~ New Virginia Forward' Scholarship Pays Up to 50 Percent of Tuition for Students Who Commit to Public Service ~
~ Proposals Would Improve School Efficiency, Teacher Quality, High School Standards and Pre-K~
Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor, released a comprehensive education plan Wednesday that would raise high school graduation standards, improve teacher quality, make schools more efficient and ensure that all students with a B' average or better who commit to two years of post-college public service get a scholarship to attend a Virginia public college or university.
Deeds' plan would create a new Virginia Forward college scholarship program for all Virginia high school students who maintain a B' average or better and commit to public service. Under the program, students would receive a financial scholarship of up to 50 percent of full tuition to attend a public Virginia college or university. In exchange, Virginia Forward scholars would commit to two years of post-college public service as teachers, nurses, police officers or in other needed fields.
My mom sent me off to college with just four $20 bills -- that's why college affordability is at the forefront of my education plan, Deeds said Wednesday. Under my plan, if you get a B' average in high school and commit to two years of public service, we'll pay half your tuition at a public Virginia college or university. That's a win-win for everyonewe give more of you a world-class education and you help us build the smartest workforce in the nation right here in Virginia.
Deeds would create a Virginia Forward Scholars Trust Fund, funded by a revamped debt collection process and the proceeds from selling surplus state land and equipment.
Also Wednesday, Deeds proposed new initiatives to improve teacher quality, put more funds into the classroom by improving school efficiency, set Readiness Standards' for high school graduation, turn around struggling schools, and make pre-kindergarten programs available to more 3- and 4-year-olds.
Deeds' plan will:
Improve Teacher Quality by Raising Pay to the National Average and Rewarding Performance. Deeds will make sure Virginia continues to attract the best teachers in the country by raising teacher pay to the national average and rewarding outstanding teachers for high performance. To make sure that every child is taught by a highly qualified teacher, Deeds will both increase teacher compensation and encourage mentoring and support networks that help good teachers improve their skills. Deeds will also work with teachers to reward outstanding performance in the classroom, through performance pay programs developed jointly with teachers and local school divisions.
Redirect $300 Million to Classrooms by Improving School Efficiency. Deeds will redirect more than $300 million to classrooms without cutting afterschool programs or critical support staff. He will bring a business-like approach to helping school divisions squeeze the most out of every dollar by expanding Gov. Mark Warner's School Efficiency Audit program to all 134 school divisions. Currently, the 33 divisions signed up for the program yield $25 million in annual savings; if the program is expanded statewide, it will produce $300 million in savings over four years. Deeds will also create a bulk-purchasing program for smaller school divisions to save money on school supplies.
Prepare 20,000 More 3- and 4-Year-Olds for Kindergarten. Based on the current Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), only about 85 percent of Virginia's children have the literacy skills needed to successfully start kindergarten. Creigh will invest in early childhood education to get 5,000 additional children per year ready for success. He will do this by expanding the Virginia Preschool Initiative to reach more qualified four year-olds, and by building on the work of Governor Kaine's Start Strong Pre-K Council.
Ensure That Every Virginia High School Student Graduates with the Skills for College or a 21st Century Job. Deeds will direct the State Board of Education to set Readiness Standards that ensure high school graduates are prepared for college-level work. Currently, the standard Virginia high school diploma does not require enough credits to gain acceptance to most four-year colleges in the Commonwealth. Deeds will work with schools to develop a five-year plan to move all Virginia graduates to these new Readiness Standards. For those students who choose not to go to four-year colleges, Deeds will expand the Middle College initiative, which allows young people ages 18-24 without a high school degree to pursue a GED, community college education, and a workforce certification in a college environment, all at the same time.
Turn Around Struggling Schools Through New Partnerships And Expanded Educational Choices. Deeds will draw on the talents of the business community to turn around failing schools. Some 95 schools in Virginia are less than fully accredited, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Virginia's PASS initiative, started under Governor Warner, brings partners from the business world and the local community together to support at-risk schools. Deeds will create new partnerships between failing schools and the local business community to introduce more talented role models, mentors, and tutors to students who might need a helping hand. Deeds will also encourage local school divisions to expand educational choices within the public school system in a way that makes sense for the localitywhether that's through charter schools or other alternatives.
Use Innovative Programs to Improve Educational Quality. Deeds will create an online lesson plan bank created by teachers that encourages their colleagues to share innovative lesson plans. Students learn best when a teacher can make a lesson interesting and relevant to their lives. Deeds' teacher-sponsored lesson plan bank will help teachers exchange creative ways of teaching students, while maintaining high standards. Deeds will also continue to pursue federal incentives for innovation in education and instruct his Secretary of Education to engage in a constructive dialogue with the federal government to ensure that Virginia's interests are represented in federal reform efforts.
Expand Afterschool Learning Opportunities and Summer School Programs. Supplemental education programs bridge learning gaps and give every child a boost up. It's not just about raising test scoresenrichment activities in sports and the arts can make a world of difference in a child's life. Deeds will expand afterschool and summer school options by encouraging partnerships with local community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA/YWCA, and others.