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Local: Education

Virginia Senate kills right-to-work, charter school amendments

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Local,Virginia,Education,Steve Contorno

The Virginia Senate narrowly killed a pair of constitutional amendments dealing with two perennial Republican favorites: right-to-work and charter schools.

Sen. Dick Black, R-Leesburg, proposed giving constitutional protection to tough right-to-work measures that prevent union membership from being a condition of employment. But it fell one vote short of the necessary 21 votes needed to advance after all 20 of the chamber's Democrats voted against it.

Virginia is already a right-to-work state with a relatively weak union presence. While Republicans said the amendment merely guaranteed those rights, Democrats said it was unnecessary.

"This has nothing to do with good, bad and indifferent practices," Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said. "This is resume building."

Democrats also helped defeat a constitutional amendment from Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, that would have created more opportunities to open charter schools in the state. After a long debate, the measure failed 20 to 19 after Democratic Sen. Chap Petersen of Fairfax County abstained from voting.

Obenshain, a candidate for attorney general, said the state needed to find ways to give parents choices if their local school district is failing to meet their child's needs.

"The states that have great experience with charter schools really do cross the political divide," Obenshain said. "Some of the most successful are in bright blue states."

But opponents said Virginia already had one of the best education systems in the country and contend that charter schools would take money away from underfunded K-12 public schools.

"There are things that we can do," Saslaw said. "It's not perfect. You're not going to fix them for free. You need to realize that. But this is not the way to fix them."

Constitutional amendments must pass both chambers in successive years and get approval from the governor and voters in a referendum to go into affect.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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