Sarvis wants free school choice, end SOLs

Posted at 1:29 PM, Oct 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-31 13:29:12-04

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.

RICHMOND, Va. – Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis wants to implement free school choice for parents to be able to send their children to the school they determine to be the best. In an interview with VCU’s “iPadJournos” project about his education policies, Sarvis said that the parents should have the power to take children out of schools, if their child is failing and place them in a school where they can do better.

“We can get people out of failing schools,” Sarvis said. “Parents understand that education is an opportunity out of a very difficult life.”

Sarvis said that the idea is to create an open and competitive marketplace in education. He thinks that implementing universal school choice means that the state government cannot regulate the private school market that would make tuition prices go up.

“We have to make sure it’s a consumer driven marketplace, where the parents and the students are the consumers,” Sarvis said.

In the interview, Sarvis also discussed his thoughts on standardized testing. He said that he is in favor of removing the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, as he feels they look at “narrowed quantified measurements that are limited in scope.” He added that the tests do not allow a look at the quality of a teacher’s instruction.

“It is hard to measure a teacher’s quality as it is to measure in an employee’s quality in a lot of different industries. It’s something we need to figure out,” he said.

In regards to higher education, Sarvis believes that tuition rates have been increasing because the educational subsidies have been increasing at the same time. More and more universities are becoming accredited and becoming more open, he said. Sarvis thinks that higher education institutions are being run more for the tenured faculty members’ benefit than the students’ benefit.

“When you talk about the desire for progressive taxes or helping the poor, our higher education subsidies are going in the opposite direction,” Sarvis said. “I question whether we need higher education subsidies at all, but if we are going to have them, we need to make sure the marketplace for education services is open and competitive, so that anybody can enter the marketplace. We need to make sure we’re subsidizing the individuals and not the institutions.”

Sarvis also said he feels the “20th century model” of higher education needs to be replaced. He feels many students will change jobs and career paths multiple times by the time they are 35 years old and need to gain new job skills in order to be more marketable.

“We need to prepare them for that kind of environment. That’s the kind of education system we need to move towards,” Sarvis said.

An interview of the VCU “iPadJournos” project with Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli about his education policies will be published on on Friday. The campaign of Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has so far not responded to interview requests by the “iPadJournos” project.

Watch the full-length interview with Robert Sarvis:

By Alex Carrigan and Whitney Muse (Special to

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.