March 4, 2008
Governor Tim Kaine spent Tuesday morning reading to Albemarle County pre-kindergartener and talking to local school and business leaders. It's his way to harvest support for his pre-k initiative.
Kaine ran for Governor three years ago on a strong education platform. Now, he's hoping Virginians will offer their support to make one of his biggest ideas become reality.
It's called Start Strong and the idea is to begin educating children early to lay the foundation for a more successful future.
The idea for Start Strong began eight years ago when he could see the rewards of pre-k at home.
“I came to be a real believer in pre-k in just in seeing the experience that my own daughter had, the youngest of our three kids, by being part of the Virginia pre school initiative. She was really just so prepared to learn,” explained Governor Tim Kaine, (D) Virginia.
At a round table discussion with area school and business leaders, Kaine mapped out his ideas for Start Strong.
The initiative would dramatically expand the existing pre-k program to reach over 29 thousand 4-year-olds across Virginia.
“This program very clearly says we want to give the chance in Virginia to all pre-k children to be on the starting line when they enter kindergarten,” said Dr. Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Schools.
But to get children off to the races, it costs money. Kaine asked lawmakers for $46 million, but so far, there seems to be a disagreement on support.
“The Senate budget has about $43 million and the House budget has $25 million and those are both good steps forward. I would obviously like it to be closer to number that's currently in the senate budget,” Kaine said.
The General Assembly may disagree on figures, but money from the state will make it into local pockets according to budget proposals. News, public school leaders have waited for.
“In our last budget we actually funded a three-year-old class with local dollars, so expanding the VPI initiative of course gives us additional slots in our schools,” said Gertrude Ivory, Associate Superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools.
To help make this expansion reality, Kaine is calling for public and private community members to work together. He says already Charlottesville and Albemarle County are leaders in the state with strong partnerships between educators, business leaders and non-profit groups.
The General Assembly is expected to decide the funding for start smart and the entire budget this coming Saturday.