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McDonnell, Jindal Tout Education Reforms

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(credit: Thinkstock)

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RICHMOND, Va. — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday that education reforms that have produced results in his state can also work in Virginia.

Jindal was in Richmond for U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s fundraiser, so Gov. Bob McDonnell took the opportunity to have his fellow Republican talk about grading schools on an A-to-F scale and allowing the state to take over chronically failing schools.

Both have been implemented in Louisiana, and they are key components of McDonnell’s education agenda in the General Assembly. They have cleared both chambers, although it took a tie-breaking vote by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to get the bills through the Senate.

“The time for tolerance for failing schools is over,” McDonnell said at a news conference. “That’s what’s driven a lot of our reforms this session.”

Louisiana’s statewide Recovery School District served as the model for McDonnell’s proposal to create an Opportunity Education Institution to take over failing schools. The Virginia legislation would establish an 11-member board to try to turn around schools that fail to meet accreditation standards at least two years in a row. McDonnell said six schools currently would be eligible for takeover.

In contrast, Louisiana’s Recovery School District oversees 80 schools — 68 of them in New Orleans, where the state took over most schools after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some are directly operated by the recovery district, while others are run as charter schools managed by independent organizations.

Jindal said 77 percent of students in New Orleans were attending failing schools before Katrina. That’s been reduced to 29 percent, he said.

However, New Orleans schools run by the Recovery School District still have a D grade on average while those outside of New Orleans received an F in the latest round of grades released in October.

“We’re not where we want to be but have made great progress in seven years,” Jindal said.

Jindal is frequently praised for the Recovery School District, but it actually was created by former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. Jindal has pushed for an expanded role for the district and charter schools, and he is responsible for implementation of the A-to-F grading scale in Louisiana.

“We used to have a star system that was very confusing,” Jindal said.

That’s the same criticism McDonnell has for Virginia’s system of rating schools as accredited, accredited with warning or not accredited. He claims a grading scale that parents already understand because of the report cards will encourage them to become more involved in the schools. Jindal agrees.

“This is all about empowering parents,” he said.

A week ago, McDonnell also had former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush join him on a conference call with reporters to talk about that state’s experience with an A-to-F grading scale.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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