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Cuccinelli Education Proposal Would Free Up Public Money for Private Schools

The Republican gubernatorial candidate would also reform SOL tests and give parents the power to petition the state to convert a failing school into a charter school.

Virginia Attorney Gen. and 2013 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli (Photo by James Cullum)
Virginia Attorney Gen. and 2013 Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli (Photo by James Cullum)
by William Callahan

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Republican candidate for governor, unveiled this week aneducation proposal that would legalize state funding of private schools and give parents the power to petition the state to convert a failing school into a charter school.

Cuccinelli stresses that the plan values the Commonwealth’s children over all and gives opportunity to kids in underperforming areas.

“It’s not good enough if the children who live in the right ZIP code are excelling in the classroom and moving up to college and graduate schools, while families trapped within a low income community have a mediocre education at best and a failing school at worst,” he said in a statement.

The Republican’s proposal would give a majority share of parents at a school the Virginia Board of Education has deemed failing options to reform the school, including changing the leadership, converting it to a charter school or even closure. The plan would also establish scholarships to let parents enroll their children in public schools they want and tax credits to enroll in private schools.

Cuccinelli also plans to advocate for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution that would end the restriction on public funds for “sectarian” schools, in order for parents to have more choices for their kids.

The proposal seeks to reform the Standards of Learning tests (SOLs) to move away from memorization and toward problem solving.

Cuccinelli also wants to double the number of females enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs by 2020.

Some teachers have lauded the proposal for the opportunities it would provide to students and their families, but others have been quick to criticize it.

Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber wouldn’t give the proposal a passing grade, saying it would be detrimental to schools.

“Mr. Cuccinelli’s plan deserves an ‘F’ for ignoring the needs of Virginia’s students while promising to funnel more public money to private interests, at taxpayer expense,” Gruber said in a statement after the policy was released Tuesday. “He has already proposed a tax plan that we estimate would cut $422 million each year from K-12 education funding. His latest proposals to divert money from public education will only add to the cuts students and teachers in public schools already face.”

The VEA has endorsed Cuccinelli’s Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, who released his own education proposal in May. McAuliffe also proposes SOL reform, more workforce training from community colleges and pay bumps for teachers.

E.W. Jackson, the pastor and attorney running for lieutenant governor on Cuccinelli’s Republican ticket, has also proposed a constitutional amendment to free up education money. Jackson would provide public funds for homeschooled students, an idea the VEA was also quick to condemn.

Click here to read Cuccinelli’s full education policy proposal.
T Ailshire August 19, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Public funding for "sectarian" schools make them public schools -- no more, no less. This is an asinine proposal. On top of that -- so many citizens don't trust the government to spend money wisely now, so giving them more on which to spend our tax dollars is not an acceptable path.
Isle D Belle August 21, 2013 at 10:49 AM
I don't pay taxes to have my dollars shifted to fund religious educational institutions. This plan violates my first amendment rights. How do you like that? Cucchinelli mixes in some baloney about increasing the number of female student in STEM education, but this is just a smokescreen. After all, he would deny them the right to plan their families so what is point of educating them? He's throwing stuff up against the wall to see if anything sticks. I am not buying it. I want my taxes to fund public schools, the schools that my child attends. I believe in the public school system and we have some of the finest public schools in the country. There is no reason to fund private schools with tax dollars. We should be using our tax dollars to pay teachers and adminsitrators, buy textbooks and class materials, keep school facilities in good repair and fund services to public school students who need them. My child was in a private school for K, 1 and 2. I paid his tuition and paid for a few special activities. In public school I pay for school supplies for the entire class, white boards, pens, pencils, erasers, paper, scissors, books, wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer, etc., etc. I am amazed that parents have to fund so much of their children's public school education. And Cucchinelli wants to take more money away from public schools? The guy is off his rocker.
oldtowner August 23, 2013 at 11:03 PM
I'm in favor of State funding for private schools (or charter schools) in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County....can someone give me a list of those schools?
Janet McDonald August 24, 2013 at 07:47 AM
money is needed to improve City of Alexandria schools...they are among the worst in the area...Fairfax County schools among the best in the country...public taxes should go to fund public schools...private schools are a personal choice, home schooling is a personal choice and are funded by tuitions...the same goes for colleges/universities...public funding goes to State colleges NOT to Private to keep tuitions down so education is available to more...public education is available to all...and needs to be funded so that ALL have the opportunity to grow and learn and improve their future...the elitists can FUND their own without taxpayers $$$...why don't you just donate scholarships to the private or charter schools??? Or worry about improving the public schools in your CITY....
T Ailshire August 25, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Janet, I'm sorry, but your chosen grammatical construct obscures your point in my mind. Could you please clarify what you believe to be the difference (in Cuccinelli's plan) between funding for Alexandria schools and for Fairfax County? Why have you chosen to (apparently) draw a distinction? Are Fairfax County schools elitist? Is that what you're saying? And where do colleges come in to this plan?

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