The Corner

Education

The Difficulty in Finding True Northam

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Difficulty in Finding True Northam

We haven’t had a new poll in the Virginia governor’s race in about three weeks, and campaign commercials are starting to pop up more frequently on the local television airwaves. In a dramatic change from last cycle, when wealthy Democrat Terry McAuliffe outspent Republican Ken Cuccinelli two to one, this year Republican Ed Gillespie is spending more — $1.7 million compared to Democrat Ralph Northam’s $1.1 million.

The Washington Post notices that a Northam ad tells viewers to go online and check out his tax plan… without, you know, actually having a tax plan on his web site.

There is no detailed tax plan on Northam’s campaign website, aside from his call to lower grocery taxes for poor people and to create a bipartisan tax panel.

What’s more, Northam’s campaign said in April it would release a set of “guiding principles” on tax reform within a week. It never did, and a reference to that promise to voters was removed from the campaign’s website — until a reporter pointed it out.

This is what happens on Democratic campaigns when the left hand doesn’t know what the other left hand is doing.

On NRO today, I take a look at another one of Northam’s ads, focused (and focus-group-tested, probably) on education and point out that the rhetoric seems pretty rote and aimed more at addressing suburban parents’ feelings than any actual problems in Virginia schools:

Northam pledges in a new commercial that if he is elected, he will raise teacher pay, emphasize science and math, and make college more affordable — because “every child in Virginia should know if they work hard, there is a bright future ahead of them.” The agenda laid out in that commercial is really a list of solutions looking for problems. Virginia students are actually exemplary compared with students in the rest of the country; according to the Virginia Department of Education, they ranked best in the country in science and third in the nation in math in the most recent national tests in these subjects.

A study of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics concluded that Virginia teachers rank tenth in the nation in average pay and related benefits, at $63,493 per year. The National Education Association puts the salary alone (not benefits) at merely $50,834, ranking it as the 30th in the country. But that measuring stick leaves out a lot: A first-year teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools system will collect $14,492 in fringe benefits including insurance and contribution to the Virginia retirement system. (For perspective, the average per capita personal income in Virginia is $53,723.)

The more I thought about this, the more irked I became at the implied message that the best way to ensure your children have a bright future is just to vote for some guy. What the heck is he going to do for you child that you can’t do?

Can a governor really help your child get a better education? Perhaps on the margins, but how much your child learns in the classroom largely depends upon your child, your child’s teacher, you, your spouse, and perhaps the rest of the community helping out a bit. If you really want your child’s school to get better, then interact with your child’s teacher, join the PTA, volunteer in the classroom, and do all the little things that help young students thrive. Despite the grandiose promises, Northam can’t do it for you while sitting in the governor’s office in Richmond, and neither can Gillespie.

Politicians love this passivity, this pervasive belief that your life stinks and the only thing that can change it is their election and the ever-expanding power of the state.

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