School board chairwoman backs lawsuit against Richmond

School board chairwoman backs lawsuit against Richmond

By Erich Wagner (File photo)

Alexandria School Board chairwoman Karen Graf is drafting a resolution in support of a recently filed lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state agency tasked with taking over struggling local schools.

Graf revealed her plans at an August 22 school board meeting, on the heels of the release of preliminary results of the statewide Standards of Learning tests.

Although the embattled Jefferson-Houston School made marked gains on math scores in the 2012-13 academic year, it’s unlikely the institution will receive accreditation next month. Without it, the school remains under threat of a state takeover, which local officials adamantly oppose.

The Norfolk City School Board and the Virginia School Boards Association filed a lawsuit August 21 in the Circuit Court for the City of Norfolk challenging the legality of the Opportunity Educational Institute. The newly formed state agency oversees and takes over troubled schools.

In a statement, opponents of the state institute said that the law establishing the agency violates a provision of the commonwealth’s constitution handing control of school operations to local officials. And critics say the power to create school divisions rests with the state Board of Education, not the legislative branch.

Graf, who was not available for comment Tuesday, said at last week’s meeting that the board will consider the resolution next month.