Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crossover Report

This session VSBA has been working with nearly 200 bills that are directly or indirectly related to K-12 education. We have had a number of significant successes in defeating or amending unfavorable legislation and in passing favorable legislation. Below is a summary of some of the VSBA’s most significant successes thus far this session. As you will read below, however, there is much work still to do.

Defeated Legislation

Lots of legislation was defeated through the committee processes, often due to high fiscal impact. We’ve outlined just a handful of the hot topic bills that were defeated.

HB66 (Ramadan) – This legislation would have required that each school board place at least one school resource officer in every elementary and secondary school. The cost of this legislation would have been paid by the Lottery Fund with a fiscal impact of $243 million in FY15 and a recurring cost of $130 million per year. Due to the major fiscal impact, the legislation was tabled in the House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee.

HB173 (Farrell) – House Bill 173 would have prohibited a law enforcement officer or other persons to search a cell phone, tablet, laptop or computer without a search warrant. This legislation was problematic for VSBA especially given the impact it would have on school-issued tablets, laptops and desktop computers. The Courts of Justice Criminal subcommittee tabled the bill.

HB207 (D. Bell) – There was much debate and discussion about House Bill 207 in the Education and Courts of Justice subcommittees. This bill would have required the Board of Education, local school boards and school board employees to create an environment that encourages students to explore scientific controversies in the classroom and assist teachers to find effective ways to present scientific controversies in science class. Due to constitutional concerns, the bill was reported and referred by the House Education committee to the Courts of Justice committee. The bill was left in the Courts of Justice committee.

HB228 (Cole) – The amended version of this legislation would have required that a local school division provide instruction in Braille or the use of Braille to visually impaired students unless the IEP or 504 team, after an evaluation, deemed it not appropriate to meet the student’s educational needs. Additionally it would have required that the evaluation be conducted by a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). Due to the potential fiscal impact, the House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee tabled the bill.

HB513 (Morris) – This legislation would have allowed the local governing body to remove any appointed board, commission or committee member at any time for any reason. This bill was extremely problematic for our appointed school boards. Through the work of our appointed school board members and VSBA, the bill failed to report from the Counties, Cities and Towns subcommittee #1.

SB240 (Carrico) – Senate Bill 240 would have made it a misdemeanor for a principal, assistant principal or supervisor to refuse to release a student to the custodial parent. VSBA and many other groups opposed this legislation. The bill was carried over to 2015.

SB509 (Barker) – This bill would have required all school boards to offer full day kindergarten instruction of at least 5.5 hours. The bill failed in the Senate Education and Health committee on a close 7-8 vote.

HB113 (Bob Marshall) – House Bill 113 would have completely repealed last year’s Opportunity Educational Institution legislation. VSBA as well as many education stakeholder groups supported this legislation. Ultimately the bill was tabled in the House Education Reform subcommittee.

HB463 (Yost/Kilgore) – House Bill 463 was strongly supported by VSBA, VASS, VEA as well as VML and VaCo. The bill would have allowed local school boards to join the state employee health plan. After three years, the local school board would be required to make an irrevocable election whether to participate in the state employee health plan. All costs of participation would be borne by the local school board and employee of the school division. Even with strong support from all stakeholder groups, the bill failed to report from the House Appropriations Compensation and Retirement subcommittee due to the indeterminate fiscal impact.

Amended Legislation

Often problematic legislation has so much support or momentum that we cannot defeat it. This happens often with hot issues, such as student health, bullying and school safety. Below are some of the bills on which we worked for significant amendments because we did not believe they could be defeated.

HB515 (Minchew) – This legislation was significantly amended in committee and now requires principals to attempt to notify the parents of any student who violates a school board policy or compulsory school attendance requirement if the violation could result in a student’s suspension, long-term suspension or expulsion. VSBA has concerns with the language of the amended legislation because it could be construed to place a significant burden on principals to notify parents of minor infractions even when the teacher or principal has decided not to suspend the student. VSBA will continue to work to amend the legislation to avoid these unintended consequences. House Bill 515 unanimously passed the House 99-0.

HB134 (Cole) – The original House Bill 134 permits parents of public school student with diabetes to designate in a diabetes care plan a delegated care aide to provide diabetes care for the student, including the administration of insulin and glucagon, when a school nurse or physician is not present in the school or at a school-sponsored activity. The bill also required the delegated care aide to receive training in diabetes care and every school employee to receive basic training in responses to emergency situations and changes from one to two the minimum number of employees in a school that must be trained with regard to a student with diabetes who attends the school. With significant work and input from VSBA, we were able to amend the bill. The amended bill requires that a student with diabetes, with written parental and prescriber consent, be allowed to carry and use supplies and equipment for immediate treatment of their diabetes. House Bill 134 passed the House 87-12.

