Eight health science academies up and running
While running for governor, Bob McDonnell vowed to expand educational opportunities for students seeking a career in health care.
"In cooperation with our universities and community colleges, Bob McDonnell will establish at least one Virginia health sciences high school (academy or governor's school) to specifically prepare students for further study in nursing, medical technology, pharmacy, medical equipment specialties and veterinary or medical school," his campaign said in a Sept. 10, 2009, document that laid out his health care proposals.
Last year, we looked at the governor's progress in completing this vow. McDonnell's office noted then that the General Assembly had approved his request to set aside $80,000 in grant money to help establish eight health science academies around the state.
Although the funding was secured, the academies hadn't yet been established, so we initially rated this a promise that was In The Works.
As we approach the end of McDonnell's term, we checked again on whether the governor had fulfilled this pledge.
This year, the state Board of Education approved applications to establish eight Governor's Health Sciences Academies that are up and running this school year in high schools around the state. Each of those programs received a $10,000 state planning and implementation grant to help get them started as a new state-approved academy.
The academies are run by public school systems in Chesterfield, Albemarle, Cumberland, Gloucester and Fairfax counties as well as school systems in the cities of Hampton and Newport News.
All of the newly-established academies had offered a limited number of health science courses before the state designated them a Governor's Health Sciences Academy, said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.
Being approved as a Governor's Health Sciences Academy means they all have to expand their curriculum to ensure they introduce their students to five specific health care career paths, Pyle said.
To qualify as a health science academy, the programs have to prepare students for careers in therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services and biotechnology research and development. Those career tracks include jobs that entail caring for patients, detecting diseases and finding new treatments.
A Board of Education synopsis of several the newly-established academies says they are geared to preparing students for careers in nursing, pharmacy and medical lab technology among other health care fields.
The new governor's academies also have to meet "rigorous" state standards and their students' skills are monitored each year to ensure they progress from college work to a career in health care, according to the state Board of Education.
McDonnell vowed to establish at least one health sciences high school to prepare students for a career in health care. His administration provided state money that helped establish eight health sciences academies, so we rate this a Promise Kept.
McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli focus on health care," Sept. 10, 2009.
Governor Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell announces approval of eighth governor's health science academy," June 27, 2013.
The Virginia Department of Education, "Governor's Health Science Academies," accessed Nov. 12, 2013.
Virginia Department of Education, "Established Health Science Academies," Nov. 12, 2013.
The Virginia Department of Education, "Chesterfield County Public Schools Health Sciences Academy," accessed Nov. 12, 2013.
The Virginia Department of Education, "Board of Education Approved Governor's academy application," for Chesterfield County Public Schools, May 23, 2013.
E-mails from Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, Nov. 13, 2013.
Albemarle County, "Monticello High School Academy now a governor's health services academy," Jan. 15, 2013.
Fairfax County Public Schools, "Governor's health sciences academies to be established at Falls Church, West Potomac Academies," June 12, 2013.
Virginia Department of Education's "Final review to establish the Hampton City Public Schools Governor's Health Sciences Academy," April 25, 2013.
First step taken
Running for governor in 2009, Bob McDonnell said he'd work to expand the number of health care professionals in Virginia.
He made the following promise:
"In cooperation with our universities and community colleges, Bob McDonnell will establish at least one Virginia health sciences high school (academy or governor's school) to specifically prepare students for further study in nursing, medical technology, pharmacy, medical equipment specialties and veterinary or medical school,” his campaign said in a Sept. 10, 2009, position paper.
A health sciences high school hasn't opened since McDonnell became governor in January 2010. But Taylor Thornley, a spokeswoman for the governor, said McDonnell is pursuing the goal.
She pointed to McDonnell's successful budget request this year for $80,000 in grants to establish eight health science academies around the state. The money was included in the two-year state budget that was approved by the General Assembly this month and is now on the governor's desk.
"These grants will bring together interested parties, schools and community partners to lay the groundwork for health-science-focused academies,” Thornley said.
The Virginia Department of Education plans to seek proposals this spring for half of the grant money. The cash would be awarded in $5,000 portions to a school system in each of eight regions around the state, said Charles Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.
The final plan for each academy would have to be approved by The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Board of Education. Once that's done, the Education Department would award a second round of $5,000 to each of the schools to implement the programs.
Pyle said it's hoped that the academies will open in each region at the start of the 2013.
The new programs would be modeled after Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Academies -- known as STEM Academies -- which opened in 2008 under former Gov. Tim Kaine. The state helped the first six STEM programs come up with $720,000 in start-up money -- $500,000 through a grant from the National Governors Association and the rest from federal funds. The STEM courses are offered in high schools and technology centers.
The $80,000 lawmakers approved this spring for the health science academies marks the first time the state has dedicated its own money to start a STEM program.
Pyle said the health science academies, like the STEM programs, will be local initiatives that the state helps by providing technical assistance and seed money. The academies will not receive line item appropriations in the state budget for daily operations. Localities, however, are free to dedicate a portion of the state education money they receive to the programs.
So McDonnell is making progress on his pledge to start a health sciences academy and we'll watch for the opening. For now, we'll rate this a Promise In the Works.
McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell, Bolling and Cuccinelli focus on health care,” Sept. 10 2009.
E-mails from Taylor Thornley, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, March 28-30, 2012.
Interviews and e-mails from Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, April 6 and April 19, 2012.
Gov. Tim Kaine, "Governor Kaine announces grants for first Governor"s career and technical academies,” Jan. 4, 2008.
Virginia Department of Education, "How to establish a governor"s stem academy,” accessed April 6, 2012.
C.S. Monroe Technology Center, "Introduction to health and medical sciences,” accessed April 16, 2012.
Department of Education, "Established STEM academies,” accessed April 16, 2012.
Department of Education, "Governor"s STEM academies,” accessed April 16, 2012.