Feb. 4 Press Release: A-F Bill
VIRGINIA SUPERINTENDENTS EXPOSE TRUE INTENT OF GOVERNOR'S INITIATIVES
Steven R. Staples, Executive Director, VASS
(757) 903-9434 or (804) 562-4430
Richmond, Virginia (Monday, February 4, 2013) – Grade schools on a scale of A-F - take the F schools away from local boards of education and put them under a state authority, which will spend local and state tax dollars on for profit virtual school and charter school companies that purport to improve public education. That’s the plan of Governor McDonnell, whose educational reform initiatives are on their way to a floor vote in both houses of the General Assembly, according to Ben Kiser, President of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS).
“Only I am not sure if it’s his plan,” claims Kiser, who is also the Superintendent of Gloucester County Schools. He stated, “It appears to be a scheme right out of the playbook developed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), which was recently exposed in a January 30 Washington Post article, ‘Emails link Bush foundation, corporations and education officials’ by Valerie Strauss.” The article links Bush’s foundation to the edu-businesses who fund it and stand to profit from the reforms if passed by state legislatures as they have been already in Florida, New Mexico, Maine, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Louisiana:
Seeking to promote and gain support for his initiatives, Governor McDonnell invited the media to join his conference call with Jeb Bush last Friday in which Bush explained the advantages of having an ‘A-F’ report card grading system for schools.
The Virginia Superintendents see several alarming issues about these reforms according to Pat Russo, VASS President-elect and Superintendent of Henrico County Schools. “Most importantly,” according to Russo, “the reforms take away the constitutional power of cities and county governments to manage their own educational systems and appropriate money for that purpose.”
Another issue, according to Alan Seibert, VASS Secretary-Treasurer and Salem City Schools Superintendent, is that the models upon which the Governor has based his reforms, come from states where the quality of education is inferior to Virginia’s. “Several national polls have ranked the quality of education in Virginia higher than any of the state’s the Governor is using as examples,” Seibert said. He continued, “Quality Counts, Education Week’s often-cited annual national survey, ranked Virginia fourth overall in the country, well ahead of 11th ranked Florida, 23rd ranked Louisiana or 27th ranked Oklahoma, whose A-F school report card has been criticized by Oklahoma parents.”
In addition to usurping local authority over public education, using public tax dollars to help edu-businesses make profits, and using inferior quality state education systems as examples of how to improve Virginia schools, Virginia educators and parents have other issues with the Governor’s education reforms – particularly those with respect to the A-F school report card, according to Jennifer Parish, Superintendent of Poquoson City Schools. Parish said, “The report card:
-- Puts a new label on an unbalanced and out-of-date assessment and accountability system.
-- Is redundant - we already have accreditation to "evaluate" schools for the public and one more grading system will only confuse parents as it has in Oklahoma.
-- And may stifle growing efforts to create a new accountability model that better meets 21st century needs.”
She concluded, “The vote that the members of the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate will take in a couple days is critical. It will mean the difference between who is better served by public education in the Commonwealth – outside businesses or Virginia’s students.”