One of Governor Youngkin’s many promises to Virginia was to expand charter schools in Virginia, taking desperately needed funding from our public schools.
He failed to convince the legislature to give him these funds. He’s now pivoted to promoting and expanding lab schools throughout Virginia. His strategy seems to be that any program that claws funding from the schools actually educating the overwhelming majority of our students is a win for his objective of creating doubt in and distrust of our public school system.
The 2022 General Assembly appropriated $100 million for planning and start up grants for lab schools with no plan for ongoing funding. Currently the Department of Education is on a publicity tour to drum up support for lab schools. The last stop was in Bedford County on December 7th. Lab schools, like charter schools, circumvent local school board oversight and drain money from our public school system.
The Virginia Education Association has published an excellent lab schools factsheet on the significant issues with this plan. These include:
Lab schools have been allowed in Virginia for many years and have failed to organically grow through mutual interest between school divisions and colleges and universities.
The current state budget includes a one-time allocation of $100 million for lab school planning and starter grants and per pupil funding for approved schools during the current biennium only.
Higher education institutions will take a large risk establishing lab schools and should be prepared to shoulder the full cost of operating these schools into the future without any sustaining funding from the state or local level.
While setting aside $100 million to establish lab schools, legislators cut more than $100 million in At-Risk Add On funds which should have supplemented our highest poverty schools, reaching hundreds of thousands of students. The benefits of investing in At-Risk Add On far outweigh the one-time investment to establish lab schools, that realistically will only support the start-up of a handful of new schools and serve a relatively small number of select students.
The biggest argument against the proliferation of lab schools is that we don’t need them. This push didn’t come from universities yearning to pilot innovation. It’s come for politicians eager to create chaos and disruption in our school system--one ranked as the 4th best school system in the country. Listen to parents. We don’t need or want more gimmicks. We want funding for teacher pay, support for staff, infrastructure improvements, and local control.
We have a lot of problems in Virginia. Isn’t time to focus on what’s wrong and stop fixing what’s right?
For more VEA position papers and fact sheets, please check out the VEA website.