Welcome Dear Readers!
Today was an action filled day in the General Assembly. The main item of news is that HB 276 (Bell) was passed by indefinitely in the House Education Committee on a vote of (12-10). VSBA strongly opposed this school discipline mandate that would have handicapped the ability of school divisions to maintain classroom safety and order. We sent an action alert to you yesterday, and you responded with true spirit! Related to school discipline, HB 688 (McQuinn), also opposed by VSBA, was tabled in House Appropriations Subcommittee on a vote of (5-3). These close votes went in our favor because of your tireless advocacy and education efforts with your legislators. Thank you for all your hard work! A full breakdown of the day's activity is captured below.
VSBA staff attended the 8:30 a.m. meeting of the House Education Committee. Bills of interest to our organization discussed were:
HB 50 (Hope) - This bill would require each local school board to adopt policies that prohibit school board employees from requiring a student who cannot pay for a meal at school or who owes a school meal debt to do chores or other work to pay for such meals; and require school board employees to direct any communication relating to a school meal debt to the student's parent, which may be made by a letter addressed to the parent to be sent home with the student. This bill was reported unanimously by the committee with a substitute (22-0).
HB 296 (Bell, Richard P.) - This bill would prohibit students in preschool through grade three from being suspended or expelled except for drug offenses, firearm offenses, or certain criminal acts. As discussed, VSBA staff and membership advocated strongly against this bill as written. The committee passed the bill by indefinitely (12-10).HB 803 (O'Quinn) - This bill would extend eligibility to participate in programs of preparation and instruction to take a high school equivalency examination approved by the Board of Education to individuals who are at least 16 years of age. Under current law, such programs are available only to adults who did not complete high school, students who have been granted permission by their division superintendent, and those who have been ordered by a court to participate in the program. The committee reported the bill unanimously (22-0).
HB 831 (Bagby) - This bill would require the Virtual Virginia program, established by the Department of Education, to be made available to all public middle and high schools. The bill would provide that such program may be made available to all public elementary schools. Under current law, Virtual Virginia is required to be made available to public high schools only. The bill also would replace the term "statewide electronic classroom" with "online learning program" to more accurately reflect the Virtual Virginia program. The committee reported the bill unanimously (22-0).
HB 1125 (Landes) - This is an omnibus bill making several changes to teacher licensure. Among other things, this substitute eliminates the requirements that teachers demonstrate proficiency in the use of educational technology for instruction and that they receive professional development in instructional methods tailored to promote student academic progress and effective preparation for the SOL end of course and end of grade assessments. The substitute also allows teachers to complete certain requirements during their first year of licensure rather than before licensure. The substitute provides for an alternate route to licensure for elementary education preK-6 and special education general curriculum. The substitute allows BOE to extend a provisional license for up to two additional years and provides for a 10 year renewable license instead of a 5 year renewable license. VSBA supports this bill. The committee reported the bill unanimously (22-0).
HB 1346 (Thomas) - This bill would expand eligibility for services under the Children's Services Act to students who transfer from an approved private school special education program to a public school special education program established and funded jointly by a local governing body and school division located within Planning District 16 for the purpose of providing special education and related services when (i) the public school special education program is able to provide services comparable to those of an approved private school special education program and (ii) the student would require placement in an approved private school special education program but for the availability of the public school special education program. The committee reported and referred the bill to House Appropriations (21-1).
HB 1431 (Bell, Richard P.) - This bill would require the Virginia Public Building Authority to establish and administer the Public School Capital Grant Program (the Program) for the purpose of providing grants on a competitive basis to any local school board that governs a local school division in a locality that is determined to have high fiscal stress by the Virginia Commission on Local Government in its most recent "Report on the Comparative Revenue Capacity, Revenue Effort, and Fiscal Stress of Virginia Counties and Cities" for such school board to use for school building capital renovation or construction projects. The bill caps each Program grant at $10 million and requires local matching funds for each such grant. The committee reported and referred to House Appropriations unanimously (22-0).
