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Disputes Expected Before Virginia Takes Over Failing Schools

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Schools that repeatedly fail accreditation are subject to takeover by the state.
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Schools that repeatedly fail accreditation are subject to takeover by the state.

Virginia is moving forward with its effort to put the state's most underperforming schools under the authority of the newly created Opportunity Educational Institution. Even though the General Assembly passed funding for the Institution, the debate is far from over.

The bill requires schools that are denied accreditation to be transferred to the Institution, and extends the option to those that have been accredited with warning for three years. A new state board, with all the powers of a local school board, would administer the statewide division.

Gov. Bob McDonnell says improving failing schools was one of his top priorities.

"So that every young person has a great school with a great teacher regardless of their home, background, age, or zip code," McDonnell says.

The Jefferson-Houston School in Alexandria has already been pegged as one of the early targets of the legislation.

Some, however, feel that the Institution violates the state constitution.

"The Constitution says that the school boards have supervisory authority over the schools," says Robley Jones with the Virginia Education Association. "And this bill takes the supervisory authority away from those local school boards and gives it to a state entity."

Jones says some local school boards will likely sue.

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