Restoring our Educational and Career Training Systems

Education remains the clearest pathway to opportunity and dignity. We must ensure that every child has access to this pathway, and that every young adult can identify a route into a career. That begins with treating Virginia’s educators as the valuable professionals they are.

As Governor, I will prioritize investments in education in the state budget, including raising teacher pay, focusing particularly on the most under-resourced schools in our Commonwealth. To get our children off to the best start possible, I will implement universal pre-K statewide. To make post-secondary education more affordable and improve the career prospects for all young Virginians, I will make vocational training, apprenticeships or community college available debt-free for a minimum of two years. I will also work with our universities to ensure that we do not continue to pile up the burden of tuition on the backs of students and their families by re-establishing the Virginia Student Loan Authority. I’ve laid out these commitments in my plan to support working families, and I am the only candidate in this race to put forward a tax plan that pays for these investments.

As I travel across the Commonwealth, I am reminded again and again that in order to attract and retain qualified teachers, we must offer them a competitive salary and professional respect. Since 2009, Virginia’s education budget has experienced massive cuts totaling $800 million. As a result, teachers have not received hard-earned raises and many families have not been able to access pre-K education for their young children.

These cuts have also made it more difficult for children in some of our most underserved communities to receive the education they deserve. Over 12 years, the number of Virginia children in racially or economically isolated schools more than doubled and an African-American child in Virginia is 17 times more likely than a white child to attend an isolated school. These students often lack access to the resources their wealthier peers enjoy and it is increasingly difficult to attract and retain quality teachers in the schools that need them most.

Throughout this race I’ve talked about the need to reform our criminal justice system and break the school-to-prison pipeline that perpetuates racial inequality, costs the Commonwealth millions of dollars, and is counterproductive to the goal of promoting public safety. We must also revise the Standards of Quality (SOQs) to remove unrealistic staffing caps so that teachers and students have proper support professionals in the schools.    

I have a strong track record of fighting for Virginia’s education priorities. As a Congressman, I helped secure more than $137 million to support public schools, as well as more than $157 million to support colleges and universities in Virginia’s 5th District.

I reject the false choice between investing in our public schools and fostering innovation in education. The Commonwealth has an interest in making sure that every school is teaching all students to the best of their ability, but multiple choice tests should not distract from the overall mission of schools to make sure that all students are prepared to be productive and engaged citizens. In Richmond, I will work with educators, school divisions, universities, and other innovators to revise the Standards of Learning (SOLs) and developing accountability measurements that demonstrate genuine student learning while supporting teachers’ classroom practices.

Virginia has shown that our public schools can produce some of the brightest and best-prepared students in the entire country, but funding for education is threatened by Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump’s plans for a $20 billion school voucher program. Too often, these programs are just backdoor ways to reduce funding for our neediest schools and further segregation. Diverting public money to voucher programs is a massive cut to education spending, and as governor, I will veto school voucher bills.

Virginia is home to some of the finest schools in the nation – but in order to build an economy that works for everyone, we must ensure that every Virginia child has access to a quality education.