Friday, February 21, 2014

Busy Morning at the Capitol

Legislators worked this morning to move bills through committees before they returned home for the weekend.  For education advocates the focus was on the Senate Education and Health Committee Subcommittee on Public Education.

All three surviving school calendar bills were reported to full committee.  Del. Greason’s HB 333 is the broadest.  It returns control of the school calendar to local school boards.  Delegate Robinson’s HB 610 is a creative attempt to appease the hospitality and tourism industry by eliminating the Labor Day school opening requirement while requiring that the Labor Day weekend be a four day holiday.  Finally, Delegate Stolle’s HB 577 frees divisions containing underperforming schools from the Labor Day calendar constraints to facilitate additional instructional time.  VEA supports these bills.
Two virtual school bills were taken up.  Delegate Greason’s HB 1115 facilitates sharing of online courses developed by the various school divisions.  It establishes a mechanism allowing a small school system to gain access to online courses developed by larger school systems through Virtual Virginia and the Department of Education.  This bill was reported.
The second was Delegate Bell’s HB 324 which would have created a stand-alone virtual school students could access as an alternative to going to the local school.  VEA opposed this bill for a number of reasons which was commonly referred to as the K-12 bill, as it advantaged online instruction offered by K-12, Inc.  You may remember that Carroll County ended their relationship with K-12, Inc., when the test scores of the online students were pulling down the division average.  The bill would have provided an illogical and overly generous funding level for virtual schools, actually providing more per-pupil than the state provides per pupil for traditional schools.  This bill was carried over to the next session.

Delegate Minchew’s HB 515, which would have required communication with parents in the case of student violation of any school board policy that could lead to suspension.  This bill, which VEA opposed, was passed by indefinitely (PBI) on a 4-0-1 vote.

Tag Greason’s HB 930, the SOL reform bill, was reported on a 4-1 vote.  Please see earlier postings regarding this bill which reduces the number of SOL tests.