Education lobbyists (VASSP etc.), representing every major education association in the state, worked diligently against passage of legislation instituting a statewide board that would usurp the role of the local school board for schools with unaccredited status. It was difficult having to refer to the proposed entity to take over public schools as the Governor’s “Opportunity Educational Institution.” OEI sounds less ominous. You really can’t dress that title up, but it helps to use an acronym. The House voted overwhelmingly for the concept; but it looked as if there might be a chance to defeat SB 324 in the Senate. In the end, however, members split along Party lines on a vote of 20-20 with Lt Governor Bolling voting for the bill to break the tie. The bill passed. Attempts to replace the Administration’s extreme approach with a bill giving more power to the State Board of Education, supported by VASSP and other education associations, failed to make it past the Appropriations Committee.
The original language of the Administration’s bill was modified to a degree but took a turn for the worse when a Senate committee amended the legislation to include not only schools denied accreditation but also schools accredited with warning for two years. That could have resulted in a statewide takeover of massive proportions. New math SOL scores alone, with new and more rigorous tests on the way, could have caused the number six to burgeon to a much larger number if “warned” schools were included. Fortunately, the language in the compromise budget removed that amendment and restricted the takeover to those schools denied accreditation for the previous two years. Still, the VSBA and all other major education associations believe that the state takeover of local schools is patently unconstitutional; so stay tuned.
(This amendment supports the implementation of the Opportunity Educational Institution. Funding should be based on those students transferred into the Institution and follow the students.)