Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the Virginia governor’s contest on Tuesday, narrowly beating Republican Ken Cuccinelli in one of 2013’s two gubernatorial contests, according to the Associated Press. McAuliffe’s win could mean an increase for public school funding in the state, depending on how the state legislative races shakes out.
In the other gubernatorial race, in New Jersey, incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie, noted foe of teachers’ unions, easily beat Democratic nominee state Sen. Barbara Buono.
McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general, differed greatly on K-12 policy issues. McAuliffe has stressed the state’s relatively low spending on K-12 and the need for public schools to have a healthy, consistent source of revenue. That was why he claimed Cuccinelli’s plan for tax-credit scholarships and greater school choice in general would be particularly damaging for public schools.
“I don’t want a penny taken out of our public schools,” McAuliffe said during an Oct. 24 debate with Cuccinelli.
Both candidates said Virginia’s state exams, the Standards of Learning tests, need an overhaul—McAuliffe said he wanted less rote memorization on the test and more emphasis on critical-thinking skills.
But the outcome of the Virginia legislative elections may also complicate whatever plans McAuliffe has for education. The Virginia House of Delegates, the state’s lower chamber, was also up for election on Nov. 5 and went into the election held by the GOP. Late that evening, it was unclear if the GOP had maintained its control on the lower chamber (the state senate is also Republican-controlled). If the GOP holds onto both chambers, it could mean that any major action McAuliffe wants to take to increase school funding in general, or teacher pay in particular, would get soundly rejected by legislators.
But keep in mind that McAuliffe will also inherit K-12 policies he may not really like but that Virginia legislators approved recently, such as A-F school accountability and the state-run turnaround district (both of which were supported by outgoing GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell). Among the education-policy questions raised by McAuliffe’s win:
• Will he try to change how A-F accountability works to make it more palatable to districts?
• Will he take Virginia’s foot off the gas regarding that state-run district and let the law languish?
• And what about the state’s charter school law, which charter advocates consistently say is weak in the knees? Will McAuliffe try to strengthen it, and risk angering those district leaders and school boards who were none too thrilled with what McDonnell did in the latter part of his term?
Photo: Virginia Democratic Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe, right, and Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam celebrate their victories at a party in Tysons Corner, Va., on Tuesday night. (Cliff Owen/AP)
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.