Sunday, January 23, 2011

Highlights After the First Full Week of the GA Session

We are a week and a half - or twelve days - into the 45 day General Assembly Session.  We are following nearly 200 education related bills.  Below we have highlighted the status of several important bills that were acted upon this week.   
65% Solution – HB 1416 (Del. Loupassi) was narrowly passed by the House Friday on a vote of 48Y-46N.  The bill is identical to one that passed the House last year by a vote of 63Y-35N.  The bill would require school boards to allocate at least 65% of their operating budget to “instructional spending” and it would require the Board of Education to define what constitutes "instructional spending."  We will continue to oppose the bill in the Senate, where it was killed last year.     
Judicial review of school board actions – We reported earlier in the week that SB 840, which would greatly expand the ability of parents (even parents of children who do not attend the public schools) to bring court actions to challenge school board decisions, was not reported out of subcommittee.  The bill was killed by the full Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday.  Interestingly, an identical bill was introduced in the House on Friday (HB 2525) by Dels. Keam and Hugo.  We will oppose the House bill just as we opposed the Senate bill. 
Failing to Stop at a School Bus – HB 1469 (Del. Surovell) was incorporated into HB 2043 (del. Anderson).  Both bills correct the unintentional removal of an operative word from the Code that caused some courts to dismiss charges for passing stopped school buses.  See our blog post on this topic here.  It may soon be unlawful in Virginia to pass a stopped school bus! 
Two bills introduced by Del. Kory, HB 1548 and HB 1583, were stricken at her request.  HB 1548 would have required principals to notify a student’s parents of every violation of school board policy entered in the student’s scholastic record.  HB 1583 would have required the Board of Education to make available the nutritional content of all food served in school breakfast and lunch programs.   
Required Training for Teachers and Aides Working with Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders - HB 1720 (Del. Massie) would require teachers who have primary responsibility for working with students with autism spectrum disorders to demonstrate proficiency in student behavior management.  In addition, the bill would require school divisions to provide 80 hours of training in student behavior management to any aide assigned to work with a teacher who has primary responsibility for students with an autism spectrum disorder.  This bill was reported out of the Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee with a recommendation that it be referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  A similar bill was reported out of the House Education Committee last year and was defeated in the House Appropriations Committee. 
Statewide Uniform Grading Policy – HB 2044 (Del. Anderson) would require the Board of Education to establish a statewide uniform grading policy.  The Students and Daycare Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be passed by with a letter recommended that a study be conducted by the Board of Education. 
Fees for AP and IB Tests – HB 2082 (Del. Kory) would prohibit school boards from charging a fee for AP or IB tests, if such tests are required for academic credit.  The bill was passed by indefinitely by the subcommittee.