More bills that have become state law as of July 1st include a series of changes in education policies that were key parts of the Governor's legislative agenda during this year's General Assembly session.
While the reforms were initially met with mixed reviews, many past and present education leaders on both sides of the political aisle now say that without them, some students could fall behind.
The laws include a new A-through-F grading system to rate local schools, a new state school division to manage underperforming schools, and a revised program to both prepare and reward teachers to hold them accountable for student achievement. Some argued that the new grading system would unfairly target high-poverty schools. Others criticized the school takeover plan. But former Governor Doug Wilder’s Secretary of Education, Jim Dyke, says few counter proposals would have given students what they need.
"I was asking those who were opposing this legislation, 'Would you be willing to let your child or your grandchild spend one day in a school that was failing? No, you would do everything you could to get that student in a school that would give them the kind of quality education that they deserve, and so even though we're the fourth ranked school system in the country, we still have schools that are not meeting those standards and we need to do whatever it takes to make sure that those kids get the kind of education they need," said Dyke.
Another new law allows local school divisions to open charter schools rather than waiting for state approval. There's also a "High School to Work" partnership to give students real work experience before they graduate.