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UPDATED: Legislative black caucus opposes McDonnell's charter schools proposal

Anita Kumar

In a stinging statement that referred back to the days of racial segregation, the legislative black caucus came out tonight against Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to expand the number of charter schools in Virginia.

The decison is somewhat surprising given that charter schools are strongly supported by President Obama and one of the caucus's own members, Del. Rosalyn R. Dance (D-Petersburg), is listed as a chief co-patron of one of the bills and appeared with McDonnell at his news conference.

"Members expressed extreme concern and objection to the most radical change in public education since Massive Resistance,'' the statement said.

The state constitution gives local school boards the authority over charter schools. But McDonnell wants charter schools applicants to submit applications to the state Board of Education for review and pre-certification recommendations before going to the school boards. If they are rejected by local boards, he would allow applicants to appeal to the state board, which would have the power to approve them.

"This is as unconscionable as it is unconstitutional," Sen. Henry L. Marsh (D-Richmond) said. "A lifetime of work to ensure equal access to education, democratic local control of our schools, and the opportunity for every child to succeed is under attack. The Constitution of Virginia and state law vests authority for public education in the Board of Education and the supervision of public schools in local school boards."

"This legislation is a blatant attempt by the Governor to usurp the authority of local school boards," Sen. Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said. "The fundamental objective of the legislation is to force school divisions to accommodate charter schools regardless of whether they have popular support, can demonstrate an ability to educate our children, pose a negative impact on other schools in the division, or hold prospects for long term success."

Updated: 9:20 p.m. We've just heard back from the governor's office. "The Governor remains optimistic that we can find common ground over the course of this session in the bipartisan effort to bring more positive educational opportunities to Virginia's students, particularly those who are at-risk or disadvantaged,'' McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said in a statement. "The President and the Governor share this commitment, and we will continue to look for ways to bring legislators together on this critical issue of educational opportunities for all."

By Anita Kumar  |  February 22, 2010; 7:59 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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Next: McDonnell holds first meeting with Virginia congressional delegation


Since 1980, government spending on education, adjusted for inflation, has nearly doubled. But test scores have been flat for decades.

Choice works, and government monopolies don't. Education is too important to leave to a government monopoly.

Posted by: millionea7 | February 23, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

This is disappointing. The Republicans have an opportunity to show some leadership on smaller government, but instead they put out a proposal to institute a Big Government-style policy by giving the state authority to override the local school boards.

It's hard to not take away they only like Big Government when it's their Big Government.

Posted by: wpjf | February 25, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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