The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kaine calls for pre-kindergarten; B8

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine laid out his vision for education Tuesday, calling for Virginia to support optional statewide pre-kindergarten education.

Some “90 percent of a child’s brain growth is complete by the age of 5,” Kaine told reporters on a conference call. “The foundation of a child’s academic and economic success must be built very early. Our Start Strong initiative will provide all Virginia 4-year-olds the opportunity to attend high-quality pre-kindergarten, and enter school ready to read and ready to succeed.”

Under his plan, each community in Virginia would create councils made up of teachers, day care providers, elected officials, business leaders and others to come up with a plan to provide the service.

“Over the last three years we have seen marked improvements in our schools and our children’s performance,” Kaine said.

“The standards we have set have helped us offer high-quality public education throughout the state. Virginia has spent the last decade trying to define the floor. The next decade has to be about raising the ceiling.”

The candidate also said he’d seek to fully fund Virginia’s K-12 education system, and get more students involved in Advanced Placement and other accelerated classes, while supporting vocational and technical education.

Kaine also said he’d work to raise teacher salaries to the national average.

“The greatest impact we can have on the quality of our children’s education is by giving them the best teachers,” he said. “Demanding excellence from our teachers means better educational opportunity for our children.”

A spokesman for Kaine’s major-party opponent, GOP former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, said the goals of the plan are good, but it would be costly to implement.

Kaine’s camp says the plan would cost less than $300 million and would be phased in over four years.