McDonnell “Opportunity to Learn” Education Reform

Statement of the Governor on Senate Committee Passage of McDonnell “Opportunity to Learn” Education Reform Package and First Phase of “Race to the Top” Competition

RICHMOND- Governor Bob McDonnell issued the following statement today following passage of his education reform legislative package by the Senate Education and Health Committee with a bipartisan vote this morning. The full House of Delegates also approved McDonnell’s charter school bill with a bipartisan vote this afternoon. McDonnell also commented on the official announcement from the United States Department of Education that the Commonwealth will not be a finalist in Phase 1 of the “Race to the Top” federal grant competition.

“I am pleased with the broad bipartisan support all three of our education reform initiatives received in Senate Committee today. Our legislative measures to ensure thorough consideration and strengthen applications for high-quality charter schools in the Commonwealth, establish college laboratory schools, and expand and improve virtual education will help more Virginia students, no matter where they live, gain access to the educational opportunities they need to thrive and succeed. I thank Senator Steve Newman and Senator Edd Houck in particular for their leadership in making these successful votes possible, and all the members who joined together across party lines to help Virginia’s schoolchildren. I also appreciate the good work of the VEA, Virginia School Boards Association, and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents in crafting and supporting the legislation.

The importance of this morning’s vote was demonstrated just a few hours later as we have learned that the Commonwealth will not be a finalist in Phase 1 of the “Race to the Top” federal education grant program administered by the United States Department of Education. This program is rewarding states that have brought significant innovation to their public school systems, particularly through their efforts to expand high-quality charter schools. Virginia currently has one of the weakest charter school laws in the nation. While 4600 charter schools exist nationally, only three are in our state. Today’s decision in Washington shows that we have waited far too long to bring new positive public school innovations like charters, college laboratory schools and virtual schools to young people in the state. I look forward to helping lead a bipartisan effort to bring innovation and opportunities to Virginia’s public schools, to the benefit of students, parents and teachers.

While we are disappointed to not be considered in this first phase, we appreciate the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Duncan on this issue and look forward to competing in Phase Two. Virginia’s “Race to the Top” application for Phase One reflected where things stood prior to our taking office, as well as our commitment to effect real change during this Administration. With the recent votes in the House and Senate for our educational reform agenda, we will now be able to demonstrate that Virginia is ready to engage in real education reform and implement creative and successful initiatives to better educate all our public school children. We will also continue to focus on recruiting and rewarding our best teachers and principals, and ensuring students have more access to science, technology, engineering and math in our schools. Our work to ensure that every Virginia student, in every community, gets a world-class education is a key component of our Commonwealth of Opportunity.”