The governor-created 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. The schools are to remain under OEI control for five years or until the school achieves full accreditation.
Members of the Alexandria City School Board have expressed opposition to the OEI legislation because they want to maintain local control of Jefferson-Houston School, which has lost accreditation and is in line for takeover.
Alexandria School Board Chair Karen Graf told Patch Thursday the board will consider a resolution supporting the lawsuit at its Sept. 12 meeting.
In a June 23 profile of Jefferson-Houston in The Washington Post, District A School Board member Bill Campbell said Alexandria should use everything in its power to prevent the takeover, including challenging the constitutionality of the law that created the OEI.
The Norfolk City School Board authorized the suit at a Wednesday meeting, and the suit will be filed in the near future.
The VSBA and Norfolk School Board are claiming the OEI violates the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.” The OEI is not a school board and falls under Title 23 of the Code of Virginia, which relates to institutions of higher education and not K-12, the suit argues.
The suit also argues the legislation is unconstitutional because it gives the General Assembly the authority to create a statewide school division. The constitution provides that only the State Board of Education can create school divisions.
“Creation of the Opportunity Educational Institution and the OEI Board clearly violate the Constitution of Virginia,” Norfolk School Board Chair Kirk Houston said in a press release. “As Governor McDonnell referenced last week in a visit to Northern Virginia, local school boards and local control are vital to the success of local schools.”
McDonnell visited T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria last week for a forum about K-12 education that included members of the city’s leadership.
“If we don’t keep standards, accountability and resources high, we’re failing,” McDonnell said to reporters after the forum. “OEI is one tool that we have. … After three or four years, if a school is still getting a D or an F, the state has to step in. … I’m here to collaborate [with the Alexandria school board]. We need to find out how we make this work best.”