Parents Supporting public schools

Tim Kaine Loves Public Schools. So Does His Wife Anne, Who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education

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Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.

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