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Bill to End A-F Accountability Before It Begins Advances in Virginia

Nearly two years ago, former Florida governor Jeb Bush visited Virginia to tout the benefits of an A-F state accountability system for public schools. Later in 2013, with the support of then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, the state did pass such a bill.

But at the start of 2015, Bush has stepped away from the K-12 advocacy group he founded, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, in order to explore a White House bid; McDonnell is headed to prison next month; and Virginia is moving closer to repealing the 2013 law approving A-F accountability, which the state never actually put into place. 

Legislation to discard the A-F system in the Old Dominion was approved by a Virginia Senate subcommittee on a 3-2 vote Jan. 19. The measure was introduced by Republican Sen. Richard Black, and has the support of Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the AP reported. The bill isn't complicated; all it does is call for the repeal of the A-F law on the books, with no strings or tangential language attached.

Last year, the legislature agreed to delay the start of giving schools letter grades until 2016. But Black introduced his bill because, he said, students at schools receiving F grades would be unfairly stigmatized, and such schools would find recruiting new teachers very difficult. 

Remember, the state-run district for low-performing schools that McDonnell also approved in 2013, the Opportunity Educational Institution, was struck down by a Virginia circuit court following a legal challenge by local school boards, my colleague Denisa Superville reported last year. 

Black's legislation, Senate Bill 727, still has a long way to go before it reaches McAuliffe's desk. But the bill's advance is a reminder that just because a policy enjoys a high profile doesn't mean it's guaranteed a long life. 

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