NORFOLK (AP) -- A Norfolk judge has ruled that a law allowing the state to take over chronically failing public schools is unconstitutional.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Circuit Judge Charles Poston ruled Tuesday in favor of the Virginia School Boards Association and the Norfolk School Board, which filed the lawsuit challenging creation of the Opportunity Educational Institution. The state-run institution was slated to take control of six schools that were denied state accreditation in Norfolk, Petersburg and Alexandria.

The state could appeal the ruling.

The law was a key component of former Gov. Bob McDonnell's education reform agenda. The General Assembly passed the measure in 2013 but provided only $150,000 in state funds - a quarter of what McDonnell requested.

Governor Terry McAuliffe released the following statement following a Norfolk Circuit Court Judge's ruling in the lawsuit regarding the Virginia Opportunity Educational Institution:

'My team and I are evaluating today's ruling and will make a decision about next steps soon. Regardless of today's ruling, Secretary Anne Holton, Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Staples and my entire administration are committed to working in a collaborative way with local school divisions and the Board of Education to improve outcomes in all communities, and particularly in our struggling schools. We absolutely have to do better by the children in these schools.

'Reducing the achievement gap is a top priority for me and my entire team. It will require working together with the Virginia Department of Education, local school divisions, other state and local agencies and communities to ensure our youngsters have the best chance for success. Part of our effort will include continuing the bipartisan effort to reform our existing Standards of Learning system to better serve all of our students. Our Standards of Learning Innovation Committee will begin its work this summer.

'Secretary of Education Anne Holton and Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Staples will be working with other state and local partners to get all of our priority schools on the right track.'

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