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The Legacy of Anne Holton, Former Secretary of Education and Potential Future Second Lady

Associated Press

Hillary Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine includes more than the junior senator from Virginia. It also includes the senator's wife, who was until recently the Secretary of Education — the only person to ever grow up in the Executive Mansion and then return as an adult.

Ask Anne Holton about education in Virginia, and you’re likely to get an answer that goes something like this.

“I like to talk about the trifecta we have seen in public education over the last eight to ten years.”

That was Secretary Holton during the General Assembly session earlier this year laying out what she sees as the three major challenges facing educators today.

“Children with more challenges, the poverty rate has gone way up all across the state including in Northern Virginia."

That’s the environmental challenge. And then there’s the self-imposed challenge. 

“Much higher expectations. We are expecting our divisions to meet higher graduation marks. We’re expecting our children to meet higher test scores on much more rigorous tests.”

The third part of that trifecta? Money. 

“We’ve been giving them less resources. So harder kids, higher expectations, less money. It doesn’t add up."

During her time as a legal aid attorney and ultimately Secretary of Education, Anne Holton has spent a career trying to make it add up. It’s a story that dates back to her early years growing up in the Executive Mansion when her father, Linwood Holton, was the first Republican Governor in a hundred years. Here’s Governor Holton in 2008 talking to C-SPAN’s Peter Slen about his memoir, “Opportunity Time.”

"You currently have a connection to the current governor, Tim Kaine, who is a Democrat."

“Yes. He’s married to my daughter, who is the only person in history who, as daughter of a governor lived in the Executive Mansion and as wife of a governor lived in the Executive Mansion.”

“And she enjoyed it?”

“Oh, she loves it. She’s very fitted for it. I want to quickly put the asterisk there because Thomas Jefferson had a daughter who was daughter of a governor and wife of a governor but she did not live on the first occasion in the Executive Mansion because it hadn’t yet been built."

During Kaine’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, he recalled how Governor Holton pushed to end massive resistance to school desegregation. 

“He integrated Virginia’s public schools so that black and white kids could finally learn together, and then the family enrolled their own kids including his daughter Anne in those inner-city schools."

Their paths crossed at Harvard, where they both attended law school. 

“And then one day in a study group she met this goofy guy who had been off teaching kids in Honduras. Well, Anne and I have now been married almost 32 years."

As First Lady of Virginia, Anne Holton launchd a program called "For Keeps: Families for all Virginia Teens.” The initiative focused on identifying families willing to take in children in Virginia’s foster care system. After leaving the Executive Mansion, she became director of Great Expectations, a program designed to help foster children attend community college. After Democrat Terry McAuliffe was elected in 2013, she became Secretary of Education and pushed for more money. 

"Public education took a hit in Virginia in the recession as did many other parts of the budget certainly. But we have not restored the funding to public education that we cut during the recession and the governor is proposing to right that ship."

This week, Anne Holton stepped down from her position as Secretary of Education as her husband accepted the nomination as the vice presidential nominee. Governor McAuliffe praised her as tireless advocate on behalf of students, adding that her accomplishments in office include pushing for financial investments to public education, reforming Virginia’s standardized tests and focusing on the commonwealth’s most challenged school systems.

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