- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

RICHMOND | Two of the four candidates in this year's gubernatorial sweepstakes called for improved teacher pay and incentives, expanded worker training and more affordable college tuition Monday.

Democrats Terry McAuliffe and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds outlined detailed education platforms in separate news conferences as they and fellow Democrat Brian J. Moran head toward a June 9 primary.

Mr. Moran and the presumed Republican nominee, Bob McDonnell, have addressed some of the public education issues the two Democrats discussed Monday in a contest that is quickly gaining steam.

Mr. McAuliffe said Virginia has done a poor job attracting commercial research and capitalizing on revenue patents that result from those projects at state-supported universities.

“One of the biggest opportunities that I have continually talked about … is the hundreds of millions of dollars that I believe we are leaving yearly on the table for not commercializing the patents,” Mr. McAuliffe said in a telephone news conference.

The former Democratic National Committee chairman said Virginia makes it difficult to take a new concept out of its research universities and onto the market.

“There's not a streamlined process,” he said. “I've spoken to many university presidents here in Virginia as I've traveled around, and they say, 'Terry, if you don't talk about anything else keep talking about this because it is just too difficult for us to bring private dollars in.' ”

He and Mr. Deeds both noted that Virginia's nationally acclaimed state-supported colleges were among the least affordable. Both also noted that the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education had given Virginia a grade of F in college affordability.

“Cost should not be the barrier to a Virginian who wants to pursue their dreams of a higher education,” Mr. Deeds said at a Capitol Square news conference.

He proposed boosting the number of college degrees students receive over the next four years by 70,000 by expanding college access, particularly at community colleges and by boosting need-based tuition aid.

Mr. McAuliffe tossed in a pair of unconventional proposals.

He advocated a pool of capital, perhaps backed by state bonds, to provide cheap car and home loans for public school teachers. That would help retain teachers in areas where living costs have outstripped their salaries, he said.

“We want them to have a long-term income stream, and part of making sure they do that is if, through the state, we provide a fund,” he said. “It's not going to cost you money, because these teachers will pay back the loans.”

Mr. McAuliffe tossed in some future-world curricular concepts, saying he would urge “a new emphasis on analysis, self-discipline, organizational skills and the adaption to team dynamics.”

Statewide, academic core curricula are defined in state law known as the Standards of Quality.

Mr. Deeds and Mr. McAuliffe proposed expanding former Gov. Mark R. Warner's program to allow high school seniors to earn college credit hours, and applying the preschool learning initiative that was a priority of Gov. Tim Kaine to all students.

They also endorsed raising public school teachers' salaries to the national average. For the 2007-08 school year, the U.S. average was $52,300 per year and $46,800 for Virginia, according to the National Education Association.

“How do you expect excellence in schools when you're not even willing to pay for average?” Mr. Deeds said.

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