McDonnell Unveils Part Two of Education Reform Plan
McDonnell Unveils Part Two of Education Reform Plan
“Educational Opportunity and Excellence - Preparing Virginia Children for 21st Century Jobs”
*Focus on K-12 and Expanding Charter Schools in the Commonwealth*
McDonnell: “We need to introduce more options and reward excellence in our public education system. A vibrant system in which opportunities abound will prepare our young people for a competitive and changing world.”
Richmond - Bob McDonnell, Republican gubernatorial nominee and former Attorney General of Virginia rolled out part two of his education reform plan today at a press conference at the General Assembly Building in Richmond. Part two of McDonnell’s education reform plan emphasizes the need for more charter schools in the Commonwealth. In May, McDonnell unveiled part one, his higher-education initiative to award 100,000 more degrees over the next 15 years and make Virginia one of the most highly educated states in the nation.
Bob McDonnell believes that a well-educated workforce is the key to successful job creation. Every child in the Commonwealth must have an opportunity to be well educated and prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Part two of McDonnell’s education reform plan is highlighted by the following proposals:
· Put Virginia in the Vanguard of the Charter School Movement
· Provide Charter School Expertise for parents, teachers, and students
· Create College Partnership Laboratory Schools
· Establish More Specialized High Schools in High-Demand Industries
· Duplicate the Achievable Dream Middle and High School Model
· Expand and Strengthen the Turnaround Program for Underperforming Schools
· Expand Educational Mentoring Programs in all Schools
· Increase Online learning through Virtual Schools
Speaking about Virginia’s educational challenges, McDonnell said, “Our goal in Virginia must be to ensure equal opportunity for a quality education. But for thousands of students in the Commonwealth these opportunities are inadequate - limited by the zip code in which they live, or limited by decisions of local school systems. We will not tolerate failing or underperforming schools in a McDonnell administration.”
“I agree with President Obama: we need more charter schools in America. That need is particularly pressing in Virginia, where we currently only have four charter schools, one of the lowest numbers in the country. As Governor, I will propose the expansion of public charter schools in the Commonwealth. Nationally, public charter schools were a bipartisan creation, designed nearly two decades ago to empower teachers, parents and communities to come together and create a new form of public school that was free from restrictive regulations and systems. Public charter schools offer competitive educational opportunities for all families, not just for those who can afford them. I believe that parents should have more control over their child’s education, creating competition between schools resulting in higher quality, innovative programs to educate our children.”
McDonnell concluded, “These educational reforms are focused on ensuring that all of Virginia’s children have access to all of Virginia’s opportunities. We will strengthen the turnaround programs for underperforming schools to get immediate help to students in schools that are not providing the education they deserve. We will expand mentoring programs in all of our schools. And we will move educational opportunities beyond just our brick and mortar schools to capitalize on new technology for the expansion of access to education. Like my higher-education plan, the reforms I am committed to are designed to provide more opportunities for our citizens, attract new employers to the Commonwealth and establish a strengthened partnership between the business and education communities.”
Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-Newport News), a long time supporter of charter schools, had this to say about Bob McDonnell’s charter school initiative, “As the chief patron of Virginia’s charter school law, I know that charter schools are another public school option to increase parental choice in determining the best educational environment for their child. Bob McDonnell is the only candidate for Governor that has expressed his understanding that by creating more educational options for public school students, they will have more opportunities to participate in educational programs that add relevance to their learning. Relevance in the educational process increases student engagement in the learning process. As the parent of five children that attend or attended public schools in Virginia, Bob McDonnell wants all Virginia children to have access to high quality, dynamic, and innovative public schools.”
Part Two of Bob McDonnell’s Education Reform Plan
“Educational Opportunity and Excellence - Preparing Virginia Children for 21st Century Jobs”
Constitution of Virginia
Bill of Rights
Section 15. Qualities necessary to preservation of free government.
That no free government, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles; and by the recognition by all citizens that they have duties as well as rights, and that such rights cannot be enjoyed save in a society where law is respected and due process is observed.
That free government rests, as does all progress, upon the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge, and that the Commonwealth should avail itself of those talents which nature has sown so liberally among its people by assuring the opportunity for their fullest development by an effective system of education throughout the Commonwealth.