HB 1532 (Herring) - Health education; prescription drugs. Requires the health education program required for each public elementary and secondary school student to include an age-appropriate program of instruction on the safe use of and risks of abuse of prescription drugs that is consistent with curriculum guidelines developed by the Board of Education and approved by the State Board of Health. The bill requires the Board of Education to model such curriculum guidelines after the curriculum adopted by the School Board of the City of Virginia Beach regarding drugs and the opioid crisis. The committee reported the bill with amendments that changed the language to a permissive tense unanimously (22-0).
HB 350 (Reid) – This bill would require each local school board that does not offer a universal full-day kindergarten (FDK) program for each kindergarten student in the school division to develop and implement a plan to fund and phase in a universal FDK program for each kindergarten student in the school division and submit the plan to the General Assembly in advance of the 2019 Regular Session of the General Assembly. The bill would require such plan to identify the number and percentage of students enrolled in FDK in the local school division (i) during the 2014-2015 school year and (ii) at the end of 2017, the specific steps for full implementation of the plan, impediments to full implementation of the plan, the areas in which support from the Commonwealth is necessary to achieve full implementation of the plan, and lessons learned from previous or ongoing efforts to provide a universal FDK program that can be shared with other local school boards that do not offer a universal FDK program. The bill was reported and referred to House Appropriations (17-4).
HB 380 (Krizek) – This bill would establish the Grow Your Own Teacher Program Fund and permit the Department of Education to award grants from such fund to local school boards to establish Grow Your Own Teacher Programs whereby the local school board provides scholarships not to exceed $7,500 per academic year for attendance at a baccalaureate institution of higher education in the Commonwealth to any individual who (i) graduated from a public high school in the local school division; (ii) was eligible for free or reduced price lunch throughout the individual's attendance at a public high school in the local school division; and (iii) commits to teach, within three years of graduating from the baccalaureate institution of higher education in the Commonwealth and for a period of at least four years, in the school division at a public high school at which at least 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The bill would provide that in the event that any program scholarship recipient fails or refuses to comply with such teaching obligation, the sum of all scholarship funds received by such individual shall be converted to a loan that is subject to repayment with interest. The committee reported and referred the bill to House Appropriations (21-1).
HB 632 (Bulova) – This bill would require the Board of Education (Board) to (i) establish content standards and curriculum guidelines for courses and programs of instruction in existing courses in career investigation in elementary school, middle school, and high school; (ii) develop, in consultation with representatives of career and technical education, trade, and contractor organizations, career investigation resource materials that are designed to ensure that students have the ability to further explore interest in career and technical education opportunities in middle and high school; and (iii) disseminate such career investigation resource materials to each school board. The bill would direct each school board to require each middle school student to take at least one course or program of instruction in an existing course in career investigation and permits each school board to require such courses or programs of instruction in career investigation at the elementary and high school level as it deems appropriate. The bill would provide that each such course and program of instruction shall be equivalent in content and rigor to the Board's content standards and curriculum guidelines and shall provide the foundation for students to develop their academic and career plans. The committee reported the bill with a substitute (21-1).
HB 676 (Pogge) – This bill would declare it the goal of the Commonwealth that each child who is deaf or hard of hearing is (i) as linguistically ready for kindergarten as his peers who are not deaf or hard of hearing and (ii) receptively and expressively literate in English and literate in written English by the end of third grade. The bill would require each agency of the Commonwealth that is responsible for providing services to children who are deaf or hard of hearing to collaborate to provide unified and seamless services for each such child from the onset of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention process through the end of his elementary and secondary school career. The bill also would establishe a 14-member Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children's Advisory Subcommittee within the Disability Commission to advise the Commission on the provision of services in the Commonwealth for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The committee reported the bill with a substitute (18-4).
HB 1044 (Torian) – This bill would require each school board to adopt policies to (i) prohibit abusive work environments in the school division, (ii) provide for the appropriate discipline of any school board employee who contributes to an abusive work environment, and (iii) prohibit retaliation or reprisal against a school board employee who alleges an abusive work environment or assists in the investigation of an allegation of an abusive work environment. The bill would define an abusive work environment as one in which a school board employee engages in conduct in the workplace that a reasonable person would find hostile and that is severe enough to cause physical harm or psychological harm to another school board employee. The committee reported the bill (15-7).
