Bob McDonnell has announced his educational priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, and if he gets his way, teachers and students will be big losers. The governor already has proposed a budget that takes money away from education and shovels it into road maintenance. Now, he is proposing doing away with teacher tenure, meaning that all teachers – no matter how competent or experienced – would have to prove every year that they deserved a job.
Adding insult to injury, McDonnell also wants to build upon his ALEC-drafted legislation that passed last year creating “virtual schools” in Virginia. ALEC is a corporate-run and financed group that writes model legislation for state politicians who are beholden to those corporations for contributions and junkets. HB 1388 and SB 738, which were introduced at McDonnell’s request and signed into law, encourages school divisions to contract with private, for-profit virtual school companies and replace teachers with computer programs for student instruction. The model for that law came from ALEC’s educational task force, which just happens to be headed by a corporation that sells virtual school programs.
It’s easy to summarize Bob McDonnell’s anti-public-education program. He believes in raiding education funding, attacking teachers by eliminating tenure protection, and shifting state education dollars to untested charter schools and for-profit virtual school companies as much as possible.
People defend the elimination of tenure by insisting that bad teachers hide behind such laws. That’s simply not true. Principals and administrators always have had the ability to fire teachers who aren’t doing their jobs properly, no matter how long they have taught. The principal who can’t do that is the incompetent one.
I also am strongly supportive of using technology in education. However, the possibility of fraud and ineffective instruction is rampant in so-called “virtual charter schools.” I do not believe that Virginia will tightly supervise such schools, especially given the source of the legislation that made them legal in the state.
As for McDonnell’s idea to take money from education and shift it to road maintenance, all I can hope for there is that Democrats will stop that stupidity in the State Senate, now that Bill Bowling has acknowledged that he cannot constitutionally vote on budgets.