The Virginia House has passed controversial legislation crafted to aid chronically failing schools, sending the measure to the governor’s desk.
“I am pleased with the bipartisan recognition in the General Assembly that we can no longer tolerate chronically failing schools in Virginia,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said after passage of the Opportunity Educational Institution. “…With today’s vote in the House, Virginia sends a message that the status quo is not acceptable in chronically failing schools. We have laid out a clear path to turn around those schools and provide the students who attend them with the world-class educational opportunities they deserve.”
The House of Delegates voted 64-34 to pass the bill. The Senate passed the measure on a tie-breaking vote by the lieutenant governor.
The legislation will take effect if the state budget, which is currently under negotiation, includes the $600,000 McDonnell proposed to initiate the program.
The School Board for Alexandria City Public Schools sent a letter to the governor opposing the move. The local PTA Council asked its members in a letter to join them in opposing the legislation.
The legislation would affect Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School because it's not accredited. It also could affect Alexandria schools that are accredited with warning, including Francis Hammond Middle Schools 2 and 3, Patrick Henry Elementary School and George Washington Middle School 2.
Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45), a Del Ray resident with children in ACPS, has expressed deep disappointment with the legislation, saying it’s too vague.
Wednesday evening he told Patch via email: “If this goes to the governor I will work to encourage him to make changes through his amendment power that address the problems with this bill. It has substantive and technical issues that have to be addressed so it can work.”
Some community members have expressed concern that the measure could affect the new $44 million building currently under construction in Old Town for Jefferson-Houston.
Krupicka said the measure as drafted raises questions about the utility of the new school building since the bill gives complete control of it to the state.
“That impacts Pre-k, HeadStart and community use of that space,” he said. “That is one of the many issues I have tried to address with amendments.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board favored the plan in an opinion piece published Feb. 19, saying: “School improvement won’t come overnight and there is no magic wand. That’s why the means for implementing this plan are crucial; local communities will need to be involved. There are details to work out, and additional attention should be paid to whether the financing, a shift of local tax dollars to the state with no additional investment, could shortchange some of the very schools in need.”