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School Choice Emerging as VA Campaign Issue

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PHOTO: The Virginia Education Association is blasting GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli's proposal to amend the constitution to allow public funding of religious schools. Photo credit: SC.GOV
PHOTO: The Virginia Education Association is blasting GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli's proposal to amend the constitution to allow public funding of religious schools. Photo credit: SC.GOV
 By Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA, Contact
August 19, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. - The debate over school choice is escalating in the Virginia governor's race. The state teacher's union has blasted Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli's proposals, which include charter schools, more parental control over failing schools, and a constitutional amendment that would clear the way for public funding of religious schools.

Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber said public schools are already underfunded.

"Now we're talking about changing the Virginia constitution, which I think is a very serious, serious thing to discuss," Gruber warned. "We're talking about taking away protections for our tax dollars to stay out of private entities."

Democratic candidate Terri McAuliffe's education platform calls for increasing school funding and teacher pay, but does not mention charter schools.

School-choice advocates such as Jeff Reed, communications director, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said they are encouraged by what they consider Cuccinelli's bold proposals.

"For this to be a topic of discussion in Virginia, that's not only exciting for advocates of school choice but, frankly, for the parents who want to find what works best for their kids," Reed said.

The Virginia Education Association has endorsed McAuliffe in the race. Gruber said the education platforms give Virginia voters a clear choice.

"Do they want strong public schools in their community that have all the resources they need to help every child be successful, or do they want to start segregating students out based on socio-economic status?" Gruber asked.


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