Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our First House Education Marathon

The House Education Committee had just a couple of bills on the docket this morning, but that didn’t stop the committee from running long. 

Our VEA President had his first opportunity to testify before a committee when he spoke in opposition to HB1392 (Lingamfelter) that would allow school security officers to carry guns. As he was leaving the podium, the Chair of the committee, Del. Steve Landes, welcomed Jim as the new VEA President and mentioned that the Committee was looking forward to working with him. A nice start, of course the bill reported, but still a nice moment. A reminder that courtesy can prevail even when you disagree.

The big topic in the full committee was the annual hearing on allowing home-schooled students to participate in VHSL interscholastic activities. Last year this bill passed the General Assembly only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. The bill reported from the Committee and will likely pass the House and Senate. We will have to see what the Governor does.

In sub-committee there were quite a few bills of interest for us. Del. Dudenhefer’s bill that would put a staffing ratio for school nurses into the Standards of Quality (SOQs) was one we were very interested in seeing. Right now, while nurses aren’t included in support staff, there are not required staffing ratios for the position. As you may know, this fall the BOE revised the SOQs with a required school nurse for every 550 students. Dudenhefer’s bill originally had some different ratios, but the VEA had a good meeting with him yesterday and talked through the BOE recommendation. Today his bill was amended to reflect the BOE’s revisions (and VEA's conversation with the Delegate) of one school nurse for every 550 students, and the VEA could get behind it. The bill has been referred to Appropriations, so there is not a lot of hope for a good outcome, but we are certainly glad to see at least one of the BOE’s revised staffing levels making it out of the House Education Sub-Committee.

After 3 hours, our morning in the House Education and Sub ended, just in time for the floor session to begin.