VA DEBATE: McClellan Education Plan Would Make Historic $2.3B K-12 Investment; McAuliffe’s Plan is Borrowed and Not Bold Enough

McClellan points out that McAuliffe’s plan is ‘frankly not bold, it’s old.’

RICHMOND, Va. –  In this evening’s Democratic Party of Virginia gubernatorial debate, candidate for governor Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) laid out her comprehensive K-12 education plan that would invest a historic $2.3 billion into the Commonwealth’s school systems and raised contrast with former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s plan that borrows its core elements from McClellan’s bills and does not go far enough.

“As a parent of a kindergartener and a fifth grader in Richmond public schools, I have seen that the inequities that were already in our system had been made worse and now are between households, not just zip codes,” McClellan said in the debate. “At a bare minimum, we need to fully implement the Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality, which is what they say all of our schools need to provide a high quality education to each child. I’ve been working with Delegate Lashrecse Aird to do that. That is the basis of another candidate’s ‘bold’ plan, but it’s frankly not bold, it’s old.”

McClellan’s K-12 “Equitable Education and Investment Plan” will invest approximately $2.3 billion in new dollars annually into Virginia’s K-12 education system, fully implement and fund the Board of Education’s Standards of Quality, create an Equity Accountability Program to address educational inequities, provide an additional $350 million to finish lifting the funding cap on school support staff, ensure a ratio of no more than 250 students per support staff, create a sustainable and dedicated fund to provide localities with resources to build, renovate, and modernize school infrastructure, and more. 

McAuliffe’s education proposal has been largely lifted – without credit – from bills championed by McClellan, including a $2 billion increase in education funding to fund the Virginia Board of Education’s Standards of Quality recommendations, significantly increasing teacher pay, and creating a new fund dedicated to educational equity. And McAuliffe’s plan fails to include any plans for school construction or for support staff beyond funding of the Standards of Quality.

McClellan’s plan calls for full funding of the Standards of Quality, but goes further than McAuliffe by also funding school construction and lifting the cap on school support staff. Her plan will ensure that every school that needs renovation and modernization will receive the funding it needs from the state. Additionally, McClellan passed a bill this year to invest $50 million to expand student access to the social workers, nurses and mental health professionals they need, and as governor she will build upon that by providing an additional $350 million for school support staff. 

McClellan’s Universal Child Care and Early Learning Plan also goes beyond McAuliffe’s proposed plan. McClellan will invest a historic $4 billion into our early childhood education system, including for infant care. Currently, Virginia ranks in the 10 most expensive states for infant care. McAuliffe doesn’t have any plan to provide needed care for children under three years old.

Here’s how McAuliffe’s education plan compares to McClellan’s record on education:


McAuliffe’s Plan

“While McAuliffe announced a $2 billion investment plan for education Wednesday morning, McClellan had pitched the same funding package during the 2020 legislative session” (Courthouse News, 12/9/20)

Sen. McClellan’s Record

“Hundreds of teachers dressed in red descended Monday on the Virginia Capitol to support education funding bills totaling $2 billion over two years, which passed their first legislative hurdles.”

“Senator Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, is sponsoring the Senate version of Aird’s bill…’If we’re going to fully fund all of our education needs that’s the price tag,” McClellan said… “Public education is the foundation of everything else we’re going to do and we’re going to fight like heck for it.” (Courthouse News, 1/27/20)


McAuliffe’s Plan:

“Put unprecedented resources toward critical support for our schools. We must adopt and fully fund the Virginia Board of Education’s 2019 Prescribed Standards of Quality (SOQs). Crafted with equity at the forefront and steeped in research on effective tactics to close achievement gaps, the 2019 SOQs address staffing needs and other critical issues facing our schools.” (McAuliffe Education Plan)

Sen. McClellan’s Record:

“Senator Jennifer McClellan (D) and Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D) have both filed bills to fully implement and fund the revised Standards of Quality issued by the VA Board of Education.” (Virginia Education Association, 1/13/20)

McClellan’s bill would “codify the Standards of Quality” prescribed by Virginia’s Board of Education which “call for more school counselors, more leadership and mentorship opportunities for educators, more English Learner teachers, additional support staff, and a trailblazing Equity Fund that would increase funding for schools that serve the greatest number of children in poverty and would modernize Virginia’s education funding formula.” (The Roanoke Times, 02/13/20)

McClellan also introduced a budget amendment to “fully implement the remaining proposed 2019 Board of Education Standards of Quality revisions that were not funded in the introduced Senate Bill 30.” (Senate Bill 30 Amendment 19, 2020)


McAuliffe’s Plan:

“Terry McAuliffe today launched his campaign for governor by announcing his plan to make the biggest, boldest investment in education in Virginia history. As governor, Terry will dramatically and immediately increase teacher pay and ensure that every Virginia student has access to an equitable, world-class education.” (McAuliffe campaign announcement)

Sen. McClellan’s Record

In 2020, Sen. McClellan introduced a budget amendment that would have provided a 5% raise for “teacher, school counselor, librarian, instructional aide, principal, and assistant principal positions” in year one. The amendment set aside “$238,221,545 the first year and $241,857,953 the second year” for these positions. (Senate Bill 30 Amendment 23, 2020)


McAuliffe’s Plan

“Create an Education Equity and Innovation Commission and Fund….The Commission will be charged with working with local school divisions to examine their student demographic data, curricula, academic outcomes, and disciplinary data to identify the most pressing racial and socioeconomic gaps their students face.” (McAuliffe Education Plan)

Sen. McClellan’s Record:

“Aird and McClellan are also proposing the state create a school equity fund with an additional $270 million over two years to help students considered at-risk educationally … ‘If we’re going to fully fund our education needs, that’s the price tag,’ McClellan said at a press conference. ‘And we need to have an honest conversation about that.’” (Virginian Pilot, 1/27/20)