Virginia’s School Board Association and the Norfolk Board of Education are suing the state to stop implementation of a new law that would allow Richmond to take over local schools when they consistently fail Standards of Learning tests.
State lawmakers recently approved the establishment of a new organization – the Opportunity Educational Institution or OEI. Its job – to take over the supervision and operation of any local school accredited by the state with a warning for three consecutive years. Barbara Coyle heads the Virginia School Boards Association.
“The state has never come forward with any concrete ideas or specific details on how OEI intends to turn around these schools and improve classroom instruction.”
What’s more, she says, the state constitution clearly empowers local boards to run local schools.
“It’s local school boards who currently have taken Virginia to the rank of fourth in the nation for their educational policy and performance, and this is according to Education Week, despite Virginia overall ranking 38th in per pupil public elementary and secondary school revenue from state sources.”
Last year, 99 schools were accredited with a warning, but only six schools have been warned at least three times in a row – in Petersburg, Norfolk, Alexandria and Page County. Coyle says comprehensive solutions are needed to help those schools address problems holding children back.
“Part of it is the nutrition side of it, where the kids are going to school hungry, they don’t have food. Part of it is the parental involvement. They’re trying to work two or three jobs. These children may be going home alone, staying alone, not having the resources they need. There’s test scores that the state has just posted, and If you break them down and really look at the numbers, the biggest factor in this is poverty.”
Without buy-in from school boards, parents and teachers, she says, any solution the OEI might try to impose would be doomed to fail, and the new law would undermine the fundamental relationship Virginia’s constitution established between schools and the boards elected or appointed to run them.