- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

HAMPTON, Va. | All four gubernatorial candidates on Thursday promised Virginia teachers better pay if elected next year.

Democrats R. Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran and Republican Bob McDonnell committed to raising the pay of Virginia teachers to the national average of more than $50,000 a year.

Mr. McDonnell appeared solo before nearly 800 Virginia Education Association members at the politically powerful educators association’s annual convention. He is unchallenged for the Republican nomination. Then, Mr. Deeds, Mr. McAuliffe and Mr. Moran answered questions they were given well in advance in what was billed as the second of five debates before a June 9 primary determines the Democratic nominee.

Not all of the candidates agreed on how much it would cost to pay teachers more. Mr. McDonnell said Virginia’s teachers were about $2,000 short of the $52,300 annual national benchmark. Virginia’s average is about $46,000 a year.

“I think Bob McDonnell said the average was about $50,000. Well, the numbers I looked at were about $46,000. I’m trying to get you about $6,000 more,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

Mr. McDonnell, in response to questions from VEA President Kitty Boitnott, said she supports the concept of charter schools and tuition tax credits, ideas never popular with the 60,000-member public school teacher organization.

But they warmed up considerably when Mr. McDonnell noted the disparity between pay for teachers compared with sports heroes.

“You look at your pay versus, say, a basketball coach or a professional athlete, and it’s so far out of whack,” he said.

Like his Democratic counterparts would say later, he pledged to reward science and math teachers. “We need to make it cool to be a geek again,” Mr. McDonnell said.

The Democrats, meanwhile, read from largely the same party script in their support for raising teacher pay to the national average, reducing class sizes and universal state-sponsored pre-kindergarten.

Mr. Moran, however, noted that the same pledge had eluded the past two governors, and said that neither he nor his fellow Democrats would be any more successful as long as Republicans control the House of Delegates.

“We need more education-friendly legislators,” said Mr. Moran, who was chairman of the House Democratic Caucus before he abruptly retired in December to run for governor and raise money full time. “There is no one on this stage who has done more to elect education-friendly legislators than I have.”

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