State may take over failing schools

Published 9:28 am Friday, March 1, 2013


RICHMOND—Gov. Bob McDonnell got what he asked for — a state-run school board to take over failing schools.

That request was granted during the 2013 legislative session’s final days when the House joined the Senate in passing Senate Bill 1324. The legislation, proposed by Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, goes to the governor to be signed into law.

Western Tidewater Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, favored the legislation and Del. Rosalyn Tyler, R-Jarratt, voted against it.

SB 1324 would set up a state-operated unit to take over schools that have been denied accreditation or have been warned for three years. A school loses accreditation when educational benchmarks are not met for four years in a row.

Currently, six Virginia schools would be eligible for the takeover; two of them are in Petersburg and none are in Western Tidewater. The bill is set to take effect after the 2013-2014 school year.

The bill passed the House, 64-34, on Feb. 20. It previously squeaked by in the Senate after Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast a tie-breaking vote.

McDonnell issued a statement after the measure won final approval.

“I am pleased with the bipartisan recognition in the General Assembly that we can no longer tolerate chronically failing schools in Virginia,” he said.

Delegate Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, voted in favor of the bill. He is the House majority leader and has had a career in education spanning more than two decades.

Cox said the bill is a necessary tool to ensure that students get a strong education.

“For too long, our commonwealth has tolerated chronically underperforming schools that have failed to educate and prepare our children for future success. We will now have the ability to get experts into our failing schools to turn them around and give children at these schools the chance to receive a top-quality education,” he said.

Though it passed, the bill had its share of critics. Delegate Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, opposed the legislation.

“I have many problems with the concept and the legislation,” Kory said. She cited, for example, “the lack of public involvement anywhere in the takeover process.”