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Funding Puts Takeover Of Alexandria's Jefferson-Houston School In Doubt

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Jefferson-Houston is the first school in Northern Virgnia slated for state takeover, if the state dedicates money to the project.
Michael Pope/WAMU
Jefferson-Houston is the first school in Northern Virgnia slated for state takeover, if the state dedicates money to the project.

Virginia lawmakers are at odds over the budget. While most of the attention has gone to the debate over expanding Medicaid, that's not the only issue that's left unresolved by the impasse.

This fall, a handful of failing schools are set to be taken over by the newly created Opportunity Educational Institution. That includes Jefferson-Houston School in Alexandria, the only school in Northern Virginia where scores have been so low for so long that it qualifies.

But the takeover may be in doubt because of the battle over the budget. Alexandria Del. Rob Krupicka, whose district includes the school, says the House budget has limited funding for the initiative.

"The reality is that the House brought it down, and they took out most of its money in the budget that they proposed, which tells me is that there's not a lot of support for it left," Krupicka says.

The law passed last year, and since that time, a board has been appointed and an executive director has been hired. Back in December, former governor Bob McDonnell proposed a $600,000 budget for the program. But House leaders offered $150,000, and the Senate version of the budget has no money for the initiative. Meanwhile, a lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of a state institution taking over local schools.

"We're going to get rid of OEI one way or another," says Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw. "I mean it isn't going to be around. It should have never gotten started to begin with, and like I said one way or another we are going to get rid of it. That's a promise."

Lawmakers are expiated to return to Richmond for a special session to craft a final budget on March 24.

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