By CALVIN PYNN
More than 75 percent of Virginia’s school boards have passed resolutions in support of the August lawsuit filed by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and Norfolk City School Board.
The VSBA, along with 142 local school boards throughout Virginia, have joined together in order to contest the commonwealth’s legal authority to take over and operate local schools. The lawsuit was filed to invalidate the 2013 legislation creating the Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) and Opportunity Educational Institution Board.
The OEI would allow local authority for school boards to be placed into a larger state operated board if they appear to be underperforming. The legislation has been called unconstitutional, as the Constitution of Virginia specifically gives local school boards the authority to operate, build, consolidate and manage its own schools.
Jeff Bain, vice chairman for the Pulaski County School Board, said the state would be allowed to control all of the money allocated to a school under the authority of the legislation. That money would be transferred into the State General Fund, and then come out as they deem fit to operate that school.
“It’s not just school divisions, but individual schools within divisions,” Bain said. “That’s why we’re very upset and concerned about it, because we’ve had too many brilliant legal minds tell us that it’s unconstitutional.”
According to a news release from the Virginia School Board Association, 100 school boards across the state have passed resolutions. Among them are the New River Valley’s local school boards, including Pulaski County, Wythe County, Radford City, and Montgomery County.
Additionally, Alexandria City’s city council, Madison County’s board of supervisors, and the Virginia Chapter of NAACP have passed resolutions in support of the suit.
According to Gina Patterson, executive director of the VSBA, the number of school divisions supporting the lawsuit is climbing every week.
“From every corner of the Commonwealth, the message is clear,” said Patterson. “Violating Virginia’s constitution, taking control of locally owned facilities, and requiring local communities to transfer their school division’s funds to a board with no local connection is unacceptable.”
In the release, Patterson also said that open communication, collaboration, and cooperation are what’s truly needed to help students who are struggling.