOLS, NO MORE FUNDING REDUCTIONS,
    The constitution guarantees free education for all and we need to get back to supplying them with a worlds best quality education!!!!

  4. I understand the attack on public schools — money, which could go to many for-profit charter schools. Hopefully most Americans will see this as a money grab and a program to help only a select few.

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