Monday, February 12, 2018

Crossover is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the last day that each chamber may take up their own bills. Each chamber convened this morning at 10:30am in preparation of discussing and voting on many bills. As I reported earlier in the session, the House was very slow to get going on their bills and they are paying the price. As I write this at nearly 7pm, they are still on the floor debating bills. The Senate adjourned at 3:04pm, so clearly the House is behind and they have far more bills.

Overall we are fighting far fewer really bad bills this session. That is good news. No charter schools, no true vouchers, and no for-profit virtual school bills. There are still some worrisome bills that we will continue to watch and oppose. The first is SB261 that will add permissive language to the SOQ on middle and high school librarians. There is a whole lot of misinformation on this bill. So let's go thorough it.

As written, SB261 would allow school divisions that are required, as established in the SOQs, to employ two librarians at any middle or high school (because they have 1,000 or more students) to, instead, employ one librarian and any one of a series of other positions, both licensed or non-licensed. While this is a permissive bill, it is still a bad bill. Legislators don't always vote against a permissive bill, so we, and our friends at the VA Librarian Association, worked hard contacting our Senators to let them know the problems with the bill. The patron, Senator Seutterlein, ultimately amended his bill because it wasn't going to pass otherwise. The amended bill only allows for a school division to hire a media specialist or a resource teacher in place of the second librarian. It remains permissive. It passed the Senate and is on it's way to the House. The VEA still opposes this bill and it is on the Governor's radar. We need to keep the pressure on.

Another bill that we must watch is SB969 that would put into LAW that any public high school student must earn a verified credit in Social Studies to graduate. This verified credit must be earned by passing an SOL end-of-course test unless the student has an IEP or special circumstances. No performance-based assessments would be allowed. Don't get me wrong, we believe in the value of social studies, but putting graduation requirements into the LAW versus allowing the Board of Education to establish them in regulations is bad practice. Ultimately this practice would take away the Board's Constitutional authority to set graduation requirements in the Commonwealth. No other test, verified credit, or graduation requirement is included in law, and neither should this. We will work to defeat the bill in the House.

Focus will quickly move to budget. The House and Senate will reveal their budgets on Sunday and we do have a cyber lobby alert to the leadership of the money committees to increase the At-risk Add On. Please click here to take action.