Monday, January 29, 2018

Change Is Good

This is the year of change in the General Assembly. I've talked about it in this bog. Today's House Education Committees (both the 7am sub and the 8:30am full committee) really demonstrated how much this is true.

Delegate Rob Bell's bill, often referred to as the Tebow Bill, that would allow home schooled students to participate in public school VHSL sports, failed to report out of the full committee by a vote of 10-11 (the vote was to report). This bill, or a version of this bill, has passed out of the House Education Committee for years and has passed the full General Assembly the last three years only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. The fact that this bill didn't make it out of committee is a sign of how different things are in the House of Delegates. There is no version of the Tebow Bill in the Senate, so for this session, this bill is dead.

Interestingly, the full committee heard another home school bill, HB1504 that would allow home schooled students to participate in Virtual Virginia which is the DOE's full-time virtual high school. This program is currently reserved for enrolled public school students and is supported by state funding. That bill also failed to report which lead the patron of that bill to threaten the members of the Education Committee who voted against it. He told those committee members he looked forward to explaining his bill they just killed when they bring their bills to HIS committee. That is a big threat in the world of legislators. He basically told them he took note of the "no" votes and will vote against their bills when given the chance. That is pretty unprecedented behavior from the podium of a committee meeting.

A few of the bills the VEA is supporting advanced today including Delegate Sullivan's HB199 that would require the Department of Education create a Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety, and Media Literacy Advisory Council. This council would be made up of librarians, teachers, parents, administrators and media/digital literacy specialists and they would develop model policies to support teachers and students adopt safe and responsible uses of media and the Internet. Other states are adopting policies to create these advisory councils and we think it is a good idea that can help support teachers in the classroom wade through the vast quantities of information on the Internet. Also advancing was Delegate Keam's HB399 which would require each school board to establish a plan to notify students and parents about the availability of internships, externships, apprenticeships, and other work-based learning experiences that are available to students. This is important as we begin to roll out the high school redesign next school year that adds requirements that students participate in these types of experiences while they are in high school. The high school redesign will roll out next school year (2018-19) but with almost no additional state resources, so this bill will at least be something. We are glad the bill seems to be progressing unscathed.

So change is good. Elections matter. There is a long way to go, but the path is at least being cleared.