Struggling Schools

Apr 1, 2013

Opposition has continued to legislation that requires a new statewide school division to take over underperforming schools until they turnaround—even after Governor McDonnell proposed amendments last week. 

The bill would establish a new Opportunity Educational Institution Board to assume management of schools that have been denied accreditation, but the Virginia Education Association, organizations representing school boards and superintendents, and the PTA are among the groups calling on lawmakers to reject them.  They didn’t like the bill before—and say they like it even less with the amendments.

The Governor says his changes and $450,000 budget amendment improve the new board’s operations.  He says toleration of failing schools has ended. “It’s a disservice to the young people.  And we’re going to replace it with a management team from the state or a charter school or something else.  But we’re not going to have young people go to failing schools.  The Constitution of Virginia says that every child in Virginia is entitled to a free, high-quality public education.” 

But the Virginia Education Association’s Robley Jones says the state Constitution empowers only LOCAL school boards.  He says the new language could affect more than 100 schools accredited with warning—causing widespread job instability and driving the best teachers away from schools that could close.

“So we’d really end up making it very hard to attract good teachers to the schools that most need good teachers," says Jones, adding that parents are concerned.

“If a parent, say, in Norfolk, is having a problem, right now they’d call the local school division, call the local school board, and say, ‘So-and-So is not treating my child right.’  Who do they call?  The Governor?”

Lawmakers will vote on the changes Wednesday.