Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) singled out Alexandria City Public Schools during his final State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night in Richmond.
During his remarks, McDonnell asked his school takeover legislation be allowed to show what it can do for underperforming schools in Virginia, including Jefferson-Houston School in Alexandria.
McDonnell’s Opportunity Educational Institution bill, which the General Assembly enacted in its 2013 session, requires any school that has been denied accreditation or has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years to be transferred to the control of an OEI board.
Members of the Alexandria City School Board have expressed opposition to the OEI legislation because they want to maintain local control of Jefferson-Houston, which has lost accreditation.
Last month, McDonnell suggested putting $600,000
each of the next two years into the OEI as
part of his two-year budget proposal. He exits the Executive Mansion on
Saturday when Democrat Terry McAuliffe is scheduled to take the oath of office.
“We have taken a tough love, zero tolerance approach to chronically underperforming schools by creating the Opportunity Educational Institution, allowing the state the authority to turnaround and manage failing schools,” McDonnell said during his speech. “Del. [Algie] Howell is right, this is the civil rights issue of our day. In the eighth most prosperous state in the nation, how can we tolerate a single child going to failing school in Virginia? As I leave office, I implore you to let OEI demonstrate that it will help those non-performing schools in Petersburg and Norfolk and Alexandria and other schools on the line. Knowing some children aren’t getting the same education as other kids just one school district away is just not right. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for excellence for all our students.”
Alexandria School Board Chair Karen Graf said she was frustrated McDonnell singled out the cities currently affected by OEI. She remains “completely against” the OEI law.
“I am disappointed that the Governor would name localities instead of realizing this problem of children struggling is a problem across the commonwealth and not just specific schools,” Graf said. “I will be working hard this session of the General Assembly to repeal, defund or modify OEI so it’s actually helping students.”
McDonnell visited T.C. Williams High School in August to discuss the school takeover law with Mayor Bill Euille and members of the school board.
“I’m here to collaborate [with the Alexandria school board],” McDonnell said at the time. “We need to find out how we make this work best.”
Graf said McDonnell’s remarks on Wednesday go against that sentiment.
“When he came here, he said he wanted to collaborate with us,” Graf said. "What he said isn't collaborative at all."