The Virginia House and Senate have passed separate but similar legislation that would create and empower a body to take over any school that has been denied state accreditation, such as Alexandria’s Jefferson-Houston School.
Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45th) is staunchly opposed to the measures for their failure to include input from localities housing such schools.
“There’s no due process. This board has unilateral power to take a school over from a school district,” Krupicka told Patch. “There’s no check on that power, no obligation to meet with the community. …The board is created to be the judge, jury and the executioner.”
House Bill 2096 creates the Opportunity Educational Institution to be administered and supervised by the Opportunity Educational Institution Board. The Senate has a similar version with Senate Bill 1324.
For more Alexandria school news, sign up for the Del Ray Patch daily newsletter.
The bill requires that any school that has been denied state accreditation and permits any school that has been accredited with warning for three consecutive years to be transferred to the institution. That school would remain in the institution for five years or until the school achieves full accreditation.
The bill also offers requirements for student attendance, staffing and funding for the institution.
The No Child Left Behind flexibility program requires states to designate the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1 and Title 1-eligible schools as priority schools. Jefferson-Houston falls into that category. T.C. Williams High School is not expected to be labeled similarly if it continues making progress.
Krupicka said the governor’s bill was modeled after a program in Louisiana after schools there were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“The big difference is that in Louisiana they gave them lots of money. …In Virginia, this doesn’t come with any money,” he said, adding that in Louisiana the body could have started turning school back to their local districts two years ago, but they have yet to turn over once school.
“Results are mixed there… and the only real improvements are because they put hundreds of millions into the schools. The Virginia proposal has no new money,” he said.
Krupicka also expressed concern that the new body could require all of the money Alexandria spends on Jefferson-Houston to get shifted to this new bureaucracy.
“The state motivation for this bill is to help schools that are perpetually failing. I agree with that,” Krupicka said. “I think there are school districts that require extra intervention of this type. My problem with this bill is that is assumes every local district is the same and that some body in Richmond can magically solve everything in our community or any community.”
Krupicka, a Democrat, said he has met with the governor’s staff sharing his concerns but his comments were disregarded.
On the House floor Wednesday, Krupicka suggested creating a mechanism for an independent body, like the Board of Education, to control when a school is taken over and when it returns to local control, and requiring the newly created school to engage with the local community through the creation of a local oversight body made up of parents and community leaders.