A measure designed to improve chronically failing schools in Virginia, including at least one in Alexandria, received funds in the state budget passed Saturday and so inches closer to becoming law.
The measure creates a new body, the Opportunity Educational Institution, which would take over the commonwealth’s schools that consistently have not met accreditation requirements. There are currently six of these schools across the state, including Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School in Old Town.
The state budget adopted Saturday by the General Assembly includes $150,000 for the new institution, far less that the original $600,000 sought by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Del. Greg Habeeb (D-Salem), the House patron of the governor’s legislation, told the Virginian-Pilot that he had hoped for full funding but the start-up money was enough to get the program operational.
Del. Rob Krupicka (D-Alexandria), said the diminished funding “does not give it much to work with.”
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The Alexandria City Public Schools board says the measure is unconstitutional because it unfairly usurps power from school boards.
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Krupicka told Patch that he will continue to push for changes to the measure. The governor has about 30 days to sign it into law.
“I am hoping we can provide more flexibility to analyze what a school needs before a takeover is considered," he said. "There should be some discretion in this process as every school has different needs."
He added that there should be options for local districts to implement changes that would help prevent a take over as well as a process for local community and parent involvement.
Krupicka is also concerned that the bill currently doesn’t lay out a “clear path” for communities to get a school back.
“Right now they can be taken over forever, regardless if they improve. And the use of local taxes and facilities needs to be more clearly defined to ensure local resources are used for their students and also so they are used efficiently and fairly,” he said.