Section 1. Public schools of high quality to be maintained.
The General Assembly shall provide for a system of free public elementary and secondary schools for all children of school age throughout the Commonwealth, and shall seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.
“We need to introduce more options and reward excellence in our public education system. A vibrant system in which opportunities abound will prepare our young people for a competitive and changing world.”
~ Former Attorney General of Virginia Bob McDonnell
Bob McDonnell will be a jobs Governor. The cornerstone of the McDonnell Administration will be an all out effort to create new jobs and greater freedom and opportunities for all Virginians. A well-educated workforce is the key to successful job creation. Every child in the Commonwealth must have an opportunity to be well educated and prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Virginia, and the rest of the nation, faces job shortages in critical areas such as engineers, health care professionals, teachers, technology specialists and scientists. These are the jobs of the 21st century; they are well paying professions, but they also require specialized education. We must do a better job of making our education system relevant to these specialized jobs so that our children are prepared, competitive and successful. It is no longer just about reading, writing and arithmetic - education must be relevant to the well paying and high demand jobs of the 21st century.
State funding for k-12 education has increased 101% from fiscal year 1997 to 2010, while student membership has only increased 10.8% in the same time span. As Governor Kaine announced in 2008, we are fully funding the current Standards of Quality. Therefore, it is clear that while maintaining strong financial support for k-12 education is important, we must also address qualitative improvements needed in our school system.
With strong standards and accountability in our schools, we have a marker to look at the strengths and weaknesses of our public schools. According to the Virginia Department of Education report for 2008-2009, seventy-two public schools in the Commonwealth (3.8% of the total public schools) lack full accreditation. Fifty-four of the seventy-two schools are accredited with warning. Their student pass rates in English, mathematics, science and history are below the required level. Thirteen schools are conditionally accredited following reconstitution. All five of the schools in Virginia that have been denied accreditation because they have failed to meet the pass rate requirements for three consecutive years are located in Petersburg.
Competent equal education for all young people is something upon which everyone can agree. Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Reverend Al Sharpton have recently joined forces to close the achievement gap dividing students along racial and socioeconomic lines. According to Sharpton, part of the solution is to ensure that children have an excellent education “regardless of their zip code.”
Our system of education must not limit students or teachers, nor set up any student for failure. Where the current system is not working, we need to reform our education system to make it more relevant to today’s economy and allow for different educational opportunities where our students will learn and become successful, productive citizens.
Our goal in Virginia must be to ensure equal opportunity for a quality education. But for thousands of students in the Commonwealth these opportunities are inadequate - limited by the zip code in which they live, or limited by decisions of local school systems. We will not tolerate failing or underperforming schools in a McDonnell Administration. We cannot consign our young people to a life of underachievement or crime because they failed to get the start in life in a quality school as the Virginia Constitution guarantees.
For those students, Bob McDonnell will propose alternatives that provide greater opportunities. These opportunities are based on ideas that have worked in other states and will provide educational opportunities that all children in Virginia deserve.
McDonnell will propose the expansion of public charter schools. Nationally, public charter schools were a bipartisan creation, designed nearly two decades ago to empower teachers, parents and communities to come together and create a new form of public school that was free from restrictive regulations and systems. Public charter schools offer competitive educational opportunities for all families, not just for those who can afford them. Bob McDonnell believes that parents should have more control over their child’s education, creating competition between schools resulting in higher quality, innovative programs to educate our children.
Today, there are 4,600 charter schools serving 1.4 million students in America. Their students typically arrive further behind in their studies than their peers, but they are held accountable to the same standards as traditional public schools.
Charter schools are not a “silver bullet.” They are not for every student. But they do offer new hope, particularly for students finding it hard to thrive in a regular school setting or where the current public school is failing them. Furthermore, public charter schools will provide Virginia with the opportunity to take the lead in early specialized education and workforce training in high demand fields like health care.
Nationally, the most successful charters are those that can be replicated, and their results are clear:
While less than 20 percent of low-income students go to college, more than 85 percent of the low-income students attending the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Academy Charter schools (serving over 16,000 students in 19 states and the District of Columbia) go to four-year colleges. When those same low income students start at KIPP charter schools, they are at least one grade behind their peers in reading and math - after four years at KIPP, they outperform the school district averages.
