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McDonnell Fields Criticism For Takeover Of Alexandria School

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Jefferson-Houston is the first Northern Virginia school in line for a state takeover, after educational reforms.
Michael Pope
Jefferson-Houston is the first Northern Virginia school in line for a state takeover, after educational reforms.

In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is hearing from Alexandria leaders about their frustration over his school reform efforts.

The governor appeared at T.C. Williams High School on Thursday to celebrate what he sees as the accomplishments of his administration efforts at education reform.

"There were two tough love ideas that I brought to the table, an A though F grading system so parents know how kids schools are doing and also OEI where the state will step in if you chronically fail to have a high performing school," he said.

The only school in Northern Virginia that qualifies as a failing school under the Opportunity Educational Institution is Jefferson-Houston School in Alexandria, near the King Street Metro station. State leaders are planning to seize control of the school next year. But School Board Vice Chairman Justin Keating says the law is unconstitutional because it commandeers local tax dollars for state use.

"To me, it's a first-year law exam of is this constitutional or not? If my intern had written that statute I would have thrown it back at him as being unacceptable . It's just a poorly written statute," he says.

School Board Chairwoman Karen Graf agrees the law violates the Virginia Constitution.

"It's written there in the law that they take the constitutional responsibility of the School Board," she says.

Graf won't say if a lawsuit will be filed, but she's holding out hope that members of the General Assembly will repeal the law, or at least create more local control. Delegate Rob Krupicka says that's on his agenda for the coming session.

"With the goal of creating a system that focuses on struggling schools but does it in a way that makes local governments more of a partner as opposed to confrontational the way the current system is," he says.

For now, though, until the law is changed, the new statewide school division will seize control over Jefferson-Houston next year—and take local tax dollars with it.

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