Monday, February 24, 2014

Update from Senate Public Education subcommittee

On Friday morning, the Senate Public Education subcommittee met to take up a very lengthy docket. They made recommendations on several bills that will be before the full committee for a vote on Thursday.

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 opposed the bill in subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended carrying over the bill to 2015. The Chairman of Education will write a letter to the Chairman of Finance to look at the funding challenges.

HB333 (Greason) 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. The subcommittee recommended reporting 3-2.

HB610 (Robinson) is another take on the Labor Day bills. It allows 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. The subcommittee was very intrigued by the concept of this bill. They recommended reporting 3-2.

HB577 (Stolle) allows a school board to set its academic calendar for any school within the division that has failed to meet full accreditation status. Additionally, it allows the school board to set its academic calendar for the entire division if more than 15 percent of all schools within the division have failed to achieve full accreditation status. The subcommittee recommended reporting on a 3-1-1 vote.

HB515 (Minchew) 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. Due to the concerns of VSBA and several stakeholder groups, the subcommittee recommended passing by indefinitely on a 4-0-1 vote.

HB751 (Rust) changes the “shall” to “may” in the Code section dealing with the discipline of students for possessing drugs. Current law requires students to be expelled for these offenses, but does allow either a lesser punishment or no punishment if the facts of the particular case warrant it. The subcommittee unanimously recommended reporting HB751.

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 strongly opposed this bill in subcommittee. The subcommittee did not recommend reporting the bill on a 3-2 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 subcommittee unanimously recommended reported HB887.

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. VSBA has worked extensively with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. The subcommittee recommended reporting on a 4-1 vote.

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 subcommittee recommended reporting 4-1.

HB1110 (Toscano) was not taken up this week at the request of the patron.

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 subcommittee unanimously recommended reporting HB1115.