McDonnell focuses on education

Published 11:20 pm Monday, January 9, 2012

Surrounded by schoolchildren, Gov. Bob McDonnell presented key parts of his education agenda on Monday at a Richmond event. He wants to allow schools to start before Labor Day without a waiver and tie teacher contracts to student performance.

As part of his education initiatives for the new year, Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to repeal the requirement for schools to start after Labor Day and restructure contracts for teachers and principals to ensure higher accountability.

The governor gave an overview of these proposals and several other legislative and budget actions that support his Opportunity to Learn agenda at a press conference Monday.

The proposals will be introduced in the 2012 General Assembly session, most likely as separate measures rather than in one bill, McDonnell said.


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“We must raise standards for students and teachers, and ensure our young people get the world-class education they need in every school, in every region of Virginia,” McDonnell said.

One of the governor’s proposals is to abandon continuing contracts for teachers and principals throughout the commonwealth and adopt an annual contract that is related to the teacher’s performance.

McDonnell said the adjustment is necessary to weed out teachers who are doing a poor job.

“I think it’s an affront to our excellent teachers to be treated exactly the same way as those teachers who are under-performing,” he said.

As part of his plan, McDonnell also is proposing Virginia dump the requirement for school divisions to start after Labor Day unless they have a waiver from the Department of Education.

He said more than half of Virginia’s school divisions have waivers to start earlier.

“The exception has become the rule,” McDonnell said. “It seems like the rule should be modified.”

The governor said by allowing localities to decide to start earlier, they can have more time for the students to learn concepts and do better during testing.

“Our goal in time is to extend the school day and school year,” McDonnell said. “It’s helping all over the world to make students be more prepared.”

The governor said he acknowledged the tourism industry might not be happy with the school calendar change but believes the industry will not suffer and it will be better for the students.

“The way to resolve difference is to see what’s in the best interest of the children,” he said. “We have to let local educators do what they think is best.”

Also included in McDonnell’s education initiatives for the year were plans to provide monetary incentives for new teachers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, to streamline the number of diplomas from seven to three and to enhance dual enrollment programs.

The governor would also like to ensure funds are being used effectively to provide help to third- and fourth-graders struggling with reading and to provide support for potential applicants during the planning of charter schools, college laboratory schools and virtual schools.

McDonnell said he realized his proposals weren’t going to make everyone happy, but they were designed to meet a goal everyone can support.

“We have crafted this for the best interest of each young person to go to the best school,” he said.