Tuesday, January 29, 2019

GA Update for 1.29.19

This morning the Senate Finance Committee met and considered the following bills of interest:

SB 1365 (DeSteph) Increases the scholarship amount available for an eligible student with a disability from 100 percent to 300 percent of the per pupil amount distributed to the local school division as the state's share of the standards of quality costs, or the actual qualified educational expenses of the student, whichever is less. The bill broadens the definition of "eligible student with a disability" to include any child who is a resident of Virginia for whom an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) has been written and finalized in accordance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In addition, the family household income of the eligible student with a disability who is receiving the scholarship must not exceed 400 percent of the federal poverty level.  The bill also provides that an eligible student with a disability may only receive the increased amount of scholarship funds if they attend a school for students with disabilities that (i) is licensed by the Department of Education to serve students with disabilities, (ii) complies with the nonpublic school accreditation requirements of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, (iii) is exempt from taxation under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and (iv) does not receive public funds to supplement the cost of the education of the eligible student with a disability who is receiving the scholarship.  The Committee reported the bill on a vote of 11-5.

SB1095 (Howell) requires the Board of Education to establish a statewide unified public-private system for early childhood care and education in the Commonwealth to be administered by the Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Department of Education. The bill transfers the authority to license and regulate child day programs and other early child care agencies from the Board of Social Services and Department of Social Services to the Board of Education and the Department of Education. The bill maintains current licensure, background check, and other requirements of such programs. The bill establishes the Early Childhood Innovation Fund for the purpose of facilitating regional public-private collaboration and to field test innovative strategies and evidence-based practices that support a robust system of comprehensive early childhood care and education services to deliver measurable school readiness outcomes and meet regional workforce support needs. Such provisions of the bill have a delayed effective date of July 1, 2021.  The bill requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish a plan for implementing the statewide unified early childhood care and education system and requires the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education to enter into a cooperative agreement to coordinate the transition. The bill provides that, beginning July 1, 2021, the Department of Education will be the lead agency for the administration of the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Head Start Collaboration Office. Finally, the bill requires the Board of Education and the Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations to implement the provisions of the bill to become effective on July 1, 2021.   The bill was reported 16-0.

SB1104 (Peake) provides that the state pool of funds for community policy and management teams may be used for residential or nonresidential services in a public school setting and to provide services to children placed in public residential facilities or public special education day schools in addition to such private facilities and private special education day schools as provided in current law.  The bill was reported 16-0.

SB1015 (Stanley) Expands the Education Improvement Scholarships tax credits program by including, as eligible scholarship recipients, children enrolled in or attending nonpublic pre-kindergarten programs. The maximum annual scholarship that a child admitted to, enrolled in, or attending a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program will receive is the lesser of the child's actual educational expenses or the state's share of the grant per child under the Virginia Preschool Initiative for the locality in which the child resides.  Under current law, tax credits are awarded to individuals and businesses making donations to nonprofit scholarship foundations using the donated funds to award scholarships to certain students in grades K-12 attending nonpublic schools. Eligible scholarship recipients are students in grades K-12 with a finalized individualized education program (IEP) in place or whose annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.  The bill defines an eligible pre-kindergarten child and a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program and includes several other curriculum and administrative requirements that must be met by a nonpublic pre-kindergarten program in order for children attending the program to be eligible to receive scholarships under the tax credit program. Under the bill, the Virginia Council for Private Education or the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation will certify nonpublic pre-kindergarten programs meeting such curriculum and administrative requirements.  The bill also reduces the penalty for failure to fully disburse all donations received from 200 percent of the difference between 90 percent of the value of the donations it received and the amount disbursed to 100 percent of the difference.  The bill reported 11-5.

SB1532 (Sturtevant) Creates a tax credit for a business that hosts a junior or senior in a Richmond City Schools high school as an intern in a STEM or high-demand field for a semester during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 academic year. The business would receive a $2,500 credit per student per semester. Participation in the program is limited to 25 students. The bill requires the Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools to submit an annual report regarding various metrics of the program.  The bill was passed by for the day. 

This evening, the Senate Local Government Committee considered the following bill:

SB 1262 (Sturtevant) would require every locality with a population greater than 25,000 and each school division with greater than 5,000 students to post quarterly on the public government website of such locality or school division a register of all funds expended, showing vendor name, date of payment, amount, and a description of the type of expense, including credit card purchases with the same information. The bill allows any locality or school division to exclude from such posting any information that is exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, any personal identifying information related to a court-ordered payment, and any information related to undercover law-enforcement officers. The bill has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2020. The bill was reported 9-4.