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Sunday, September 15, 2013
The Virginia School Boards Association challenges the Opportunity Educational Institution legislation on two primary grounds.
First, the legislation violates Article VIII, Section 7 of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that “the supervision of schools in each school division shall be vested in a school board.” The OEI Board is not a school board. Rather, the legislation declares that the OEI Board is a policy board in the executive branch of government and an education institution falling under Title 23 of the Code of Virginia, which relates to higher education, not K-12 education.
Second, the legislation violates Article VIII, Section 5 of the Constitution of Virginia, which provides that the State Board of Education shall create school divisions. The General Assembly, not the State Board of Education, created the OEI Board as a statewide school division.
Local school boards are best positioned to manage local schools. If the OEI Board were to take over a school, the school board of the local school division in which the school is located must transfer to the OEI Board all per pupil federal, state and local funding that goes to that school, including local funds appropriated above the minimum funding mandated by state law. In addition, the OEI Board is given the right to take possession and control of any facilities used by a school that is taken over, although the locality is still required to pay for any capital improvements to the facilities. Further, the school board and locality are prohibited from selling affected school facilities without permission of the OEI Board.
The VSBA is confident in the merits of the case, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently notified Gov. McDonnell that his office would not defend OEI after legal analysis concluded that it is unconstitutional.
Unconstitutional is unconstitutional, no matter the intent.
It is important to remember that struggling schools really translate into struggling students, and our time and resources would be better spent working together from the state level all the way down to our classrooms. If state officials have new strategies and tactics that they were planning to use under OEI, we encourage them to share these ideas today with our local school boards so that we can work together to improve each and every school in the commonwealth.
All school board members want the best for every child in their communities, as do our state legislators and elected officials. However, increased and meaningful dialogue, collaboration and support would be more beneficial than the creation of a statewide oversight board that violates our Constitution.
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