The Albemarle County School Board has voted to support a lawsuit that challenges a new law that would allow the state to take over failing schools.
The Virginia School Boards Association and the Norfolk City School Board officially filed the suit Friday, challenging the creation of an "opportunity educational institution" (OEI).
The new law allows the state-controlled OEI to take control of chronically failing schools from local school boards. The Albemarle County School Board believes the new law violates the Virginia constitution.
Albemarle County School Board Press Release
The Albemarle County School Board has voted to support a lawsuit filed by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and the Norfolk City School Board that would overturn the ability of the state to take operational control of individual schools in Virginia from local school boards.
Earlier this year, Governor McDonnell signed legislation to create the Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI). The legislation mandates that an appointed OEI board would take over the supervision and operation of any local public schools in the state that have been denied accreditation or have been accredited with warning for three consecutive years.
The creation of this new state authority coincides with an increase in the rigor of statewide Standards of Learning (SOL) tests, which has caused pass rates to decline in schools across the Commonwealth. Accreditation is based upon SOL test results.
"Our board members strongly feel the OEI legislation violates the Virginia constitution, and it is contrary to the principle of local control that is so highly valued by residents across the state," said Stephen Koleszar, Chair of the Albemarle County School Board.
Virginia is unusual among many of the 50 states, Koleszar said, in that the state's constitution provides that local school boards have control over local schools. Under the OEI legislation, an outside, unelected board can supervise schools "in whatever manner it determines" to achieve full accreditation, according to Koleszar.
In a resolution in support of the VSBA and Norfolk City School Board action, the Albemarle County School Board said OEI "violates the Constitution of Virginia in that it usurps the role of local school boards in supervising and managing public schools of the Commonwealth."
The lawsuit filed by VSBA and the Norfolk City School Board seeks to enjoin the OEI board from taking any action to implement the legislation.
"The OEI board is not about school excellence," Koleszar said. "True excellence in education comes from duly elected public representatives who live in the community, share its aspirations and values, and make decisions based upon local needs and desires and the views of families and organizations who benefit from their neighborhood schools. There is no outside authority that can make better and more informed decisions on school improvement and success than those people who are involved with the school every day," he added.