We have received an invitation to attend a press conference by the Governor to announce Part 2 of his education legislative agenda, billed as “ALL STUDENTS: Accountability + Innovation.” We are not privy to this agenda, but we suspect that it may include a few bills with which we may not be in agreement. One bill we anticipate would establish the “Virginia Opportunity School District.” (Leave aside the fact that we have “school divisions” - not “school districts” - in Virginia.”) We suspect that this concept will be borrowed from Louisiana’s “Recovery School District,” which is described on the official website as “a special school district administered by the Louisiana Department of Education.” We have a high confidence level in a bill along these lines being announced since a budget sheet appearing on the Department of Planning and Budget website describes $600,000 for funding in 2014 to support “the Virginia Opportunity School District.” It will be interesting to see how this concept can be drafted to conform to the Virginia Constitution’s mandate that school boards supervise the schools in a school division. Perhaps the use of the word “district” is intentional after all.
A second possible bill may be one that institutes a grading system for public schools. Currently, public schools receive designations under the Standards of Accreditation, e.g. accredited, accredited with warning, etc. Grading schools is a concept started in Florida, and most recently adopted in Ohio, which assigns schools an A, B, C, D. F or I grade depending on how the students in the school perform on the state assessment tests (SOLs in Virginia) in elementary and middle schools and on state assessment tests and other factors for high schools. If such a bill is introduced, we anticipate that it will supplement, not supplant, the accreditation designations we now have.
A third possible bill may be a virtual school bill that would require a school board that does not offer a full-time virtual program (versus courses) to transfer its state ADM and local funds to another school system that enrolls one of its students in a full-time program. Perhaps such a concept is viewed by some as an incentive for school boards to offer full-time programs. Of course, many school systems do not have the wherewithal to develop such programs internally, so they will have to contract with a private provider. Is there any wonder that the private provider community has been a staunch supporter of this concept! Of course, the state has yet to develop standards for online schools. If this bill is introduced it will be the proverbial cart before the horse.