Sunday, January 30, 2011

Highlights from the Second Full Week of the General Assembly Session

We are now 19 days into the 45-day session.  Things really heated up this past week at the GA as we count down to crossover on February 8.  Below are highlights on some of the most important bills we are following this session.      

House Education Committee and Subcommittees
HB 2525 (Dels. Keam and Hugo) was passed by indefinitely by the Teachers and Administrative Action subcommittee of the House Education Committee on Thursday. HB 2525 was identical to SB 840 which was killed in the Senate Education and Health Committee last week. Both bills, which we opposed, would have greatly expanded the ability of parents, including parents of children who do not attend the public schools, to bring court actions to challenge school board decisions.
Three generally applicable school opening bills, HB 1433 (Del. Greason), HB 1543 (Del. Kory), and HB 2008 (LeMunyon) were considered by the Teachers and Administrative Action subcommittee on Thursday. All three bills failed. Two more specific school opening bills, HB 1480 (Del. Cleaveland) and HB 1537 (Del. Merricks), each relating to a particular school division or divisions, also failed. HB 1483 (Del. Cleaveland), however, which grants an automatic waiver for any school division that is entirely surrounded by school divisions that have been granted a waiver to open prior to Labor Day, was recommended for reporting by the subcommittee. All of the school opening bills were fiercely opposed by the tourism and hospitality industries.
A bill that would have allowed school divisions to substitute "supervised instructional time" for recess in order to make up for days instruction time to inclement weather (HB 2241 - Del. Torian) also failed in subcommittee.
HB 1548 (Del. Kory) was amended in subcommittee. The bill, as amended, would require school principals to notify the parents of a student who violates school board policy if the violation is "likely" to result in suspension or the filing of a compulsory attendance petition. (Before the amendments, the bill would have required parental notification every time a violation was entered on a student's scholastic record.) The bill, as amended, was recommended for reporting by the Students and Day Care subcommittee.
Del. Englin's HB 1575 on bullying was tabled by the subcommittee so that the issues could be studied. HJ 625 (Del. R. B. Bell), a study resolution regarding antibullying, was recommended for reporting by the House Rules subcommittee on studies.
HB 1550 (Del. Englin), which would have required textbook publishers to be certified by the Board of Education, was passed by in the full House Education Committee.
HB 2077 (Del. Landes) would amend the Code sections regarding secure testing to make it a violation of test security to exclude from testing students who are required to be assessed. Currently, test security violations include allowing unauthorized access to the tests, copying or disclosing the contents of the tests, altering the tests or responses, making an answer key, or making a false certification regarding test security. These violations could result in, among other things, civil penalties up to $1,000 per violation. The bill was amended to make clear that students enrolled in the public schools could not be subject to civil penalties.

Senate Education and Health Committee

SB 1320 (Sen. Obenshain) regarding charter school employees was passed by indefinitely by the Senate Committee on Education and Health.  See our post here for more about this bill.

SB 946 (Sen. Howell) regarding video monitoring systems for school buses was reported by Senate Committee on Education and Health.  See our post here for more about this bill.  

SB 967 (Sen. Northam) requires every school division to implement a family life education curriculum.  Under current law, school boards may, but are not required to, teach Family Life.  This bill would take that choice away from local school boards.  We will continue to oppose this bill.

House Courts of Justice 

In its original form, HB 1775 (Del. Gilbert) would have required schools to inquire about the immigration status of students’ parents and then report that information to the Secretary of Education.  The Secretary would then report annually to the Governor and General Assembly the number of students whose parents were not citizens or lawful residents and the approximate cost of educating those students.  The Immigration Subcommittee of the House Committee on Courts of Justice adopted an amendment in the nature of a substitute which substantially changed the bill.  The bill, as amended, requires school boards to report to the Board of Education the number of students enrolled in ESL courses and the number of students who were enrolled without birth certificates.  The bill, as amended, was recommended for reporting by the subcommittee.