HB 1119 (VanValkenburg) – This bill would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and make available annually to each public elementary and secondary school teacher in the Commonwealth a voluntary and anonymous school climate survey to evaluate school-level teaching conditions and the impact such conditions have on teacher retention and student achievement. The bill would require such survey to include questions regarding school leadership, teacher leadership, teacher autonomy, demands on teachers' time, student conduct management, professional development, instructional practices and support, new teacher support, community engagement and support, and facilities and other resources. The committee reported and referred the bill to House Appropriations with technical amendments (21-1).
HB 1370 (Pogge) – This bill would clarify that a parent who provides home instruction through a program of study or curriculum is required to provide his child with such program of study or curriculum to satisfy the requirements for the home instruction of such child. The committee reported the bill unanimously (22-0).
HB 1419 (Delaney) – This bill would require local school boards to provide (i) a minimum of 680 hours of instructional time to students in elementary except for students in half-day kindergarten and (ii) a minimum of 375 hours of instructional time to students in half-day kindergarten in the four academic disciplines of English, mathematics, science, and history and social science. The bill would authorize local school boards to include and requires the Board of Education to accept, elementary school, unstructured recreational time that is intended to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness in any calculation of total instructional time or teaching hours. The committee reported the bill with a technical substitute (21-1).
HB 1485 (Filler-Corn) – This bill would make several changes to the procedures relating to interventions when a pupil fails to report to school for a total of five scheduled school days for the school year, no indication has been received by school personnel that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence, and a reasonable effort to notify the parent has failed, including (i) removing the appointed attendance officer as a party to the plan to resolve such nonattendance, (ii) permitting but not requiring the attendance officer to participate in the conference necessitated by additional absences subsequent to the development of the plan, and (iii) permitting but not requiring the attendance officer to file a complaint with the juvenile and domestic relations court alleging the pupil is a child in need of supervision or to institute criminal proceedings against the parent pursuant to relevant law. Under current law, the attendance officer is required to participate in such conference and is also required to file such complaint and institute such proceedings in cases in which the pupil is absent for an additional school day without indication that the pupil's parent is aware of and supports the pupil's absence. The committee reported the bill with a substitute (17-5).
HB 1530 (Davis) – The bill would provide that, except in the case of high school students who are eligible for the Applied Studies diploma, each high school student who has met the requirements for graduation prescribed by the Board of Education and the local school board shall be awarded a diploma of achievement or a diploma of achievement with a foreign language endorsement. Under current law and Board of Education regulations, each high school student who has met the requirements for graduation is required to be awarded a standard diploma or an advanced studies diploma. The committee reported the bill with a substitute (17-5).
HB 167 (Miyares) – This bill would require the Board of Education to establish criteria for awarding a diploma seal for science, technology, engineering, and advanced mathematics (STEAM) for the Board of Education-approved diplomas. Under current law, such diploma seal is limited in scope to technology and advanced mathematics. The committee reported the bill with a substitute (20-1).
HB 544 (Freitas) – This bill would permit each local school board to (i) establish High School to Work Partnerships (Partnerships) between public high schools and local businesses to create opportunities for high school students to (a) participate in an apprenticeship, internship, or job shadow program in a variety of trades and skilled labor positions or (b) tour local businesses and meet with owners and employees or (ii) delegate the authority to establish Partnerships to the local school division's career and technical education administrator or his designee, in collaboration with the guidance counselor office of each public high school in the school division. The bill would require such local school boards to educate high school students about opportunities available through such Partnerships. The bill would also require the Board of Education, the Department of Labor and Industry, and the State Board for Community Colleges to identify Partnerships that may be eligible for exemptions from certain federal and state labor laws and regulations and establish procedures by which such exemptions may be obtained for such Partnerships. VSBA supports the bill. The committee reported the bill unanimously (22-0).