The same is true for inner city Los Angeles Green Dot Schools, where 80 percent of students graduate, and 76 percent of graduating students go to college.
A 2004 study by Harvard University concluded that nationally 10 percent more charter school students demonstrated proficiency on state reading and math exams compared with students in nearby traditional public schools.
In December, 2008, The Washington Post reported that charter schools in Washington, DC, had “opened a solid academic lead over those in its traditional public schools.” An analysis by the newspaper concluded that charter middle school students outperformed those in the traditional public school system by 19 points in reading and 20 points in math. That same report showed that of the top 10 DC middle schools in math proficiency, seven were charter schools
Yet, these options have largely been closed off to the Virginia students who need them most.
While Virginia enacted a charter school law in 1998, the effectiveness of the law is rated 38th lowest in the country by the Center for Education Reform, out of 41 states with charter laws, and received a “D” grade from the Center. The major factors in Virginia’s poor ranking are the absence of multiple chartering authorizers (only local school boards can approve charters); the lack of a binding appeals process when charters are denied; and limited fiscal and operational autonomy for charters.
States with multiple chartering authorities have nearly four times more charter schools than those where only local school boards can approve charters. At the beginning of 2009, 17 states had entities other than local school boards with the power to approve and manage charter schools. These states are home to 80 percent of the nation’s charter schools. State boards of education are charter authorizers in 14 states. In addition, 8 states had binding appeals processes from which charter applicants can turn to overturn the decision of the official authorizer. Universities are currently granted chartering authority in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. This system has produced several of the nation’s finest charter schools.
While states like California, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arizona have hundreds of charter schools, there are just four public charter schools currently operating in Virginia. A fifth charter school is scheduled to open in July 2010. Many charter applications have been denied, including a great proposal by Hampton University in 2002 to open a Math, Science and Technology charter school.
Most charter school operators find the Commonwealth an unattractive place to open schools due to the stringent nature of its charter school law. This reality is confirmed by Michael Feinberg, the founder of the highly acclaimed Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), who told the Richmond Times Dispatch that the reason they have not opened a school in Virginia is that it “does not have a great charter school law in terms of providing freedom for the schools.”
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will work to expand the opportunities presented by charter schools and give each child a chance to succeed.
Keys to Improve Equal Opportunity in Education·Duplicate the Achievable Dream Middle and High School Model
Develop a model proposal, based on this successful program that can be used as a template to help at-risk students in challenging environments. The model must include key “how to” components encouraging the kind of partnerships between school divisions, private companies and families that will duplicate the success of the Achievable Dream Middle and High School.
·Give Charter School Applicants More Options to Establish Schools
Establish alternative methods of approval for charter school applicants, denied at the local level, or participating in a school district that has unaccredited or partially accredited public schools.
·Provide Charter School Expertise
Develop the Virginia Educational Opportunity Advisory Panel, composed of experts from across the country and with experience at the local, state and federal level to provide guidance to local and statewide efforts.
· Create College Partnership Laboratory Schools
Maximize the use of higher education investment in technology and infrastructure to develop college partnership laboratory schools that operate much like charter schools.
·Establish More Specialized High Schools in High-Demand Industries
Create more charter or specialized schools designed to prepare students for jobs in the high-demand industries, such as healthcare, engineering, teaching, etc.
Duplicate the Achievable Dream Model for Middle and High School
In this school we see what actually works. The Achievable Dream Middle and High School in Newport News has had amazing success in guiding at-risk students through the education experience and into college. A public “contract school,” much of what it offers is the same kind of “tough love” education offered by successful charter schools like KIPP Academy. But Virginia state leaders have never taken steps to duplicate Achievable Dream. Bob McDonnell will.
An Achievable Dream is a unique partnership between Newport News Public Schools, the City of Newport News, and the local business community to give our students who are at a high risk of failure in school due to socioeconomic factors, a chance to succeed. Small class size and a low student-to-teacher ratio assure students the individual attention they deserve. And with the support of the business community, more computers are available for the students’ use in the school, which gives them a step-up in technology.
