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Educators: VA Public Ed Reforms at Risk in Clinton/Trump Race

Virginia educators say some of the public ed progress made in the state may be at risk in the presidential election. (Woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
Virginia educators say some of the public ed progress made in the state may be at risk in the presidential election. (Woodleywonderworks/Flickr)
October 26, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. – State educators say Virginia public education has a lot at risk in the presidential election. Last year, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a replacement for the previous No Child Left Behind.

But Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), said for several years, Virginia has been de-emphasizing high-stakes standardized testing – something ESSA is also designed to do. He noted that the ESSA hasn't been implemented yet, and said how that happens will depend on who is in the White House.

"Virginia actually has been on the leading edge of moving away from standardized testing," said Livingston. "Our concern is, these efforts could be undermined and look very different, depending upon who is elected president."

Critics of No Child Left Behind have said the testing was too punitive, and that it makes more sense to give fewer tests, just to find out what lessons are or are not getting through.

But Livingston sees ESSA as a program designed to spot struggling schools and students, and move in resources to help – rather than just punish those falling behind.

He doesn't believe Donald Trump has taken a lot of clear positions on how ESSA will be implemented. But he has, according to Livingston, spoken out in favor of charter schools and education vouchers.

"There are limited dollars in public education, and when you divert those dollars into vouchers or charters or those types of things, then you're taking away money from an already strapped system," he said.

In contrast, Livingston said, Hillary Clinton favors the approach ESSA takes. And he pointed out that her concern for students, especially those at a disadvantage, predates her entry into politics.

"A lifetime of service working to improve the lives of families and children," he said. "And she has recognized ESSA is an opportunity for us to move public education forward."

The latest polls suggest Clinton is likely to win, in Virginia and nationwide.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA