Thursday, February 25, 2016

Senate Education and Health Committee Update

Today started with a very lengthy docket for the Senate Education and Health committee. As the end of session approaches, the committees are busy trying to finalize their work. Below is a summary of the committee’s actions on our public education bills.

HB8 (D. Bell) was reported and re-referred to the Senate Finance committee, as we expected. This bill establishes the Virginia Virtual School as a full-time virtual school program. Additionally, it requires that any student who enrolls full-time shall have the average state share of the Standards of Quality per pupil funding be transferred to the School. 

HB36 (D. Bell) requires each local school board to implement a program of instruction in the school division on all information and concepts contained in the civics portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test. The bill was reported as amended by the committee.

HB389 (LaRock) creates the Parental Choice Education Savings Account that allows a parent of students with disabilities to receive 90 percent of the SOQ per pupil state funds to use for education-related expenses of the student, including tuition, deposits, fees, transportation and required textbooks at a private, sectarian or nonsectarian elementary or secondary school or a public higher education institution. After a lengthy discussion and testimony, the bill was reported and re-referred to the Senate Finance committee on an 8-7 party line vote.

HB436 (Austin) requires the Department of Education to award recovery credit to any student in grades three through eight who fails a Standards of Learning assessment in English, reading, or mathematics, receives remediation, and subsequently retakes and passes such assessment, including expedited retakes. The committee unanimously reported the bill.

HB487 (McClellan) removes the requirement that school resource officers, that are employed pursuant to the School Resource Officer Grants Program, enforce school board rules and codes of student conduct as a condition of their employment. The bill was reported from the committee.

HB516 (Landes) requires the Board of Education to establish a policy to require schools to (i) notify the parent of any student whose teacher reasonably expects to provide instructional material that includes sexually explicit content, (ii) permit the parent of any student to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content upon request, and (iii) provide, as an alternative to instructional material and related academic activities that include sexually explicit content, nonexplicit instructional material and related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests. There was significant and robust debate about this bill in committee where it ultimately passed on a 9-6 vote.

HB521 (LeMunyon) requires the annual Board of Education report to the Governor and the General Assembly to include a complete listing of each report (i) that local school divisions are required to submit to the Board or any other state agency, including name, frequency, and an indication of whether the report contains information that the local school division is also required to submit to the federal government, and (ii) pertaining to public education that local school divisions are required to submit to the federal government, including name and frequency. The committee unanimously reported the bill.

HB524 (LeMunyon) requires data collected by or for the Department of Education or the local school board or made available to and able to be used by the local school board to judge the performance or quality of a teacher, maintained in a teacher's personnel file or otherwise, to be confidential in most instances. Current law requires such data to be confidential only if it is used by a local school board to make such a judgment. The bill provides that if such data is disclosed pursuant to court order, for the purposes of a grievance proceeding involving the teacher, or as otherwise required by state or federal law, such disclosure shall be made in a form that does not personally identify any student or other teacher. The bill was unanimously reported from the committee.

HB895 (Greason) removes existing provisions related to standard and advanced studies diplomas and standard and verified units of credit. Additionally, it requires the Board of Education, in establishing high school graduation requirements to:
  • Develop and implement a Profile of a Virginia Graduate that identifies the knowledge and skills that students should attain during high school in order to be successful contributors to the economy of the Commonwealth, giving due consideration to critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and citizenship;
  • Emphasize the development of core skill sets in the early years of high school; and
  • Establish and require students to follow in the later years of high school alternative paths toward college and career readiness that include internships, externships, and credentialing.
HB936 (Toscano) requires the Board of Education to make provision in its regulations for flexibility for any student with limited English proficiency to earn the credits required for a diploma. The bill requires such flexibility to permit local school divisions to award credit to such students who have failed reading, writing, or mathematics Standards of Learning assessments by a narrow margin, as defined by the Board. The bill was continued to the 2017 session.

HB942 (Wilt) requires local school board to provide reasonable and appropriate access to school property to youth-oriented, community organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, and their volunteers and staff, to distribute and provide instructional materials in order to encourage participation in such organizations and their activities. Any access provided during the school day shall not conflict with instructional time. Such access may include after-school sponsored activities such as "Back to School" events, where it can be reasonably accommodated. With this substitute language, the bill was reported from the full committee. 

HB1377(LeMunyon) requires local school divisions to notify the parents of each student where the number of students in a class exceeds the prescribed class size limit no later than 10 days after the date on which the classes exceed the limits. The bill was unanimously reported from the full committee.