Two Virginians of different parties who are seen by political pundits as potential 2008 presidential contenders exchanged friendly handshakes and sat side by side at an education policy forum last week in Richmond, Va.
Sen. George Allen, a Republican who served as governor of Virginia from 1994 to 1998, lunched alongside current Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, on June 13 at the Communities in Schools’ education policy luncheon.
The two leaders are co-chairing the expansion of Communities in Schools’ work in the state. The Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit drafts business and community leaders to help students finish school and get more out of their educational experiences.
Neither the governor nor the senator has said much publicly about any presidential aspirations, although some of Gov. Warner’s supporters have talked up the possibility of his running for the Democratic nomination. Sen. Allen has held fund-raisers in New Hampshire and other states, fueling speculation about a possible GOP bid.
Both spoke about their pride in Virginia’s early entry into school accountability. Gov. Warner thanked Sen. Allen for helping start the state’s Standards of Learning tests and academic standards 10 years ago. Mr. Allen, who has introduced legislation in the Senate to allow Virginia and other states with mature school accountability systems to be exempt from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, thanked the governor for keeping the state school efforts alive.
The federal law has “not been implemented with the same kind of flexibility, the same kind of willingness to self-correct, as the standards movement in the state of Virginia,” Gov. Warner said.
Sen. Allen said he filed his opt-out legislation only after Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings did not act quickly to allow Virginia more flexibility under the federal law. The Education Department granted some of the state’s waiver requests last week, but rejected others.
“I have been patient with them, asking them for it for years,” he said after the luncheon.
As Gov. Warner spoke outside with reporters, he waved as Sen. Allen’s black sport-utility vehicle rolled away.
“George, see you later!” he shouted.
Just like old friends.