HB 1502 (Miyares) – This bill would establish the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Testing Grant Fund and Program, to be administered by the Department of Education, for the purpose of awarding grants to local school boards to be used to cover half of the fee required to participate in any Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test for any high school student in the local school division who receives free or reduced price lunch. The bill would require the Department of Education to establish guidelines and procedures for application for and disbursement of such grants. The bill would require local school boards to use such grant funds to supplement, not supplant, any other federal, state, local, or private funds made available to cover such testing fees for high school students who receive free or reduced price lunch. The committee reported and referred the bill to House Appropriations (20-2).
HB 810 (O'Quinn) – A substitute for this bill was adopted by the committee. The substitute reduces the training requirements for certain bus driver applicants. VSBA supports this bill. The committee reported the bill with substitute unanimously (22-0).
HB 1000 (Gilbert) – A substitute for this bill was adopted by the committee. The purpose of the bill is to address a 2015 decision of the Virginia Supreme Court, Butler v. Fairfax County School Board. The bill would allow a school board that employed individuals who had certain felony convictions as of the date of the Butler decision to rehire those individuals. The committee reported the bill unanimously with the substitute (22-0).
Following this, VSBA staff attended House Courts of Justice Subcommittee #1. Bills of relevance to our organization discussed included:
HB 15 (Mullin) - This bill would require a principal to first take appropriate alternative disciplinary action or determine that no such appropriate alternative disciplinary action exists before referring to the local law-enforcement agency student incidents of assault and assault and battery without bodily injury. The subcommittee recommended passing the bill by indefinitely (5-3).
HB 274 (Ward) - This bill provide that a student may have multiple discretionary diversions for truancy so long as no previous diversion occurred during the same school year. The bill extends the time frame for filing the complaint and implementing an informal truancy plan from 90 days to 120 days. The subcommittee recommended the bill for reporting unanimously (8-0).
HB 292 (Collins) - This bill would add abduction to the list of offenses that are reported to school division superintendents by a juvenile intake officer when a petition is filed alleging a student committed such offense. The bill would also add abduction and acts of violence by mobs to the list of offenses reported to school division superintendents by a law-enforcement officer when a student who is 18 years of age or older is arrested for committing such an offense; acts of violence by mobs is already on the list reported by an intake officer for a minor student. The bill would also add abduction on school property, on a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity to the list of incidents to be reported to school division superintendents and principals. The subcommittee unanimously recommended the bill for reporting (8-0).
HB 438 (Bulova) - This bill would prohibit any person who is an employee, contractor, or agent of a public school or accredited private school from assisting an employee, contractor, or agent in obtaining a new job if such person knows or has probable cause to believe that such employee, contractor, or agent engaged in sexual misconduct regarding a minor or student. The subcommittee recommended the bill for reporting with a substitute unanimously (8-0).
HB 445 (Carroll Foy) - This bill would eliminate the requirement that school principals report certain enumerated acts that may constitute a misdemeanor offense to law enforcement. VSBA supports the bill. The subcommittee recommended passing the bill by indefinitely (5-2).
VSBA staff also attended House Cities, Counties, and Towns Subcommittee #2. One bill of interest to VSBA was discussed:
HB 1471 (Hugo) - This bill would require that the final step in an employee grievance procedure adopted by a local governing body, providing for a hearing before an administrative hearing officer or an impartial panel hearing, be selected by the aggrieved employee. Currently, the selection of this final step requires the agreement of both parties. The bill would also permit a school board to conduct a teacher grievance hearing before a three-member fact-finding panel. Under current law, the school board has the option of appointing a hearing officer or conducting such hearing itself. The bill contains technical amendments. The bill was amended to remove teachers from the affected employees. The subcommittee recommended carrying the bill over to 2019.
