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Senate committee approves McDonnell's charter school proposal

Anita Kumar

A Senate committee this morning overwhelmingly passed Gov. Bob McDonnell's education package, including his proposal to expand the number of charter schools in Virginia.

The vote virtually assures passage of the bills in the Democrat-controlled Senate next week and in the General Assembly this year.

The charter school bill is a weakened version of McDonnell's original proposal.

McDonnell's office worked behind the scenes to negotiate a compromise with groups that represent teachers, school boards and superintendents -- all vocal in their opposition to the bill -- to return some power to the local boards and ease concerns about the state having final control over applications.

The bill would give the state Board of Education a role in advising prospective providers on their applications before they go up for approval before school boards, but the local boards would retain ultimate authority to approve such schools.

The Senate Education and Health Committee voted 11-4 to approve the bill with all Republicans and six Democrats voting for the bill. The legislative black caucus remains largely opposed, and both members of the black caucus on the committee voted against the bill.

Last week, many people spoke in favor of the bill, including former governor Doug Wilder's Secretary of Education Jim Dyke and a member of the Georgia legislature. Others, including Virginia NAACP executive director King Salim Khalfani opposed the bill.

The committee also passed bills that would create virtual schools in which students can learn outside traditional classrooms and laboratory schools that would benefit from partnerships with Virginia colleges and universities.

McDonnell pushed the bills in part to help Virginia have a better chance at receiving a piece of President Obama's $4.35 billion Race to the Top education program.

Virginia will learn this afternoon if it is a finalist for the $350-million grant.

By Anita Kumar  |  March 4, 2010; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Robert F. McDonnell , State Senate  
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