© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Youngkin’s lab school board advances more applications

College Partnership Laboratory Schools Standing Committee Chair Joan Wodiska (right) and Dr. Pam Moran at a meeting of the committee on Oct. 3, 2023 in downtown Richmond.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
College Partnership Laboratory Schools Standing Committee Chair Joan Wodiska (right) and Dr. Pam Moran at a meeting of the committee on Oct. 3, 2023 in downtown Richmond.

Governor Glenn Youngkin’s college-linked laboratory school programs saw two more applicants get closer to the $100 million in start-up funds Tuesday.

A joint program from Germanna and Laurel Ridge Community Colleges and another from the University of Mary Washington got the okay from state officials to continue the application process. Both aim to open up pipelines to train teachers, which would then return to their local school districts.

“We saw magic happen today,” said College Partnership Laboratory Schools Standing Committee Chair Joan Wodiska after the two programs joined a program from James Madison University in their first steps in the approval process.

Approved by the legislature in 2022, lab schools are similar to charter schools, with Youngkin claiming they offer “innovative” education options for students. A Republican version of the effort required no input from local school boards, but the program was approved after some kind of collaboration between lab schools and school boards was demanded by Democrats.

At issue is the funding model used to keep the new lab schools open. Virginia has traditionally — and constitutionally —empowered school boards to hold the purse of funds distributed by the legislature. But lab schools, like charter schools, aim to circumvent school board oversight and funding. And while funding access isn’t expected to change, at least one of the programs approved Tuesday promised such collaboration.

“Our K-12 divisions actually came to Laurel Ridge and said we want you to train the next generation of teachers and we want this partnership,” said assistant to Germanna community college president Taylor Landrie.

Landrie, working with Laurel Ridge and local school board partners, aims to create a dual enrollment program that allows students to utilize the community college’s educational resources to help them get hands-on learning experience and hasten their process of becoming a teacher.

And while they aim to open multiple funding streams, Landrie said the school boards were willing to foot the bill if the money ran out. That’s in part because those trained in the program are expected to come back and teach in the local schools for at least two years.

“They’re investing in the next cadre of teachers who are coming and will fill those gaps in their divisions,” Landrie said.

And as Virginia faces record-setting teacher shortages, much of Tuesday’s meeting involved praise for the program and, if deemed successful, a desire to see it replicated.

For Mary Washington, which plans to run a 400-student facility that focuses on training future STEM teachers, it was a donated building that helped seal the deal.

“The fact that they’re providing facilities, permanent facilities, absolutely speaks to their sustainability,” said Wodiska.

The Mary Washington program also suggested a cost-per-student between $8,500 and $10,500, nearly $3,000 less than the state’s average per-student allotment.

Wodiska said conversations about funding from state, local, and federal sources are all on the table when it comes to these new lab school programs. Details on how they would work with school boards is part of the application process, and notably the committee agreed to ask for more specifics from applicants on sustainability during Tuesday’s meeting.

Over 20 Virginia state colleges, including some Historically Black Colleges, are expected to apply for the program. Youngkin has said he’d like to see one lab school in each of the state’s eight school divisions. Any applications must be approved by June 2024 when the program’s funding expires.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.