For Virginia and New Jersey, yesterday was an election day that had very different outcomes for teachers in each state. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie was able to pull off a massive re-election effort in spite of his bullying tactics with teachers in that state and his clear disdain for the hard working public school educators who are members of the New Jersey Education Association. I am sorry that he was re-elected, but the good news for New Jersey’s teachers is that he is clearly aspiring to higher office and he will become too busy in the not-too-distant-future to harass them as relentlessly as he has harassed them to date. At least that is my hope for them.
In Virginia, we had a different outcome for which I am very grateful. I worked as a volunteer for Terry McAuliffe for Governor not just because he was the Democratic candidate but because he has demonstrated a clear and sincere interest in public education and even more significantly, perhaps, in public school teachers ever since he first ran for the gubernatorial nomination in 2008. When he decided to run for Governor of Virginia back then, he came to the headquarters of the Virginia Education Association as his first stop to become educated on the issues that he would need to understand if he were to relate well with teachers in Virginia. That was my first introduction to Terry, and I found him to be open, willing to learn, and eager to understand where teachers were coming from with regard to accountability issues, testing, and teacher evaluation.
Since that first meeting, I have had the pleasure of talking with Terry on additional occasions, and this past summer, I was honored to serve on his Education Advisory Committee. In that meeting, I brought up the issue of over testing our children and the need to take a serious look at the entire Standards of Learning program in Virginia. My purpose was not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I certainly believe that we need to use data appropriately to set our learning goals and to know whether or not we are meeting those goals, but the fact of the matter is that the testing companies are currently the only ones who are getting any serious benefits from the current system. The curriculum companies are also doing well while they push the Common Core Standards in spite of serious reservations about their appropriateness.
What I believe about Terry McAuliffe is that he truly cares about teachers in Virginia and that for him, it is not empty rhetoric when he says that education matters to him and that he believes our teachers need to be respected more and that they also need to be paid more. He did not forget to mention teachers in his victory speech last night, and I have to say that I was proud of the way he handled that speech, and I was impressed with the tone and the sincerity that he displayed. He has only just been elected, and he has already made me proud.
It is early, and he will have a tough job ahead of him. We didn’t win nearly enough seats in the House, and the Senate’s delicate balance is in jeopardy, depending greatly on the outcome of the special elections that will need to be held in light of the election, but for now, I am breathing a sigh of relief that Terry McAuliffe is Virginia’s Governor-Elect. The hard working teachers of Virginia deserve to have a true friend in the Governor’s mansion again. We had that in Mark Warner…I believe we have it again. I trust that Terry won’t let teachers down.