State of the States
New Governor Pushes Prekindergarten Plan
• Gov. Timothy M. Kaine
Calling education “the most important issue facing Virginia today,” newly inaugurated Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has outlined some broad initiatives he said would improve the state’s school system.
Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, gave an address to the Joint Assembly Jan. 16, two days after he was sworn in. Because of Virginia’s biennial budget process, the first two years of his four-year term will be spent operating under the budget submitted to the legislature in December by his Democratic predecessor, Mark Warner.
Mr. Kaine, who was the lieutenant governor under Mr. Warner, offered his support for proposed initiatives within the budget, including increased state financial aid for college students and $57 million for maternal and early-childhood health.
Prekindergarten: Gov. Kaine drew his attention to universal prekindergarten, one of the cornerstones of his campaign last fall. Every 4-year-old in the state should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality prekindergarten program, he said.
“Research demonstrates that children with access to prekindergarten have greater success in school, and throughout life, and require fewer social services, special education, or criminal-justice intervention,” he said. “When our children start strong, all of Virginia benefits.”
The governor said he has established a group of early-childhood educators, parents, business leaders, and legislators that will decide how best to carry out his pre-K initiative, called Start Strong. The program could cost as much as $300 million in its first year, he said during his campaign.
Teacher Pay: Mr. Kaine, who was endorsed by the 56,000-member Virginia Education Association, said he plans to introduce an amendment to the proposed budget that would move teacher salaries closer to the national average.
Virginia teachers earned, on average, $43,936 in the 2003-04 school year, compared with the national average of $46,597. Gov. Kaine also said he would work with teachers and administrators to establish a comprehensive and regular personnel-evaluation process for all teachers.
Vol. 25, Issue 20, Page 19