For 1st Time, House Backs Bill To Allow Election of Some School Boards in Va.

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For the first time in the 16 consecutive years it has been introduced, a bill to allow popular election of some Virginia school boards has cleared the House.

Virginia is the only state that does not permit any elected school boards. Instead, board members are appointed, either by circuit judges or members of local governing boards.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate David G. Brickley, a Northern Virginia Democrat, would allow voters in Virginia Beach, Newport News, and York, Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties to decide whether to elect school-board members.

The measure passed the House last week on a 64-to-33 vote, but could face a tough fight in the Senate, according to its sponsor.

"I just believe that it is important that our citizens have direct access to our school-board members, and that direct access can only be achieved through an elected body," Mr. Brickley said.

"I am not suggesting, nor have I ever, that the educational quality will somehow be miraculously heightened by the passage of this legislation," he continued, "but there certainly should be much greater responsiveness to the community and the citizens through the passage of this legislation.

In 1947, the legislature passed a measure allowing popularly elected school boards. Arlington County was the only jurisdiction to install such a board, and it was invalidated in the mid-1950's after board members refused to go along with the state's policy of "massive resistance" to school desegregation.

The current legislation is backed by the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia Taxpayers Association, and the Virginia Parent-Teacher Association, Mr. Brickley added. It is opposed, however, by the Virginia School Boards Association,L8which argues that the current sys

In opposing the bill, the association has raised several issues, including whether elected school boards also should be given the power to levy taxes, and whether elected school boards would include as many women and minority memL bers as do appointed boards.

Mr. King said that if elected school boards are not given taxing power, then lawmakers should con sider some type of "political account ability" for elected boards. He said that could include requiring that members be chosen from the same political districts from which other representatives are elected.

Giving school boards the power to tax would require a constitutional amendment.--ab

Vol. 10, Issue 19

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