Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Good New and Some Bad News

The last several days have been a mixed bag at the General Assembly. Today the House Finance Committee reported the Senate tax credit bill by a vote of 12 to 8. It will take a major miracle for this bill not to pass the House. Unlike Delegate Massie's tax credit bill which has passed the House, the Senate tax credit bill sponsored by Senator Stanley has a lower threshold for students who qualify for a scholarship, 200% of poverty versus 300% in the House bill. The Senate bill also includes special education students in addition to low income students. The Senate bill allows individuals as well as corporations to get the tax credit. Lastly, the Senate bill allows $25 million in tax credits versus $10 million in the House version. The House version is before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning. We would not be surprised if the committee amended the House bill to make it identical to the Senate version.

Both houses of the General Assembly have passed their own versions of a bill amending the charter school law. While we are far from happy with the final product, we were able to get both bills amended to make them less objectionable. The bills as introduced would have required a school board to let a charter school use or purchase any vacant or unused buildings or land owned by the school board. The revised bills now make the use or purchase property a matter of negotiation between the school board and charter school. However, both of the bills still have a requirement that the charter school receive 90% of the per pupil local and state SOQ funding. The Secretary of Education testified that all charter schools in Virginia receive more than 90%. It is entirely possible, therefore, that 90% will become both the floor and the ceiling of charter school funding. The charter school bills are in conference so we are still at risk that additional harmful provisions can still be inserted into the final version.

We are still working hard on the bills relating to the funding of full-time virtual school funding. As originally drafted the bills would have required a school system that does not contract with a vendor to provide a virtual school program to send the state and local SOQ funds up to $6500 to another school division that provides a virtual school education to one of its students. We are happy to report these bills are undergoing substantial revisions that lessen the effect of these bills. However, these bills are still alive in some form and these can change at any time.

On the good news front, a much needed bill is receiving favorable treatment in the General Assembly. A bill sponsored by Delegate Bulova provides that student records can be self-authenicated by school personnel. I know what you are thinking - what does this have to do with the price of eggs. Ask any of your principals about how much time is lost because a school employee has to sit in the court house waiting to be called just to testify that the copies of the student records which have already been turned over to the attorneys, normally in a custody case, are true and correct copies of the originals. This bill will eliminate the need for a school board employee to go to court to authenicate records.