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Youngkin's Lab Schools: So Many Problems, Where to Even Start?

The following is a transcript of remarks made by 4 PE's Cheryl Binkley made to the Virginia Board of Education at their meeting on April 19th:


There are so many problems with Governor Youngkin’s lab schools I hardly know where to start.


I urge you to delay moving forward on approvals of lab school guidelines, applications and programs until the legal issues with them are resolved. It will save you from later involvement in testimonies about your part in a program that is at best a misguided ego scheme, and at worst an illegal attempt to take over Virginia’s schools.


1. First they are for the most part illegal. There is no legislative authorization for the giant project you are facilitating. In fact, the Lab School bills failed to pass in the General Assembly in both 2022 and 2023. Secretary Guidera and Governor Youngkin have gone around the state offering free money to authorizers that are clearly excluded from the budget bill language of 2022, and they play carrot and stick with our public universities to push them into participating. They know their proffers are illegal and pursue them anyway, announcing ready to open Lab Schools in the local news even before the local authorizer has filled out an application. There are already complaints filed with the state auditor about misappropriation of funds, and the legislature is unlikely to offer future support to a program that has run so roughshod over the rule of law.


2.. Second, Lab Schools are unconstitutional. The Standing Committee structure, and independent regional boards which do not answer to local school boards or any elected authority violate the requirement that local districts control the curriculum of Virginia’s public schools.


3. Third, many of the lab schools that are planned are not full schools at all, but after school tech activities, Dual Enrollment scholarships, coding training, career Academy classes, or company internship programs. They are mostly duplications of programs we already make available, and bypass input from the better qualified departments in our system such as the health and nursing programs. Other than meeting SOQs, there is little to no mention of providing the full range of courses that are required of a full service K-12 school. Are Lab School students even going to get a high school that includes science, languages arts, math and history or just on the job training?


4. Lab Schools are expensive, $150 million requested this year, and rising costs every year afterward; money that will bleed local schools dry, and will make our business environment less entrepreneurial and less attractive as these programs support the regional largest companies to the exclusion of more creative business opportunities. They will train kids to grow up with no more aspiration than to work at the company store or factory.


5. They further disrupt and damage the qualified teacher supply and seek to lower training qualifications. Some of the applications talk of turning out teachers on the street at the age of 20 with a truncated high school experience, and two years of college. That does not describe a high quality education experience for those prospective teachers or for the students they will be expected to teach.


Please do not take the next steps in establishing this program.


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