Members of the Alexandria City School Board sent a letter to the state governor opposing legislation they say would usurp their power and adversely affect Jefferson-Houston School.
Additionally, they requested a meeting in Richmond with Gov. Bob McDonnell to discuss the matter.
The board late last week said while it welcomes the governor’s efforts to “improve education at Virginia public schools, including advancing educational achievement at the lowest performing school…we strongly oppose the Opportunity Educational Institution legislation.”
The measure, which the Senate and House have adopted “will not produce the results we all want,” they wrote. State Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45), a former Alexandria city councilman and ex-member of the state Board of Education, strongly opposes the proposals.
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City Councilman Tim Lovain, who has children in Alexandria's public school system, said he is concerned about the legislation.
"It violates the principle of local control of education," he said. "Jefferson-Houston has its problems but they are more likely to be solved in Alexandria than in Richmond."
The legislation is headed for passage at a time when Alexandria is putting major resources into improving the Cameron Street school, including constructing a $44 million new school building and improved grounds.
Board members expressed concern that the measure abrogates school board oversight, which they noted are powers granted by the commonwealth and included in its Constitution.
“Instead these bills transfer local authority and local taxpayer funding to a vaguely defined state authority with no oversight, accessibility, or accountability to the parents in the communities in which the schools reside,” says the letter.
The measures, Senate Bill 1324 and House Bill 2096, create a new body that would take over consistently failing schools in an effort to improve them. There are currently about seven Virginia public schools that fall into this category.
The board outlined several concerns with the measures (see attached PDF of the letter), and School Board Chairman Karen Graf told Patch that she is particularly concerned that the measures give no local oversight when a school’s control is turned over to the new body and that there’s no clear language on how localities acquire a school back from it.
She is planning to discuss the issue with school officials overseeing other Virginia localities such as Norfolk that also would be affected by the legislation.
“While the Alexandria School Board is accountable to the voters as well as to the Virginia Board of Education, the Opportunity Educational Institution established in this legislation has no timetable, no metrics, and no accountability by which the citizens of Alexandria can judge its effectiveness or take appropriate action on behalf of their children," wrote board members.