Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Things Have Picked Up

As promised, the House has now started pushing bills through subcommittee, but they are jammed up because they took so long to get schedules moving. Today the full House Education Committee met and took up a short list of bills that were heard on Monday in subcommittee, but the subcommittee that met immediately after the full committee struggled to get through just half of the bills on their docket. When subcommittees get backed up, there has to be a fix because they need to hear all of these bills. I know that the Chair of House Education, Delegate Steve Landes, is concerned about the progress of work in his lane, and I am pretty sure he spent part of today giving his advice to the subcommittee chairs on moving things along.

Of interest in the full committee, the school calendar bills will go to the floor of the House again this session. The House, over the last few years, has passed some version of a repeal of the post-Labor Day start requirement for our public schools. Two different bills will proceed to the floor, one a complete repeal, the other is not quite a full repeal, but close. It is identical to the bill the House passed last year. Tomorrow the school calendar bills will get their first hearings in the Senate when the Education and Health Committee take up their versions of the bills. The Senate does not pass these bills, so we will see what happens in the morning.

Also of note in the full committee was Delegate Landes' HB3 that would clean up the Dual Enrollment process in Virginia. Right now dual enrollment classes are offered in various ways and with different levels of quality around the Commonwealth. Because of the differences in these programs, often times the college credits earned by high school students who take these courses aren't accepted by either our Community Colleges or our four year institutions. The VEA supports Delegate Landes' efforts to fix this problem and we are hopeful his bill will continue it's track towards passage.

In the House Sub Committee, Delegate Keam brought legislation we have not yet seen in Virginia, but it is an important issue. HB1434 would require school divisions to make menstrual supplies available in secondary school bathrooms. This issue is growing across the country and I have learned a lot about it over the summer. What bills like this want us to accept is that these supplies should be treated the same as toilet paper and paper towel and should be made available in school bathrooms. Today the subcommittee heard testimony from girls who shared their stories of humiliation when they are unprepared. We also heard testimony from leaders in this movement about students who lose instructional time because they are unable to afford supplies on their own. Menstrual supplies can not be purchased with food stamps, they are expensive, and are taxed. I won't share all the details we heard today, but when girls are missing school because they can't afford these supplies or are humiliated by having to ask a male teacher to let them go to the school nurse, there must be a better way. Clearly there is a funding issue here, but if you are interested in learning more or becoming involved in solving this issue, click here to visit the BRAWS website. They are doing amazing work in this area.

The post demonstrates the broad scope of the bills that affect public education. It is part of what makes this work really exciting. Every day is different and every issue has value. There are hundreds of well intended bills that are often eye-opening and there continues to be a lack of resources to make sure our system of public education really is equitable no matter your zip code, or circumstance. Days like today, when you hear bills that range from high school students taking college level course for credit but not getting the "credits" when they succeed to girls who are missing instructional time because they don't have or can't afford basic hygiene supplies makes you realize the important role our system of public schools play in our society. Our schools should be the great equalizer and the VEA continues to fight every day for that end goal.