Three new state education laws will take effect on Thursday.
The new laws are key components in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s “Opportunity to Learn” initiative, designed to offer options for children who are at-risk or attend underperforming school systems. The “Opportunity to Learn” legislative package passed the General Assembly during the 2010 legislative session.
The laws aim to improve the quality of charter school applications, develop criteria for Virtual School programs and establish laboratory schools through college partnerships.
The first new law will require a charter school applicant to submit its proposed charter application to the Board of Education for review, comment and a determination of whether the application meets criteria before it is submitted to a local school board. The law also provides a public charter school applicant an opportunity to petition the local school board for reconsideration after seeking technical assistance from the Department of Education and receiving public comment.
The second new law will require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop criteria for approving and monitoring multi-division providers of online courses and virtual school programs. The Board of Education will also have to approve the criteria. The law also allows local school boards to enter into contracts with approved private or nonprofit organizations to provide such courses and programs.
The final new law will allow the establishment of college partnership laboratory schools by any public institution of higher education with an approved teacher education program. The school will be public, as dictated by a contract between the governing board of the school and the Board of Education. Teachers working in the schools will be considered employees of the college or university and either licensed by the Board of Education or eligible to be licensed.
“These three key components of the ‘Opportunity to Learn’ legislative package, that will take effect Thursday, will give Virginia’s students more options when it comes to their education, thus enhancing their opportunities to compete and succeed in a global economy,” McDonnell said in a release.
McDonnell first revealed his education plan in February. At the time, he said the plan would fit in with the vision for education outlined by President Barack Obama’s administration; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a longtime advocate for charter schools. Charter schools are typically smaller than public schools and follow nontraditional, specialized curriculums.
Virginia authorized the use of charter schools 12 years ago, but just four have opened in the state, including York River Academy in York County. York County has also had virtual classrooms in place since 2003, and offers a virtual summer school. WHRO offers virtual classes to students throughout the Hampton Roads region.
None of the higher education institutions on the Peninsula currently offer laboratory schools, but do work regularly with both school districts in the Triangle.