Friday, February 28, 2014

Update from Senate Education and Health and House Appropriations

The Senate Education and Health Committee met Thursday morning for its final meeting of session. Chairman Lucas moved quickly through the docket taking the recommendations from the subcommittee reports.  VSBA had a few successes in defeating bills unwanted bills and a defeat with the School Calendar “Labor Day” bills. Below is a report of the committee’s actions.

HB197 (Landes) directs the Board of Education to develop guidelines for supplementary written materials used to teach the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United State, the Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the charters of the Virginia Company of April 10, 1606, May 23, 1609 and March 12, 1612. It further requires that all teachers ensure that supplementary written materials contain accurate restatements of the principles contained in the documents. The bill was reported from the full committee.

HB324 (D. Bell) was carried over to 2015. VSBA strongly opposed the bill due to significant problems including funding concerns. The bill established 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. Chairman Lucas will send a letter to the Chairman of the Finance Committee requesting that they examine the funding provisions in the bill.

HB515 (Minchew) was significantly amended in the House but VSBA still had concerns. The bill required 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 had 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. The bill was passed by indefinitely and failed to report from the committee due to the concerns raised by VSBA.

HB751 (Rust) was amended and unanimously reported by the committee. The bill clarifies that school administrators and the 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. 

HB754 (Rust) was stricken at the request of the patron. The bill allowed 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 was VSBA's position that school boards can already take such actions.

HB786 (Wilt) prohibited 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 effectively prevented school boards from exercising their authority to prohibit firearms on school property in these circumstances. Due to the work of VSBA and other stakeholder groups, the bill was passed by indefinitely by the committee on a close 8-7 vote.

HB887 (Peace) requires the Board of Education to develop model criteria and procedures for establishing a Governor’s Career and Technical Education School. The bill was reported by the committee.

HB930 (Greason) was slightly amended by the patron and committee to clarify the specific stakeholder groups that will be involved in the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, which will be led by the Secretary of Education. The committee is 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. Additionally, the bill requires local school boards to certify instruction and the completion of local assessments in the other Standards of Learning subject areas. The bill also allows the Board of Education to make future further reductions in the number of SOL assessments in grades 3 through 11. VSBA has worked extensively with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. 

HB1086 (D. Bell) provides that when a student with a disability who lives in one school division enrolls in a full time virtual program offered by another a school division, the school division in which the student is enrolled must provide special education services to the student. The bill was reported by the committee.

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 bill. The full committee unanimously reported HB1115.

HB1229 (Landes) was conformed to SB324 to delay implementation of the A-F grading scale by three years. SB324 (Miller) has passed the House floor which delays implementation by one year. Both bills will go to conference to work on a compromise.

Unfortunately, the School Calendar “Labor Day” bills were not placed on the docket for a hearing by the committee. Without an action on HB333, HB610 and HB577, the bills will be left in committee indefinitely.

Thursday afternoon the Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee of House Appropriations met to act on the final bills assigned to them. As expected, the majority of the bills were tabled due to the fiscal impact.

SB388 (Barker) required the Board of Education to promulgate regulations providing local school boards maximum flexibility to determine the date for administering SOL assessments. The bill was tabled.

SB389 (Barker) directed the Board of Education to promulgate regulations for eligibility of expedited retakes of SOL assessments for each student regardless of grade level or course. The bill was tabled.

SB291 (Carrico) imposed certain evaluation requirements, including evaluation by a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, for students with visual impairment. VSBA had concerns about the fiscal impact this legislation would have on school divisions. The bill was tabled due to those concerns.

SB305 (Deeds) required that the Board of Education promulgate regulations to (1) increase the number of students and grade levels that are eligible for expedited retakes  and (2) allow students in grade 3 through 5 who score 390 to 399 on a SOL assessment to receive remediation and retake the assessment. The bill was tabled.

SB144 (Edwards) required all revisions to SOL assessments be finalized by December 31 of the school year prior to the school year in which the revised assessment will be administered. Due to the same fiscal impact concerns of HB365, the bill was tabled.

SB532 (Stuart) was conformed to HB134 (Cole) and reported from the subcommittee since it doesn’t have any fiscal impact to school divisions. 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.