Gov. Glenn Youngkin seeks to expand lab schools and charter schools in Virginia
Gov. Glenn Youngkin Lab School Event January 27 2022.png

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an agreement with colleges and universities that are willing to partner with public schools to expand lab schools in the Commonwealth.

“Education is the gateway to opportunity,” Gov. Youngkin said on Thursday. “We are going to bring lab schools in a big way to the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

But first, you might be wondering what is a lab school?

“It is a new school or a converted existing school that partners with a university, with a college, with a community college to focus on innovative curriculum,” Gov. Youngkin explained. “It could have a particular focus like STEM or literacy. It could focus on a particular skill or an industry like the skilled trades or maritime industry, or technology. It could have a unique approach to serving underserved communities. Some of the most successful lab schools have focused on students with disabilities.”

To achieve his goal of creating 20 new lab schools, Gov. Youngkin is backing a bill that would eliminate certain restrictions that prohibit the expansion of some lab schools in Virginia. And the governor’s lab school plan would require the Virginia Board of Education to give “substantial preference” to historically black colleges and universities to establish lab schools in underserved communities. The bills are House Bill 346 and Senate Bill 598.

“I don’t care if you call them lab schools or charter schools,” Gov. Youngkin said. “It’s time for us to innovate K-12 education.”

“Governor Youngkin said himself: Call them whatever you would like, call them whatever you like, well yea, we are going to call it just what it is: Siphoning off funds from public schools,” said Virginia Senate Democrat Louise Lucas.

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Sen. Lucas may derail the governor’s plans. She is opposed to charter school expansion in Virginia.

“The money follows the child,” Sen. Lucas told 7News. “I don’t care how you look at, if that’s the case, then that money is going to come out of public education.”

Gov. Youngkin said he’ll increase funding for public education. But, Senate Democrats are skeptical.

“Where does the funding come from?” Sen. Lucas asked. “I want to know how he is going to pay for it without taking money out of public education. I want to see that plan.”

The governor answered that question on Thursday.

“We have plenty of money in the system in order to fund this,” Gov. Youngkin said. “One of the big elements of our day one plan is the recognition that Virginia is running big surpluses right now and is projected to run surpluses for a long time. Therefore, that gives us a chance to reduce taxes and I think that’s very important for us to compete today and reduce the burdens that are placed on Virginians and the ever-increasing cost of living. It gives us a chance to invest in education, to invest and keep our communities safe, to invest and make sure we have a thriving economy.”

The governor’s plan includes a budget amendment that would invest $150 million into lab schools and charter schools. The budget amendment was submitted last week. The money will first need approval by lawmakers.

“There is strong bipartisan support,” Gov. Youngkin said. “We fully expect it to pass.”

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