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Votes

Week In Arlington

Compromise On Education Standoff Offered

Three Northern Virginia representatives proposed a bill last week that could end a standoff between the Department of Education and several local school divisions over English-language testing.

U.S. Reps. Tom Davis (R-11) and Jim Moran (D-8) and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) introduced legislation in the House and the Senate that would exempt school divisions from federal sanctions if they don't comply with certain parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The confrontation between federal and local authorities began when Virginia school divisions, including Fairfax County and Arlington County Public Schools, refused a federal demand to test foreign language speaking students at grade level in English.

The Department of Education requires all students to be tested at grade level as part of No Child Left Behind. But the school divisions said that it is unfair to give a student a test they could not read.

Arlington County School Board Chair Libby Garvey went as far as calling the federal demands, "Educational malpractice," in an interview earlier this month.

"Imagine yourself going to Mongolia," she said. "You’ve been there for a year and [then] you have to take an eighth grade test in Mongolian. It’s absolutely ridiculous."

The Department of Education threatened to withhold federal funds from school divisions that did not test its non-English speakers with a federally approved test.

Other Virginia lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), also co-sponsored the legislation. It would allow school divisions to avoid sanctions if they had an approved English test in 2005 and if the governor of their state certifies that the division can't effectively train educators on a new test.

"This legislation gives schools and teachers the breathing room necessary to recover and comply with the inflexible No Child Left Behind law," said Moran, whose district covers Arlington County, in a statement. "Our children shouldn't be the one's being punished for arbitrary decision-making at the Department of Education."

Suspect In Chain Of Burglaries Is Apprehended

Police suspect George Perez Levenberry, a 45-year-old man arrested for breaking into a home last week, was the man responsible for a chain of almost 30 burglaries in north Arlington dating back to August of last year.

The burglaries were occurring in homes located in the First Police District which stretches north of Arlington Boulevard and west of Glebe Road.

Police said that the thief usually struck during daylight hours and took jewelry, small electronic devices, televisions, cash and checkbooks.

"In one of the cases," Arlington County Police spokesman Steve Gomez said in an interview last month, "A woman was sleeping in the house and heard the knocking but didn’t answer the door. She hid in the closet while they ransacked her house."

Levenberry was arrested last week when police said he broke into a home in the Arlington Forest neighborhood at approximately 10 a.m.

The home was unoccupied but when the resident returned, Levenberry ran out the back door according to police. Police credit the resident’s quick call to 911 for their ability to apprehend Levenberry.

Arlington Chairman Slams Energy Bill

Arlington County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson (D) criticized a controversial energy bill last week that was passed by the Virginia General Assembly.

The bill would allow the State Corporation Commission to regulate Dominion Virginia Power with certain limitations. The bill has been referred to as an example of "re-regulation" because it is a move away from the deregulation trend that the state began in 1999.

Ferguson said that, if enacted, the bill would be environmentally unfriendly because it does not set standards high enough to encourage Dominion to use more renewable energy sources.

"This bill does not have incentives [for] reducing demands of traditional power," Ferguson said in a conference call with other reporters. "If this bill is going to be voluntary, we really need to raise the target levels."

The bill contained a clause that would force Dominion to work towards increasing its use of renewable energy by 6 percent by the year 2022 but Ferguson called this "laughable. I would like to see us get well over 50 percent by that time."

He also said that the bill would negate any environmental initiatives put forward by local governments by encouraging Dominion to build coal and nuclear power plants.

"You’re starting to see in Northern Virginia more and more localities coming up with emission reduction plans taking on the issue of global warming," Ferguson said. "All these efforts will be for naught if this bill goes through which increases traditional power… [the] bill would create incentives to create more traditional power plants which is what we need to get away from."

The bill, sponsored by Del. Clarke Hogan (R-60) and State Sen. Thomas Norment (R-3), was passed in the General Assembly by large margins and is currently awaiting action by Governor Timothy Kaine (D).

Ruebner Running Again

Local activist Josh Ruebner accepted the Green Party’s nomination for the Arlington County Board last week.

Ruebner is the third candidate to have entered the race along with former School Board Member Mary Hynes (D) and Maywood Civic Association president Mike McMenamin (R). Ruebner, as well as McMenamin, ran an unsuccessful campaign for County Board last year. He ran on the Green Party ticket and received 5 percent of the countywide vote.

Ruebner said in a statement that, locally, "[T]he Green Party is working hard to promote affordable housing and stop the planned widening of I-66. I look forward to raising these issues and more during my campaign."

He also said that, even though he was unsuccessful in his bid last year, he feels confident that he will grow on his performance this year.

"I feel like I have a lot more experience and knowledge of the issues and can speak to them in a more in-depth way," Ruebner said. "[Also] we got thousands of votes [last year] so now we have a much bigger base of support."

There will be two County Board seats on the ballot this year. Current Board Vice-Chair Walter Tejada (D) will be seeking re-election and the other seat will be vacant due to Chairman Paul Ferguson’s (D) decision to seek the Clerk of Court seat.

So far, Ruebner is the only candidate to have been officially nominated by a political party. While Hynes and McMenamin are both currently running unopposed for their party’s nomination, the filing deadline for County Board candidates to be entered in the primary election is April 13. If necessary, primaries will be held June 12.

Correction

In the March 14 article, "Changes in Store for Wilson School, Career Center," Stan Karson is referred to as the president of the neighborhood association in which the Wilson School is located. Karson is the president of the Radnor Heights/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association but the school is located in boundaries of the North Rosslyn Civic Association, whose president is Mark Antell.