For now, near-party-line votes prevent referendum; House version of amendment remains alive

RICHMOND — This afternoon, in a series of near-party-line votes, the Senate rejected SB 588, SJ 6, and SJ 93, which together sought to amend the Virginia constitution to allow state government to unilaterally establish charter schools anywhere in the Commonwealth, potentially without the approval or even input of local communities or school boards. Despite that lack of input, localities would have borne a substantial share of the cost for schools established under the proposed amendment.

All nineteen Democrats opposed each of the three measures; they were joined by two Republicans on two of those votes, and by one Republican on the third. Corresponding House legislation — HB 3 and HJ 1— narrowly crossed over and could still be passed by the Senate.

Said Sen. Mamie Locke (D - Hampton), “Taking power away from parents and local school boards would not improve education, and I’m glad the Senate has rejected that idea. Still, we must do more to ensure that every child has access to a great education. We can start by finally giving teachers the support and resources that they need and deserve.”

Said Sen. John Miller (D - Newport News), “In the past few years we’ve made important strides to improve education — including sweeping SOL reforms and passing legislation to re-design high schools. We need to build on that progress and not veer off on a path that undermines local school boards. I’m pleased we’ve chosen not to go down that road.”

Said Democratic Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D - Fairfax), ““Communities that want charter schools are already able to build them with parents and local school boards having a say. Any time you tap into funding for  K-12 public education, which is currently at a 2009 level, it's never a good idea for hundreds of thousands of Virginia's children. What happened today in the Senate is a good outcome for students, parents, and teachers.”

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