Wednesday, January 11, 2012

VSBA President Joan Wodiska Remarks on Governor McDonnell's Education Agenda

Prepared Remarks for the Honorable Joan E. Wodiska
President, Virginia School Boards Association
Governor McDonnell’s Education Agenda 2012
January 9, 2012

“On behalf of the over 800 school board members of the Virginia School Boards Association, Governor McDonnell and Secretary Fornash thank you for inviting me to be here today.

Every day Virginia’s public schools are filled with amazing and inspirational stories of student success.  Governor, thank you for recognizing our achievements.  Yet, school board members also understand that given the challenges of the new economy our schools must continually improve, innovate, and evolve to ensure that every student succeeds and is prepared for college, careers, or life. 

Virginia students no longer compete against students from Maryland or North Carolina, our students, our workers, our businesses, compete in a global economy.   In this high stakes game, we cannot afford to lose.  Every student, regardless of race, gender, language, income, disability or zip code needs and deserves a world-class public education.  

Governor McDonnell, I applaud your courage and leadership in calling for a full repeal of the Labor Day Law.   Your action today is an exciting and uplifting signal of support for Virginia’s students.   For many, many, many years, the Virginia School Boards Association’s top legislative priority has been to abolish the Labor Day Law.  Virginia School Board members strongly and loudly support your request for a full repeal. 

This year, 77 of the 132 school divisions were allowed through a cumbersome, costly, labor intensive paperwork process to start school before the Labor Day.  Many more school divisions want the much needed flexibility to start school as they see fit, but are prohibited from doing so or unable to secure a waiver. 

Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law.  This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated, and unnecessary state mandate.  In fact, today, the State Labor Day Law directly conflicts with Virginia’s economic and educational goals.   It must be repealed. 

Governor, I am also proud to announce that the Task Force on Local Mandates, comprised of city and county local leaders of which I am a part, also unanimously supports and recommends the full repeal of the Labor Day Law.   Local leaders from all across the state, including tourism dependent communities, want this law repealed to regain control of their school calendars.

VSBA calls on all Virginia legislators to stand with the Governor, school board members, local leaders, and the Task Force on Local Mandates:  fully repeal the Labor Day Law this session.  

In the words of the deeply valued educators from my own community, the City of Falls Church, “make no excuses when it comes to our children.”  Just get it done.

Governor, school board members also want to thank and recognize you for your ongoing commitment to end childhood hunger.  VSBA recently launched, “Food for Thought,” a statewide effort to educate, engage, and empower school board members to end childhood hunger and improve the quality of school meals.  School board members wholeheartedly agree with you Governor, that no matter how rigorous the curriculum, how modern our school buildings, or how well-prepared the staff, a hungry child simply cannot learn.  Thank you for making and keeping childhood hunger a key priority in your Administration.

I also want to thank you and your staff for your ongoing outreach to school board members and VSBA.  Already our discussions have produced notable achievements for Virginians, such as the recent online learning legislation and the strengthening of the charter school law.  We look forward to continuing to work together to tackle other difficult issues such as reforming the Virginia Retirement System to eliminate the swings in state and local payments by providing a stable, planned payment structure.   In addition, we look forward to future action to reduce state paperwork to give teachers, administrators, and all school staff more time to spend helping students.

In closing, the road to economic recovery, job creation, and good paying jobs for all Virginias in paved by a high-quality, educated citizenry.   These remain challenging times to govern and resources are scarce for everyone, but inherent in our shared challenge is an opportunity to chart a new vision of public education for all Virginians.   Working together, we can ensure that every Virginia student succeeds and that our economy continues to grow.  

Governor, thank you for the great honor to join you today.”