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Governor McDonnell Announces Phase Three of the ALL STUDENTS Agenda

Press Release

Location: Richmond, VA

During his annual State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Bob McDonnell announced today a plan that would help students stuck in failing schools, provide parents with more public school choice and continue to recognize that excellent teaching is key to a great education. Surrounded by his cabinet, legislators and statewide officials, Governor McDonnell outlined a bold plan to guarantee no student in Virginia will be left in a failing school.

"We must have a zero tolerance policy for failing schools, because they jeopardize our children's future," said Governor McDonnell. "No more excuses. Virginia is blessed with some of the best schools in the nation. If one school is failing; if one child is not provided access to a good education; we have simply not done our job. The Opportunity Educational Institution will be a new statewide school division to turn around failing schools. If a school is consistently failing, the Opportunity Educational Institution will step in to manage it. Louisiana and Tennessee have created Recovery and Achievement Districts, and the results are positive. For the very small subset of schools that are failing Virginia's students, we have no other option. As the parent of five children who graduated from good Virginia public schools, I know we must raise the bar and end failure.

"We must also continue to bring more innovation and choices to our public education system. Excellent education requires the courage to try new approaches. Public charter schools have done well nationally to help bring options to our most underserved communities. They can increase flexibility and innovation and offer a wider range of educational experiences. We've approved new charter laws, but we haven't done nearly enough. Massachusetts has 72 charter schools. Pennsylvania 164. Florida 520. Virginia has just four! We still have one of the weakest public charter schools laws in the country. The best public charter school operators in the nation will not come here because we make it nearly impossible for them. We need new charter school laws that demand excellence, set clear standards, and welcome the best charter schools into our communities. I'm asking the General Assembly to join with me to pass a Constitutional amendment to allow the state Board of Education to authorize charter applicants. And I am asking for their support of legislation to eliminate the requirement that local school boards who originate a charter school application must apply for authorization from the state Board of Education. These ideas will make it much easier for proven charter schools to open up. Better schools mean better jobs and a stronger Virginia."

ALL STUDENTS: Public School Choice

Creation of the Opportunity Educational Institution (Habeeb/McDougle): Governor McDonnell supports the creation of the 'Opportunity Educational Institution' to rescue failing schools.

Consistent with the Constitution of Virginia, "it is desirable for the intellectual, cultural, and occupational development of the people of the Commonwealth . . . . to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained for all students throughout the Commonwealth," I will establish a statewide Opportunity Educational Institution to provide a high quality education for children attending any failing public elementary or secondary school.

The Opportunity Educational Institution will be uniquely positioned to turnaround failing schools and provide all students the opportunity they deserve. While this model is new to Virginia, it is proven nationally. States like Louisiana and Tennessee have created Recovery and Achievement districts and the results are positive.

Constitutional Amendment to Establish a Statewide School Division (Habeeb/McDougle): Governor McDonnell supports a constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of a statewide school division empowered to take over and turn around failing schools.

Authorizes the General Assembly to establish a statewide school division to supervise and administer schools that have been denied accreditation for a number of consecutive school years, as determined by the General Assembly. Supervision of the statewide school division is to be vested in a single statewide school board established as may be provided by law. Funding of the statewide division is to be provided by law, and transfer of certain per pupil shares of various funds from the local school district of residence to the statewide district is authorized.

Constitutional Amendment to Allow the State Board of Education to Authorize Charter Applicants (Lingamfelter/Obenshain): Governor McDonnell supports a constitutional amendment to allow the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are able to be more innovative and are held accountable for improved student achievement.

There are currently more than 5,200 public charter schools nationwide, serving over 1.8 million students.

In the Commonwealth, we have four charter schools in operation located in Albemarle County, York County and the City of Richmond.

Charter schools are raising the bar about what's possible - and what should be expected - in public education. These schools are answering parents' increasing demand for high-quality public schools.

We have one of the weakest public charter schools laws in the country. The best public charter schools in the nation will not expand in Virginia because we make the difficult business of education near impossible for excellent, highly qualified and proven charter school providers. Studies have also been clear that the quality of a state's charter school law is a critically important factor in the success of public charter schools.

Our peers, the top achieving states in the nation recognize the value of charters. Massachusetts has 72, Pennsylvania 162, Florida 516. We are at the back of the pack.

Local School Division Charter School Approval (Stolle/McWaters): Governor McDonnell supports legislation to eliminate the requirement that local school boards who originate a charter school application must apply for authorization from the state Board of Education.

Currently, school boards who wish to start a public charter school in the Commonwealth must first submit their application to the state Board of Education.

This legislation will eliminate the process of receiving state Board of Education approval in addition to the consent of the local school board.

Several Virginia localities are interested in establishing a public charter school, however, the best providers in the country have policies that conflict with multiple approval requirements for expansion.

ABOUT ALL STUDENTS: The ALL STUDENTS initiative is about bringing attention to the critical role K-12 education plays in our communities and our economy. We must be willing to consider strategies and structures that have been proven to address the achievement gap that continues to exist in the Commonwealth. We have a responsibility to ensure graduation rates rise and the rigor of our classroom challenges ALL STUDENTS. We have a responsibility to measure results and attainment by embedding innovation in our education system. We have a responsibility to ensure ALL STUDENTS have the opportunity to learn. For more information, visit www.ALLSTUDENTS.Virginia.Gov.

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