Sunday, January 30, 2011

Important Bills Coming Up This Week - Physical Education, Vouchers, and Paraprofessional Training

Two significant physical education bills are winding their way through their respective houses of introduction, HB 1644 (Del. O'Bannon) and SB 966 (Sen. Northam).  Both would require school boards to provide 150 minutes a week of physical education (not health) to every elementary and middle school student.  Advocates for the bills argue that this should not cause a problem because if we do not have enough physical education teachers, we can use regular classroom teachers to provide the phys ed.   You and your superintendent need to determine whether your school system can comply with this requirement should it pass.  In discussing it, please remember that we only get funding for 1 resource teacher per 1,000 elementary school students and no funding for resource teachers in middle school.  Phys ed teachers are considered resource teachers, along with music, art, foreign language and library personnel.  Complying with this requirement may mean the demise of your resource teachers and the subjects they teach.  You might also consider how you will provide elementary teachers with the state mandated 30 minute planning time per day.  When the mandate was passed it was argued that the teachers could do their planning when the resource teachers to the class.  Something has to give.

Among the significant bills we expect to come up this week are Delegate Jimmie Massie's school voucher bill (HB 2314) and his bill requiring 80 hours of training for paraprofessionals (aides) who work with students with autism (HB 1720).  Both bills are being touted as having no fiscal impact. The voucher bill will draw tax revenues away from the general fund of the state budget.  The school systems will have to pick up the tab for the aide training. Even if the courses are made available for free, which is not free from doubt, we still must pay for substitutes for the aides while they take the courses or pay the aides overtime for taking the courses.  This is no free lunch.