Friday, March 1, 2024

State School Board Unconstitutional; McAuliffe Won’t Fight Ruling

va sealVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced his office would not appeal a Norfolk Circuit Court decision that declared the Virginia Opportunity Educational Institution unconstitutional.

McAuliffe’s decision effectively upholds the court’s ruling.

The OEI emerged from a 2013 law championed by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell. The law gave the state direct control over public schools denied accreditation or schools that received “accredited with warning” status for three consecutive years, and created the institution as a state-level school board.

Under the law, the OEI had broad powers. The institution would make administrative decisions for state-controlled districts for five years or until the district regained accreditation. The law also transferred control of district funds to the OEI.

Many public school officials criticized the bill as ambiguous and problematic. In particular, the law did not specify when control of district funding would be returned to the local school board once accreditation was secured.

In August, the Virginia School Boards Association and the Norfolk City School Board filed a lawsuit in Norfolk Circuit Court arguing the law was unconstitutional.

More than 100 school boards statewide, including the Williamsburg-James City County and York County boards, passed resolutions in support of the lawsuit.

In June, Judge Designate Charles E. Poston ruled the law violated Virginia’s constitution. McAuliffe did not immediately indicate whether his office would challenge the ruling.

On Tuesday, McAuliffe announced his decision not to appeal the decision.

“Two attorneys general and our own analysis support the Circuit Court’s reasoning on the legal issues at stake,” McAuliffe said in a press release. “The Constitution of Virginia clearly gives the primary responsibility for educating Virginia children to local school boards across the Commonwealth, while assigning the task of overseeing those efforts to the Virginia Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

York County School Board Chairman Mark Medford called the ruling a positive outcome for school boards across Virginia. WJCC schools has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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