Achievable Dream students take the same tests (SOLs) as traditional public school students and the middle and high school students regularly outpace their district counterparts on these tests. Among other examples—
On the 2008 8th Grade Math Standards of Learning tests, Achievable Dream students outperformed their statewide counterparts by 7%, and outperformed their citywide counterparts by 11%.
100% of Dreamers taking Algebra 2 in 2008 passed their Standards of Learning tests. Geometry students had a 96% pass rate, and Geography had a 95% pass rate.
90% of Achievable Dream graduates go on to post-secondary education and 10% join the military.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will direct the Department of Education to develop a model school proposal, based on this successful program that will be used as a guide to help at-risk students in challenging environments. The model must include key “how to” components encouraging the kind of partnerships between school divisions, private companies, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations and families that will duplicate the success of the Achievable Dream Middle and High School.
We will create a template consistent with Virginia law and educational practices that will be used by charter school organizers to create new opportunities for kids and will standardize a successful charter that should be approved.
We know what works in Virginia, even in the most challenging circumstances - what we need is more of it.
Giving Charter School Applicants More Options to Establish Schools
Local School Boards have sole supervision over the schools in their divisions - and this has been interpreted to mean that only School Boards can approve a new charter school application. Furthermore, when there is no way to appeal a School Board’s decision to deny a Charter School application it leaves local boards - that have limited expertise in how charters are supposed to operate - acting as both judge and jury.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will propose alternative methods of establishing charter schools in Virginia, such as allowing the State Board of Education to approve applications. There will be additional state authority when the school district has schools that are not fully accredited.
Provide Charter School Expertise
With the state’s role currently limited to offering advice and guidance in the development of charter school applications, we are hindered by a lack of expertise in the state and very few professionals who can recognize a good charter school application from a poor one and help guide applicants through the process.
We need to go outside our boundaries and bring that expertise into Virginia. We will develop the Virginia Educational Opportunity Advisory Panel, composed of experts from across the state and country and with experience at the local, state and federal level to provide guidance to local and statewide efforts. This could be done in partnership with groups such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and the International Association for k-12 Online Learning - both associations that include public school systems throughout the United States - to review and offer advice and guidance in the authorization of charter school applications.
The Advisory Panel would also preliminarily review charter school applications so that as local school boards review applications, they will know which charter schools have already been endorsed by the statewide advisory panel.
The Virginia State Board of Education has a committee to offer guidance on charter school applications, but has not been that effective in producing more successful charters. The committee did not include the one member of the State Board who was a nationally-recognized expert on charter schools - Andy Rotherham, who developed education legislation for President Clinton and was appointed by then Governor Mark Warner. We need to professionalize this process and take actions that encourage the development of strong charters, not discourage them from forming.
Create College Partnership Laboratory Schools
In 2006, then Delegate (now Richmond Mayor) Dwight Jones proposed creation of college partnership laboratory schools that would stimulate the development of innovative programs to better prepare students for the rigors of a post-secondary education. In 2007, Delegate Scott Lingamfelter championed legislation to establish the Public Charter School Fund for the purposes of establishing or supporting public charter schools in the Commonwealth. Delegate Jones and Lingamfelter had the right idea.
The institutions that know best what students need to succeed in college are the colleges themselves, and this proposal would benefit state universities, historically black colleges and universities, and most importantly the K-12 students who would attend these schools. It would ensure that our children have every opportunity for a quality education to help them succeed in life.
The bill was structured much like charter schools, but would be funded directly by the state and operated by the universities. As Governor, Bob McDonnell will work to see such a bill enacted into law, using it to expand educational opportunities for students and encourage better partnerships between K-12 and higher education systems.
Specialized High Schools in High-Demand Industries
The need for health care workers is projected to grow at rates faster than almost every other industry sector in the next 10 years. In cooperation with our universities and community colleges, Bob McDonnell will establish at least one Virginia Health Sciences High School (charter or Governor’s school) to specifically prepare students for further study in nursing, medical technicians, pharmacy, medical equipment specialties, and veterinary or medical school.
Other high-demand and job shortage industries, such as engineering, teaching, and technology specialists, also require specialized training that should begin at the high school level to make our students more prepared and competitive. The flexibility of a charter school will allow Virginia to be a national leader when it comes to education and workforce training of the next generation of high-demand industry professionals.
