Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed education bills on March 23 that would have diverted public funds away from public schools or limit local decision-making authority. Last month, VACo sent the Governor letters urging him to veto HB 2342 (Landes)/SB 1283 (Obenshain) and HB 1605 (LaRock). VACo’s overarching legislative priority position during the 2017 General Assembly Session was increased education funding.
The Governor vetoed HB 2342/SB 1283, which would have sought to enable the establishment of regional charter schools. Although the bills are narrowly tailored, the regional school boards that the bill would authorize the Board of Education to create would be heavily weighted toward state appointees, with eight members appointed by the state Board and up to three appointed by the governing bodies of the localities encompassed by the regional school division. These regional school boards would be empowered to approve applications to establish regional charter schools; the composition of the boards essentially places this decision at the state level, a situation that runs counter to VACo’s longstanding position in support of local decision-making authority in this arena.
“In establishing regional governing school boards that remove authority from local school boards and their members, this legislation proposes a governance model that is in conflict with the Constitution of Virginia,” Governor McAuliffe wrote in a press release. “Public charter school arrangements are already available to divisions at the discretion of the local school board, which makes the ultimate decisions about the establishment, renewal and dissolution of charter schools within its division.
“We should always consider new and innovative ways to provide a world class education to all of our students, but this particular governance framework is not viable within the parameters of Virginia’s constitutional structure,” he added.
The Governor also vetoed HB 1605, which would have allowed the transfer of 90 percent of state Standards of Quality funds to parents of eligible students to be used for a variety of educational purposes. The eligibility criteria for this bill have been narrowed from its introduced form, but the list of allowable uses for these funds, including transportation and tuition at sectarian schools, is broad.
“HB 1605 raises constitutional concerns, diverts funds from public schools, and creates an inequitable system across different school divisions,” Governor McAuliffe wrote. “It fails to support the goal of using state resources to strengthen and improve public education throughout the Commonwealth.”