Lastly, VSBA staff attended a meeting of House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Bills of interest to VSBA that advanced out of the subcommittee were:
HB 670 (Kilgore) - This bill would permit any local school board that governs a school division (i) in which the locality is designated as fiscally at-risk or fiscally distressed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in the most recent fiscal year or is determined to have above-average fiscal stress or high fiscal stress by the Virginia Commission on Local Government in its most recent "Report on the Comparative Revenue Capacity, Revenue Effort, and Fiscal Stress of Virginia Counties and Cities" and (ii) for which the composite index of local ability to pay is less than or equal to 0.2000 to expend up to 25 percent of the required local match for basic aid for debt service on school building capital renovation or construction projects. The bill would provide that in the event that the school division no longer meets such criteria, the local school board shall develop and implement a plan to readjust expenditures of the required local match for basic aid over the course of no more than 10 fiscal years. The bill would also provide that in the event that a school division that no longer met such criteria and that developed such plan subsequently meets the criteria again, the local school board may seek the approval of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to amend such plan. The subcommittee recommended the bill for reporting unanimously (8-0).
HB 692 (Marshall) - This bill would provide that the Commonwealth's calculation of the composite index of local ability-to-pay shall take into account an arrangement by localities entered into pursuant to the Virginia Regional Industrial Facilities Act whereby a portion of tax revenue is initially paid to one locality and redistributed to another locality. Such calculation shall properly apportion the percentage of tax revenue ultimately received by each locality. The subcommittee recommended the bill for reporting unanimously (8-0).
The Following Bills were laid on the table by the subcommittee:
HB 1508 (Adams) – This bill would declare it to be the policy of the Commonwealth that school boards that are unable to fund the total amount required by the locality's composite index of local ability to pay to reach the prevailing funded salary for (i) qualified instructional positions funded under the Standards of Quality, as set out in Direct Aid to Public Education in the general appropriation act, and (ii) support services positions shall receive, to the extent practicable, state funds for qualified instructional positions and support services positions in addition to those state funds that the school board receives for public school purposes.
HB 176 (Bell, Richard) – This bill would require the Department of Education to develop and implement a pilot program in two local school divisions in the Commonwealth to partner with the appropriate school board employees in each such local school division to (i) identify the resources, services, and supports required by each student who resides in each such local school division and who is educated in a private school setting pursuant to his Individualized Education Program; (ii) study the feasibility of transitioning each such student from his private school setting to an appropriate public school setting in the local school division and providing the identified resources, services, and supports in such public school setting; and (iii) recommend a process for redirecting federal, state, and local funds, including funds provided pursuant to the Children's Services Act, provided for the education of each such student to the local school division for the purpose of providing the identified resources, services, and supports in the appropriate public school setting.
HB 336 (Cole) – This bill would make several changes relating to the provisions for special education programs for students with blindness or visual impairment, including (i) requiring each local school board to provide instruction in Braille and the use of Braille for such students unless the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines, after a critical assessment of the student, that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate to the student's educational needs and (ii) requiring a critical assessment to be administered to each student with blindness or visual impairment triannually and after any significant change in the student's vision. The bill would define "critical assessment" as an assessment of a student with blindness or visual impairment conducted by a licensed Teacher of the Visually Impaired that includes (a) a functional vision assessment conducted in an educational setting; (b) an assessment of reading media that is designed for and intended to be administered to students, is administered in the student's native language and in accordance with any instructions, and contains appropriate objective components such as font size, sustained reading speed, and fluency; (c) an assessment of the student's reading comprehension and writing skills; and (d) consideration of the student's current and future needs, including consideration of the student's current and future technology support needs.
HB 255 (Guzman) – This bill would establish the Public Preschool Fund and Grant Program for the purpose of funding and providing on a competitive basis grants to local school boards to establish and maintain public preschool programs for children who reside in the local school division and who will have reached their fourth birthday on or before September 30 of the relevant school year. The bill would require the Department of Education to administer the Public Preschool Grant Program and establish (i) guidelines and procedures for grant applications, awards, and renewals; (ii) standards for preschool programs established and maintained by grant recipients, including standards for curriculum, student achievement, attendance, instruction, personnel, and length of school day and school year; and (iii) data collection and reporting requirements for grant recipients. The bill would require the Department of Education to give priority to grant applicants who propose a plan for the innovative use of facilities in the local school division to house the proposed public preschool program, including community centers and recreation centers.
