Monday, January 26, 2015

Thanks to All VEA Lobby Day Participants!!!

It was a very busy day at the Capitol.  First, thanks to the hundreds of VEA members who ignored the weatherman and made their way to Richmond for VEA Lobby Day.
Senator Howell’s SB 905 passed the full Senate on its third and final reading today.  This is the first VEA initiated bill to pass in its chamber of origin this year.  The tuition tax credit provisions in the Code of Virginia prescribe insufficient accountability requirements for the “eligible schools,” and don’t provide adequate information to facilitate an accurate comparison of these schools for interested parents.  Requiring these schools to compile the results of “any national norm referenced test” seems wholly inadequate if parents are to make informed choices of schools.  SB 905 fixes this problem.

YEAS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Norment, Petersen, Puller, Ruff, Saslaw, Stosch, Wagner, Watkins, Wexton--24.

NAYS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel--15.

Once again the “Tebow Bill,” HB 1626, has been reported by the House Education Committee.  This is the bill to allow home schooled students to participate in interscholastic activities including sports.  The vote was 13 to 9, and it did not fall down party lines as two Republicans voted NO - see below.

YEAS--Landes, Lingamfelter, Cole, Pogge, Massie, Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon, Robinson, Yancey, Farrell, Davis, Leftwich--13.

NAYS--Rust, Yost, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Preston, Lindsey--9.

You may remember that this bill passed the house last year, but was defeated in the Senate.  Things have changed a bit in the Senate, so time will tell.

In the Public Education Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Education and Health of number of significant bills advanced.  Senator John Miller’s SB 1020 reported to full committee on a 3-2 vote.  This bill will reduce the number of SOL tests given in our public school to the minimum required by the federal government.

Senator Mamie Locke’s SB 1320 reported unanimously.  This bill calls on the Board of Education to establish “accreditation ratings that recognize the progress of schools that do not meet the accreditation benchmarks but have significantly improved their pass rates, are within specified ranges of benchmarks, or have demonstrated significant growth for the majority of their students.”

Finally, a very significant bill from Senator Garrett, SB982, was reported to full committee.  This bill “Requires the Board of Education, in its course and credit requirements for earning a high school diploma, to provide that no verified unit of credit shall require a minimum number of clock hours of instruction.”  This could fundamentally change the manner in which we organize our high schools.  The bill has great promise, but will present substantial implementation challenges.