(Stuart) is very similar to Del. Cole’s HB134. SB532 requires training for certain staff in the administration of insulin and glucagon and the certification of the Superintendent that the requirements of Board’s Manuel for Training Public School Employees in the Administration of Insulin and Glucagon have been met. Additionally the bill requires that a student with diabetes, with written parental and prescriber consent, be allowed to carry and use supplies and equipment for immediate treatment of their diabetes. VSBA has worked with the patron to offer amendments to the bill. While some have been accepted, we still have concerns with the legislation. We will continue to work with the patron and hope to have the bill amended to conform with HB134).

HB198 (Landes) – House Bill 198 which was amended at VSBA's request, clarifies that in cases of weapons and drug offenses, the school board may, but is not required to expel the student. The bill was reported from House Education and unanimously passed the House.

SB441 (Garrett) – The amended version of Senate Bill 441, which is identical to House Bill 198, clarifies that in cases of weapons and drug offenses, the school board may, but is not required to expel the student. This bill unanimously passed the Senate.

HB449 (R. Bell) – VSBA worked with Delegate Rob Bell to amend House Bill 449. The amended version of the bill prohibits school board members or employees or the Department of Education from transmitting personally identifiable information from a student’s record to the federal government except as required by federal law or regulation. The amended House Bill 449 unanimously passed the House.

Passed Legislation

While we have spent a lot of time amending or opposing legislation, there are many bills that VSBA actively supported during the first half of session. Here are a few of the bills that passed the house of origin and are headed to the other house.

HB754 (Rust) allows the school board or a committee thereof to change a disciplinary decision made by a Superintendent or designee or hearing officer in certain circumstances. It is VSBA's position that school boards can already take such actions. The patron of the bill and the House Education committee indicated that they thought this bill would clarify existing law. House Bill 754 passed the House on a 96-2 vote.

HB751(Rust) clarifies that local school board have discretion in disciplining students for certain drug offenses. Current law requires school boards to expel students for these offenses but does allow school boards to impose another sanction if warranted by special circumstances. Under this legislation, a school board may still expel a student for drug offenses, but is not required to do so. HB752 (Rust) removes the possession of a pneumatic weapon on school grounds from the list of weapons offenses that carry a mandatory sanction of expulsion (unless, again, special circumstances exist). This bill still allows school boards to prohibit the possession of pneumatic weapons and to expel students for violating such a policy, but expulsion would no longer be required in these cases. VSBA supports both HB751 and HB752 because these bills give local school boards flexibility to decide appropriate disciplinary sanctions and to avoid the confusion of the "mandatory" expulsion that was not actually mandatory. HB751 and HB752 have passed the House and are on their way to the Senate.

HB720 (McClellan) requires local school boards to set aside a non-restroom location that is shielded from public view to be designed as an area for any mother, who is employed by the local school board or enrolled as a student, to take breaks during the school day to express milk to feed her child until the child reaches the age of one. This bill passed the House 87-9.

HB333 (Greason) is just one of the Labor Day bills before the General Assembly. This bill would repeal the so-called “King’s Dominion law” and allow local school boards to set their own calendars and determine the opening date of the school year. House Bill 333 passed the House 75-24. House Bill 610 (Robinson) is a different take on the Labor Day bill. It will allow a local school board to set their school calendar and opening date. However, the division must close schools from the Thursday before through Labor Day or Friday before through the Tuesday after Labor Day. House Bill 610 passed the House 75-24.

HB930 (Greason) reduces SOL assessments in grade 3 through 8 from 22 to 17 assessments. It requires local school boards to certify instruction and the completion of local assessments in the other Standards of Learning subject areas. Further, the bill creates the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee. The committee, led by the Secretary of Education, will include a variety of stakeholders that are tasked to make recommendations on the Standards of Learning assessments, authentic individual student growth measures and alignment between the Standards of Learning and assessments and the School Performance Report Card. The bill also allows the Board of Education to make future further reductions in the number of SOL assessments in grades 3 through 11. House Bill 930 unanimously passed the House 99-0.

HB1115 (Greason) expands Virtual Virginia by authorizing DOE to contract with local school boards that have developed virtual courses to make those virtual courses available to other school boards through Virtual Virginia. VSBA has been working with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the substitute language. House Bill 1115 unanimously passed the House 99-0.