HB 13 (Kory) – This bill would require state funding to be provided pursuant to the general appropriation act to support 20 full-time equivalent instructional positions for each 1,000 students identified as having limited English proficiency. Current law requires state funding to support 17 such positions for each 1,000 such students.
HB 687 (McQuinn) – This bill would create the Virginia Public School Improvement Program to offer maximum educational options and flexibility for parents, teachers, and students. The bill would authorize any local school board to designate or approve any public school within its school division to participate in the Program if (i) a majority of parents and teachers of students at the school have petitioned the school board to participate in the Program, (ii) it does not meet the requirements to be fully accredited, or (iii) the school's pass rates for English and mathematics are below the division-wide average. Local school boards would continue to receive state basic school aid funding for participating schools, and participating schools would be exempt from certain school division policies and state regulations but would have to meet Standards of Quality, Standards of Learning, Standards of Accreditation, and certain federal requirements. Participation in the Program can be rescinded (a) by petition of a majority of parents and teachers, (b) if the school makes application to operate as a charter school, (c) if the school violates the stipulated contract with the local school board, or (d) if students at a participating school fail to achieve satisfactory academic progress each year for two consecutive school years. The bill would require the Board of Education to establish guidelines to assist school boards in implementing the Program in the school division and provide technical assistance to school boards upon request.
HB 688 (McQuinn) – This bill would require local school boards to provide alternative education programs for suspended students. VSBA opposes this bill strongly and spoke in opposition.
HB 168 (Murphy) – This bill would establish a maximum class size of 24 students in science laboratory classes in grades six through 12. VSBA spoke in opposition to the bill.
HB 1576 (Peace) – This bill would provide that if a county contains a school division composed of a town, the county's composite index shall be calculated as if the school division were not in the county. Under current law as provided in the general appropriation act, the composite index of local ability to pay is used to calculate each locality's share of basic aid funding for education.
HB 791 (Pogge) – This bill would exclude school nurse positions from requirements for student support positions and instead requires each local school board to employ at least one full-time equivalent school nurse position in each elementary school, middle school, and high school in the local school division or at least one full-time equivalent school nurse position per 550 students in grades kindergarten through 12.
HB 121 (Rasoul) – This bill would require the Department of Education to establish an interagency taskforce composed of state and local agencies and entities in the areas of early childhood development, health, social services, community engagement, family engagement, higher education, and workforce development for the purpose of developing a program for the establishment of community schools whereby public elementary and secondary schools serve as centers for the provision of such community programs and services to students and their families as may be necessary on the basis of the unique needs of the student population to be served.
HB 1380 (Robinson) – This bill would reduce from 35 to 29 the maximum class size in grades four through six.
HB 199 (Sullivan) – This bill would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish and appoint members to the Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Advisory Council (Council), including at least one teacher, librarian, representative of a parent-teacher organization, school administrator, and individual with expertise in digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy. The bill would require the Council to (i) develop and recommend to the Board of Education for adoption a model policy for local school boards that would enable such school boards to better support the digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy of all students in the local school division; (ii) develop and recommend to the Board for adoption model instructional practices for the safe, ethical, and responsible use of media and technology by students in public elementary and secondary schools; and (iii) design and post on the Department of Education's website a page with links to successful instructional practices, curricula, and other teacher resources used in school divisions within and outside of the Commonwealth for the safe, ethical, and responsible use of media and technology by students. VSBA spoke in support of this bill.
HB 1111 (Tran) – This bill would establish the STEAM Education Fund for the purpose of awarding grants in amounts not to exceed $50,000 annually to any public elementary or secondary school in the Commonwealth at which at least 25 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch that provides an academic class, curriculum, or activity focused on a science, technology, engineering, arts, or mathematics (STEAM) discipline.
HB 1118 (VanValkenburg) – This bill would establish the SAT School Day Fund (the Fund) and requires the Board of Education to establish and maintain the SAT School Day Program (the Program) whereby the Board utilizes funds made available through the Fund to enter into a contract with the College Board to enable each public high school junior in the Commonwealth to participate in the SAT free of charge during a select school day.