(Thanks to Rob Krupicka for this thoughtful diary. As always, we welcome thoughts from Democratic elected officials and candidates. Promotion of diaries to the Blue Virginia “front page” does not imply an endorsement of any individual’s candidacy, simply that we believe what they have to say is worth sharing with our readers. – promoted by lowkell)
A few weeks ago, I hosted a telephone town hall with nearly 2,000 residents to talk about how we make Virginia the best state in the country to get an education. The success of that event was overwhelming, and given my focus on education, I thought it would be useful to lay out my three overarching principles: Early Education, Individualized Instruction and Access to College.
First, I believe early childhood education is critical. To be successful in school, all children need a solid foundation, and the opportunity to develop skills that allow them to show up to Kindergarten ready to learn. In both my public and professional life, I have devoted myself to this issue. During my town hall, participants identified this issue as the top priority for education in Virginia.
Second, I think we must make sure teachers can provide children with the individualized instruction that they need to succeed.
I worry about the factory floor mentality that treats our kids like assembly line products where each child gets the exact same thing. No Child Left Behind only exacerbates this problem. We need to make sure each child knows that they are capable of success. We need more opportunities for students to learn and advance in the way that recognizes their full potential rather than at a pace solely dictated by the chapters in a textbook or the number of days and hours in a school year. We need to support class sizes that promote good teacher-student interactions. This will take a strong system of professional development and new tools for teachers so they can keep track of the individual needs of every child — from children who speak a different language at home, to those who have been diagnosed with autism, to the most intellectually gifted.
Finally, we can’t neglect our higher education system.
You’ve probably heard about Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s quixotic war on science at our colleges and universities. We simply cannot stand for that. We have to send a signal that we value the science and technology work of our colleges, which ultimately helps attract the best employers to our state. Virginia leads the country in high-technology businesses, which depend on a well-trained workforce. We cannot afford to give up this asset. We have to show that we value our universities and are working to make college more affordable.
More broadly, we have to maintain our investment in higher education and ensure Virginia families have ways to save for their kids’ college education. High school diplomas are not a ticket to life-long success anymore. To succeed in the workforce, students need education beyond high school. Virginia has a good system of higher education, but others are challenging us. Today, North Carolina and Maryland both provide substantially more support for their higher education students than we do. This disparity puts huge pressure on Virginia to attract out of state students, and makes it harder for in-state students to find a place in our schools. We must have a higher education system that will enable us to, as President Obama put it, win the future.
If we do these things, Virginia would stand head and shoulders above other states in its commitment to 21st-century policies that support world-class education from the day a child is born, through public schooling, and extending through the years of college and adulthood. Making Virginia the number one state in the Country for education is a goal we can achieve that will have a direct impact on our economy and our future.
Rob Krupicka is a member of the Virginia Board of Education and served as Chair of Governor Kaine’s School Readiness Task Force. He is currently serving his third term on Alexandria’s City Council.