Growing up in Northern Virginia, education has always been one of the most important things to my family. My mother moved here after graduate school and became an English teacher for the Arlington public school system. My brother struggled with significant learning disabilities, requiring specialized teaching his entire childhood. And after I graduated college, I spent two years running a pre-K literacy program and an after-school tutoring program.
Now, I’m working for a candidate who I believe has the strongest chance to pay teachers more, to get Virginia’s public schools the resources they need, and to never back down when it comes to protecting teacher pensions.
As Tom’s policy director, I get a lot of concerned e-mails from Virginians who read blog posts that mischaracterize Tom’s record. Needless to say, I would never work for a candidate who has the kind of agenda that is implied in some posts out there right now.
So let me be clear: Tom opposes any attempts to defund our schools through voucher systems, which we’ve seen Republicans try to pass in the General Assembly recently. As for charters, Virginia has only nine public charter schools, and Tom sees no reason to expand or change anything that would encourage further expansion. Tom’s focus will be 100% on our public schools, how to increase funding for them, how to lift the caps on administrative help, and how to give teachers flexibility in the classroom to bring back real, genuine learning.
Ralph Northam (Tom’s opponent in the Democratic primary) has indeed been a strong proponent of public education, but that wasn’t always the case. He voted for George W. Bush twice, whose agenda on education can hardly be described as in the best interests of teachers and public education as a whole. I take seriously Ralph’s evolution from someone who supported the Republican agenda on education to an ally of teachers and the public education system. He should be commended for doing so.
Likewise, if we are abiding by a standard that campaign donations from individuals who have interests beyond the nominal issue at hand should be weighed heavily (which we can’t say about campaign donations from energy monopolies like Dominion, which Ralph Northam has taken), then we need to apply that standard to Ralph Northam as well. He’s taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Facebook co-founder Sean Parker, who’s been an active proponent of charter schools. And one of the biggest companies pushing the privatization of public education–Apollo Group–donated thousands to Ralph Northam’s PAC.
All that said, all I’m asking is that voters appreciate Tom’s forward-looking vision for public education in Virginia:
He’s the only candidate with a plan to raise the revenues necessary to pay teachers more.
He’s the only candidate with a plan to end school lunch debt.
He’s the only candidate who stood up when Fairfax County teacher pensions were on the chopping block.
He’s the only candidate willing to free up the revenue to make one of the best investments we can make in public education: universal pre-K.
And he’s the only candidate with a no-gimmick plan to provide two years of community college, vocational training, and apprenticeships for free.
We have two candidates on the Democratic ticket who will be strong defenders of our public schools here in Virginia. My honest belief is Tom Perriello is better on the issues of supporting teachers and investing in our public schools. That’s coming from someone whose son is going to start attending Virginia’s public schools in the near future.
I believe very deeply in the power of education. Voting for Tom Perriello on Tuesday, June 13th will bring us closer to the Virginia my mother, brother, and I want for students, teachers, and parents alike.