Sept. 12-25, 2003
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Warner pledges resources, money for education

Gov. Mark R. Warner

Photo by Stephanie Gross
“Higher education in Virginia can and must remain the envy of other states, but it will not without renewed commitment.”
Gov. Mark R. Warner

By Lee Graves

Gov. Mark R. Warner might have been preaching to the choir last week in outlining his “Education for a Lifetime” proposal to educators, students and elected officials in Newcomb Hall, but his message was far from complacent.

Citing a national study done two decades ago titled “A Nation at Risk,” Warner said, “Twenty years later, while progress has been made, we are still at risk. And the urgency of eliminating that risk is greater than it has ever been before.”

Warner’s visit to U.Va. Sept. 5 was the final stop in a three-day effort to launch a plan designed to revise, reform and re-invigorate education in Virginia. Much of the six-point proposal deals with K-12 education, and he acknowledged that many
of the specifics are yet to come.

But he did pledge to target $525 million in new funds toward education, specifically to pay for projected revisions to the state’s Standards of Quality.

In higher education, Warner laid out some of the challenges well known to many in the standing-room-only crowd in Newcomb Hall’s Art Gallery. State budget cuts have forced tuition hikes. Talented faculty leave for jobs with higher pay and better resources. Students have trouble getting classes they need for graduation.

And despite passage of a $900 million bond referendum last year for buildings and other capital projects on campuses around the state, “the system is still not equipped to handle the influx of new students we expect over the next decade — a number we thought to be 38,000 and only in the last few months re-estimated at 61,000 new students,” Warner said.

If those students are unable to get college degrees, their earning power will suffer. Warner said young people who receive an associate degree earn an average of $8,000 a year more than those with only a high school diploma. “That figure goes up to $13,000 for a bachelor’s degree and $28,000 for a master’s degree.”
A major element of Warner’s proposal is retaining good teachers, and a facet of that plan — providing mentors for new teachers — earned the praise of a U.Va. student.

Katherine Herndon, who introduced Warner, is in the final year of the Curry School of Education’s five-year program, where students receive both bachelor’s and master’s degrees to prepare them for the teaching profession. Herndon said her decision to become a teacher began with her upbringing in Nashville. Both of her parents taught, she said, “and they instilled in me that teaching was a higher calling.”

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III noted in his opening remarks that the Curry School has been innovative in developing programs for educators at all levels. In addition, cooperative programs and partnerships have been developed with the College of Arts & Sciences and with the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

The College and Curry are partners in the “Teachers for a New Era” initiative launched last year, and Curry collaborated with Darden over the summer in a pilot program in which Florida educators came to Charlottesville to study business and leadership aspects of school administration.

In addition to teacher recruitment and retention, the major points of Warner’s plan include:

Senior year reform, which will offer rising high school seniors a chance to get a semester’s worth of college credit by the end of their senior year;

Greater financial accountability, through efficiency reviews in individual school divisions;

Improved workforce development, including streamlining existing programs and eliminating overlapping training programs;

Higher quality child care, which will focus on raising standards for child-care providers; and

Increasing economic development through higher education, including increasing research and development spending to $1 billion by 2010.

“Higher education in Virginia can and must remain the envy of other states, but it will not without renewed commitment. At the same time, we’ll be asking more of our institutions,” Warner said. “We’ll ask them to teach even more of our people in order to fuel economic growth and a better quality of life in Virginia.”


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