Virginia wants to get innovative with lab schools

Virginia wants to get innovative with lab schools

Working with universities, lab schools develop and test new ways of learning

Around the country, parents are thinking about education differently. They want to have the opportunity to choose the best school for their children instead of having a traditional district school be the sole option.

Education is a top priority for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is pushing to provide more educational options for parents in Virginia. Recently, he gathered leaders of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities to discuss creating “lab schools.” Lab schools are innovative K-12 schools that partner with institutions of higher learning and allow for the development and testing of new educational models.

“Through partnerships with colleges and universities and their local school divisions, we can create learning environments that engage students in hands-on learning,” Youngkin said in a news conference. “Let’s think outside the box. … We are not defining the solution but opening up all available avenues to be innovative.”

Currently, lab schools are only allowed in Virginia if the school serves as a de facto training ground for a university with a teacher education program. There are currently no such schools operating in the commonwealth, which provides an opportunity to update Virginia’s approach to lab schools.

“I do see this opportunity for us to bring businesses who have particular training or long-term needs for workforce to actually give advice or counsel for what kind of curriculum might best fit,” Youngkin said. “This is a chance for us to tap into all kinds of good ideas, and I know it’s hard to believe sometimes but some of them actually come from the business community.”

Youngkin emphasized that this would expand opportunity to more students as well as to more institutions of higher learning, saying that he began working on this idea after meeting with Hampton University President William Harvey, one of the commonwealth’s historically black colleges and universities. To achieve this, he is requesting $150 million from the commonwealth’s budget, some or all of which local school boards could then use to implement the program.

“Education is the gateway to opportunity,” Youngkin said in a statement. “An educated Virginian has a limitless future. And we are about creating future opportunities for every young Virginian. Reestablishing expectations of excellence, funding in the largest education budget, investing in teachers, special education, and localities to invest in facilities.”

As part of the public school system, Youngkin said he expects bipartisan support for the lab school bills currently in committee in the House of Delegates and the Senate. He has said his goal is to create 20 such schools in Virginia.

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