Reforms to Ensure Relevancy and Excellence in Education
Allowing for more charter schools is just one example of Bob’s commitment to provide educational opportunities that all children in Virginia deserve. All children, whether they attend a traditional public school or a charter public school, should be provided with relevant educational programs and quality schools that will prepare them for careers in the 21st century.
·Expand and Strengthen Turnaround Program for Underperforming Schools
Use existing resources in the Department of Education to aid under performing schools with targeted turnaround programs, in conjunction with Virginia colleges and universities, which have been charged to work with underperforming school districts under the Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act of 2005.
·Increase Online Learning Through Virtual Schools
Partner with online curriculum providers to leverage technological innovation with public education to bring a 21st century learning experience to Virginia students and families.
·Support Educational Mentoring Programs focused on character, financial literacy, and public safety
Integrate proven mentoring programs into school systems to promote productive, responsible lifestyles.
Expand Turnaround Programs to Aid Underperforming Schools
In 2004, then Governor Mark Warner had the foresight to partner the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) with the University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education to create the Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program. The mission was to develop a cadre of specially trained principals who would be the equivalent of turnaround managers in business. The program focuses on leadership challenges, strategic change, decision-making, and data analysis and is aimed at improving student achievement in Virginia’s lowest-achieving schools. Since 2004, 16 school districts in Virginia have completed the program and nearly 30 schools have participated; however, the program has taken on more of a national role since receiving national grants. While this is a great example of an innovative reform, more intense focus must be placed on turning around Virginia’s under-performing schools.
As Governor, Bob McDonnell will appoint a Public School Turnaround Leader, at the Department of Education, whose sole mission will be to focus on the underperforming schools and set in motion urgent plans to eliminate obstacles to success. The leader will also increase coordination efforts between the Department of Education, local colleges and universities, the private sector and local schools to aid underperforming schools on a case-by-case basis. This new generation of education leaders will know what a successful school system looks like and how to implement it in failing areas. Turnaround experts must be given measurable goals, timelines and resources to succeed.
A McDonnell Administration will not accept more excuses for underperforming schools. Bob McDonnell will make certain that these schools have all options on the table.
Increase Online Learning through Virtual Schools Programs
Online learning is the fastest growing segment of public education today, and a technology-rich state like Virginia cannot be left behind. The children of today are growing up in a “digital world” and their educational options need to reflect the way they learn and communicate.
A 2007 report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce titled Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Education praised states that “have moved aggressively to promote comprehensive charter school legislation and enable virtual schooling, thus helping establish the infrastructure for 21st century educational reinvention,” and praised virtual schools for providing students, parents and schools with choice and flexibility.
Virtual schools programs-either authorized through a school district or as a charter school-are full-time online schools that enroll students from across the state and deliver their education via a distance learning environment in “real time”. These schools exist in many states across our country, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, and Colorado, to name a few.
In a virtual school, courses are self-paced and allow students who are quick learners to complete courses at a pace that keeps them engaged and avoids boredom. Conversely, it allows students who have fallen behind more time to learn and complete their lessons, instead of falling further and further behind, as they might in a traditional classroom. Some young people do better with a computer interface learning than in a standard classroom.
The technology of today allows us to deliver this kind of tailored, individualized education to students, regardless of where they live or their economic standard of living. It also allows us to deliver courses that are in high demand to places where we don’t have teachers to teach that subject. We can teach Mandarin Chinese in southwest Virginia or Advanced Placement Biology in Petersburg through a virtual school.
Virtual schools are also perfect for many special education students who need a very individualized approach to their learning, and who find it difficult to learn in a busy classroom setting.
Virtual Virginia, the online educational program currently offered through the Department of Education, provides Virginia students an opportunity to take a number of supplementary online courses, but the program is limited in scope as to how many students they can serve.
A small number of school divisions are already taking the initiative and starting full-time online learning programs in their districts. Systems such as Halifax, Bedford and Pittsylvania are now partnering with online curriculum providers to provide online learning. But all students in Virginia should share in this opportunity. Many school districts that want to start or expand programs are apprehensive because the Code of Virginia is silent on virtual schooling.
