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Va. education board approves Old Dominion as fiscal agent for five lab schools

Old Dominion University’s campus in Norfolk. (Photo courtesy of ODU)
Old Dominion University’s campus in Norfolk. (Photo courtesy of ODU)

This story was reported and written by our media partner the Virginia Mercury.

On Friday, the Virginia Board of Education approved lab school applications for five colleges, with Old Dominion University acting as fiscal agent for all of them.

Old Dominion’s Lab School Network will comprise nine schools, representing a portion of the 15 school applications the board approved, the first of which, Virginia Commonwealth University’s lab school, opened in January.

The colleges and universities that have received approval from the state will offer specialized instruction in areas such as computer science and technology. Lab school admission is based on a lottery system.

ODU’s lab school collaboration will “expand high-quality educational opportunities for their students,” and has “expanded the definition of what it means to be a fiscal agent, in part going above and beyond in multiple different ways,” said Grace Creasey, president of the Virginia Board of Education, during a work session before Friday’s vote.

Last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and lawmakers agreed to a state budget requiring private and two-year institutions to partner with public institutions to obtain their respective lab school funding from the state.

The governor’s administration, which has supported the establishment of lab schools — institutions similar to charter schools — has gone back and forth with the General Assembly over whether state law allows lab school applications from both private and public institutions to be considered.

The administration, with support from the attorney’s general office, previously said that state law does not prohibit the lab school committee from accepting applications from all institutions. However, the legislature disagreed. Opponents, including state Democrats, have repeatedly said the schools take away from public school funding.

Due to the budgetary decision, five schools — Emory & Henry and Roanoke Colleges, and Mountain Gateway, Paul D. Camp and Germanna Community Colleges — chose to resubmit their applications. The schools’ applications were previously rejected by the lab school committee because they are private and two-year institutions..

Applications are reviewed by the department and review committee before reaching the board. The groups review such areas as lab school curriculum details and budget assumptions.

The five newly approved lab schools will use the rest of the state’s lab school funds in the current budget, expiring June 30. Gov. Youngkin had proposed $60 million for lab schools over the next two years but the legislature declined to add the funds to the spending plan they and Youngkin signed off on last month.

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