HB1054 (Loupassi) requires the Board of Education to consider all computer science course credits earned by students to be science course credits, mathematics course credits, or career and technical education credits in establishing course and credit requirements for a high school diploma. This bill passed the House 65-33.

HB977 (Rust) and SB43 (Favola) extend from five business days to ten business days the deadline for a teacher to request a hearing after receiving written notice of a recommendation of dismissal. These bills extend the total time to process a teacher dismissal grievance by about a week, but do not otherwise alter new the grievance process that was created by legislation that VSBA supported last session. HB977 has passed both the House and Senate. SB43 unanimously passed the House and is on the way to the Senate.

HB1229 (Landes) delays the implementation of the A-F school grading system to October 1, 2015. Delegate Jackson Miller offered a floor amendment last week to extend the delay to October 1, 2017 as outlined in SB324. On Monday he withdrew the amendment due to the risk of the patron striking the bill. House Bill 1229 passed 97-2.

Similar to HB1229, SB324 (Miller) delays the implementation of the A-F school grading system to October 1, 2017 and further outlines certain factors that need to be included in the grading system. The bill has passed the Senate 23-17.

SB305 (Deeds) requires the Board of Education to promulgate regulations to increase the number of students and grade levels that are eligible for expedited retakes of the Standards of Learning assessments. Additionally, the regulations must permit students in grade three through five who score between 390 and 399 to receive focused remediation and retake the assessment. Senate Bill 305 passed the Senate unanimously.

SB562 (Locke) allows school boards that partner with a college partnership laboratory school to charge tuition to students enrolled in the lab school who do not reside within the partnering division. This bill unanimously passed the Senate.

HB324 (D. Bell) establishes the Board of the Virtual Virginia School and requires that the School be open to any student in the Commonwealth. The bill would result in federal, state, and local funds, up to $6,500 per pupil, being transferred from local school boards to the Virtual Virginia School. There are also other significant problems with this legislation and VSBA strongly opposes it. House Bill 324 passed the House 64-34.

SB236 (Carrico) is a very problematic bill that passed the Senate before control of that chamber shifted from Republican to Democrat. This bill requires that each school division adopt a policy that creates a limited public forum at any school event at which a student is permitted to speak and provides that the limited public forum does not discriminate or regulate against a student’s voluntary expression of religious viewpoint. Additionally, students may organize prayer groups or religious groups before, during or after school and shall have the same access to school facilities as other student-organized groups. If this bill passes, we believe that a constitutional challenge against a school board implementing the legislation is extremely likely. VSBA offered an amendment to the legislation that would authorize the Attorney General to advise and defend school boards implementing the legislation. This proposed amendment was rejected by the patron. The bill, without the amendment proposed by VSBA, passed the Senate 20-18. Fortunately, similar legislation that was introduced in the House, HB493 (Lingamfelter) was killed in the House Courts of Justice committee. VSBA will continue to oppose SB236 and it will hopefully suffer the same fate as HB493.

HB388 (Davis) requires each local school board to reimburse each public charter school in the school division in an amount equal to the difference between (i) the proportionate share of all state and federal resources allocated for students with disabilities and school personnel assigned to special education programs in the public charter school and (ii) the actual cost to the public charter school to educate such students, as determined by the local school board. House Bill 388 passed 61-37. VSBA has concerns with this bill because it takes away a school board’s ability to negotiate these terms with a charter school operator. VSBA will continue to seek amendments to this legislation or, alternatively, to defeat it in the Senate.

HB786 (Wilt) prohibits the dismissal or probation of an employee on the grounds that they possessed an unloaded firearm in a closed container in their vehicle or in a locked trunk, a knife with a metal blade in their vehicle or an unloaded shotgun in a firearms rack. The possession of a firearm on school property in these limited circumstances is not prohibited by law but, currently, a school board may choose to prohibit it. This bill would effectively prevent school boards from exercising their authority to prohibit firearms on school property in these circumstances. VSBA opposes this bill because it limits school boards authority on what should be a local decision. HB786 passed the House 67-32.

HB63 (R. Bell) prohibits a public school from joining an organization governing interscholastic activities that does not allow student receiving home school instruction to participate in such activities. Effectively it forces VHSL to deem home school students eligible to participate in interscholastic activities. As expected, House Bill 63 passed the House 60-39. VSBA will continue to oppose the bill and we are hopeful that it will be defeated in the Senate Education and Health committee as it has in prior years.