Virtual schools typically operate at 60 to 70% of the average amount it costs to educate a child in a traditional school setting. They are held to state accountability standards, utilize highly qualified teachers, and can offer a possible savings to the taxpayer.
To encourage further development of online learning here in the Commonwealth, as Governor, Bob McDonnell will propose legislation that outlines the creation of virtual school programs, through district-run programs and charter schools.
Expand Educational Mentoring Program in all Schools
Whether children attend a traditional public school or a contract or charter school, every child should be given opportunities to prepare them for life after high school. Mentoring programs are firmly established in society, but in order to have the most impact on children, they should be integrated into our schools at the k-12 level. The Virginia Constitution specifically requires that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.
In order to reduce the opportunity for children to become involved with gang, drug and other unlawful activity, and in light of the defunding of DARE at the federal level, we must expand and improve the Class Action program, currently administered by the Office of the Attorney General. Age appropriate versions of this law-related education program are facilitated by law enforcement professionals and taught in Virginia schools. The instructor uses realistic hypothetical scenarios to engage the students in discussions addressing a variety of issues including the stark legal consequences of negative behavior such as use of illegal drugs, criminal street gang activity, theft and other criminal acts. This program should be expanded to every school in Virginia to instill the anti-gang and anti-drug message in all young people, and to inspire them to a positive life as a productive, law-abiding citizen.
We must get more school systems to teach character and ethics in a creative way. We will systematically bring in many more successful, positive role models, like entertainers, athletes, business leaders and government officials to talk with young people about the benefits of living productive, responsible lifestyles. Guest speakers and extracurricular activities can be planned around character development themes such as integrity, honesty, respect for oneself and others, and self discipline. We will expand school-based partnerships with character building organizations, such as faith based organizations, Cal Ripken’s “Badges for Baseball,” the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Scouts, and other key groups that provide positive activities for children.
He will encourage state and local officials to start high school student leadership forums based on the successful models in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Colonial Heights.
Additionally, McDonnell will support and expand the efforts of Communities in Schools (CIS), a nonprofit organization which addresses the underlying reasons why young people drop out of school. Rather than duplicating services, a CIS mentor identifies and mobilizes existing community resources to meet the needs of young children - whether they need eyeglasses, tutoring, or nutritious food over the weekend. CIS currently operates in five Virginia school districts (Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Hampton) but not every school in those districts are covered by mentors and the program is greatly needed in other areas of the state. By working as a partnership between public schools, nonprofit organizations and the private sector, costs are minimized, while student achievement soars. Among CIS-tracked students in Richmond, 98% of eligible seniors graduated and 84% improved academic performance.
Our children must be taught the basic foundation of living a financially responsible life. Just this year the General Assembly passed legislation, patroned by Delegate Lionell Spruill, to establish educational objectives in financial literacy for middle and high schools. These lessons should include understanding basic credit, creating monthly budgets, the importance of savings, consumer loans, balancing a checkbook, economics, and avoiding credit card debt. There are many resources that can provide curriculum and training on these lessons, such as the FDIC’s free Money Smart program. As Governor, Bob McDonnell will ensure that the recent legislation is promptly and enthusiastically implemented within our schools.
McDonnell Record on Educational Excellence
As a father with two children currently enrolled in public schools, and three more that have already graduated from Virginia’s public schools, Bob McDonnell knows firsthand the importance of our Commonwealth’s education system. As a legislator and Attorney General, Bob McDonnell continually supported and invested in our education system. As Attorney General, he clarified that net lottery proceeds are required to be spent on public education. He also supported numerous bills to ensure school safety as well as advocated for parental choice for their children’s education.
In 1998, McDonnell co-sponsored HB 543 that authorized the establishment of charter schools in Virginia, and supported legislation in 1999, 2000, and 2004 to improve the statute.
Bob McDonnell was heavily involved in the effort last spring to save the hundred-year-old Saint Joseph School, the first Catholic school to be certified by the Virginia Board of Education and the only one in Petersburg, where most public schools lack accreditation. The financially strapped school would close unless they could raise $1 million in a month. Bob raised money from his supporters and co-workers, and called state press attention to the school. Saving this school was vital to offering families in Petersburg a positive choice for their children to receive a quality education