RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announced his campaign for governor Wednesday morning and introduced his plan for what he called the most important to every Virginian: education.
McAuliffe says his plan will help rebuild Virginia's post-COVID economy.
"To build a strong post-COVID economy, the best workforce in the world and to create a clear path for the middle class, we need to make an unprecedented investment in education," said McAuliffe.
He says education spending would his top priority if elected.
"The time is now to ensure a world class education for every single Virginia child, our future, and our children cannot wait," he added.
Delivering his remarks from Miles Jones Elementary School in Richmond, McAuliffe said his plan will call for a $2 billion a year investment, the largest ever investment in education in Virginia.
It would also include raising teacher salaries above the national average for the first time in Virginia history. The former governor says Virginia ranks last in America with teacher pay compared to average pay.
"I promise you, we will make a bold and dramatic increase in teacher pay," said McAuliffe. "We are going to ensure that every single student in Virginia is online. We are going to ensure that and expand that every three and four-year-old child at risk here in Virginia, gets preschool education. And finally address the inequities that we have in our schools."
"Like clockwork, the old way of thinking has reared its head again, the first response from some Republicans and even a couple Democrats. 'Oh governor, we can't do it. We can't afford it. It's too big.' Well, guess what? We're gonna prove them wrong once again. Because the one thing we cannot afford to do is to keep black and brown and rural children from being able to access what they need to get a quality education. We need to make sure that every child is prepared for the 21st century jobs," he continued.
McAuliffe, once best known as a top Democratic money man and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s, enters an already crowded Democratic primary. The governor's race in Virginia will be one of the country's marquee political contests next year, serving as a barometer of the public mood during President-elect Joe Biden's first year in office.
As governor, McAuliffe had a largely successful four-year term starting in 2014 that saw him tirelessly market the state, make major transportation deals and restore voting rights for thousands of convicted felons. He stepped into the national spotlight as a leading liberal voice on certain social issues, winning kudos for undoing a vestige of the state’s Jim Crow era and restoring voting and other civil rights to felons who had completed their sentences.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article.