The Virginia Legislature passed legislation proposed by the governor that opens the door to privatizing any school in the Commonwealth that is found to be “failing.”
Rachel Levy has the details here
Governor McDonnell’s “Opportunity Education Institution” is an ALEC-inspired dream.
It creates a governor appointed commission that will take over schools with low test scores.
“The Institution will be run by a board of gubernatorial appointees, which includes the executive director. There is no guarantee that the board would include any people who know anything about education. The board would contract with non-profits, corporations, or education organizations to operate the schools. Funding for the new bureaucracy would be provided by federal, state, and local taxpayers. The “failing” schools’ local governing bodies would be represented on the board in some way, but they would lose decision-making power and would not be able to vote or, from what I can tell, have much meaningful input, besides providing the same share of local funding and being responsible for maintenance of the school building. As for staffing, current faculty at the schools being taken over could apply for a position as a new employee with the OEI or apply for a transfer.”
“…teachers at the OEI schools would not have to be licensed, so the students who need the most experienced teachers would be getting the least experienced. Nor would those OEI teachers be entitled to the benefits, pay, or job protections that other Virginia teachers are, even if they were employed by the school being taken over prior to takeover. Who will want to work at such schools, or schools that look likely to be taken over? Interestingly enough, the members of the new OEI bureaucracy would be eligible for VRS (Virginia Retirement System) and other benefits that the teachers would lose.”
Levy points out that the tests are supposed to get harder and more schools will fall into the hands of the OEI. The basic idea is to use New Orleans as a model for Virginia, ignoring the fact that most charters in New Orleans have been rated a D or F by the state, and even the reformy Cowen Institute at Tulane said recently that two-thirds of the NOLA charters are academically unacceptable.
And then there is this consideration:
“Finally, eliminating democratic institution and processes in a democratic society is not a cure for dysfunction or low test scores. Certainly, mass failure on the SOL tests signals a problem, but before the state blames and disenfranchises school communities, it really needs to figure out what that problem is and then target its resources accordingly. While many majority poor schools do just fine on standardized tests, I think we all know that the schools with low standardized test scores are often majority poor. Last I checked, being poor isn’t a reason to disenfranchise communities and hand their schools over to outsiders.”
Levy urges you to act now. If you live in Virginia, speak up. Join with your friends and neighbors to stop this raid on the public’s schools.
“So, I urge you to contact Governor McDonnell (804-786-2211) and your state legislators ASAP to state your opposition to the Opportunity Education Institution and to tell them to vote against SB1324S and amendment 12. This bill is likely unconstitutional and it’s bad for Virginia–bad for public education and bad for democracy.”