The Virginia General Assembly will reconvene next month to carve out a budget, an act that will have major impact on education in the state.
The House of Delegates version of the budget, which includes Medicaid expansion, allocates more state funding per student than the Senate’s, with a salary increase taking effect July 1, 2019. Teachers in Virginia continue to make below the national average of teacher salaries.
The state lags behind Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, among others, with an average classroom teacher salary of about $51,000, according to data from the Virginia Education Association. Teachers in Virginia make 70 cents for every dollar non-teachers earn, according to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a research organization based in Richmond that focuses on economics and policy.
While legislators will start April 11 to debate how to fund education and other topics, much of their work related to public K-12 and higher education was completed in the regular session that concluded last week. During the regular session, lawmakers reviewed upward of 400 education-related bills.
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Here are a few of the notable education-related bills the committees and chambers took up and how they fared. Bills that were passed must be signed by the governor before becoming law.
House Bill 1419 and Senate Bill 273 from Del. Karrie Delaney, D-Centreville, and Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, respectively, allow recess to be counted as instructional time. Currently, local school boards must allot a set amount of classroom instructional time each year. Recess does not count toward that time. The bills passed both chambers.
House Bill 109, also from Delaney, would have required each school board of localities without full-day kindergarten to develop a plan to fund and implement a full-day kindergarten program. Plans would be submitted before next year’s General Assembly session. It died in subcommittee.
Richmond Public Schools facilities
The Richmond Schools Modernization Referendum, which city voters passed in November, made its way through the General Assembly without a single vote against. The bill, Senate Bill 750 from Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, requires Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to present a fully funded school facilities modernization plan without increasing taxes by Jan. 1, 2019, or say it can’t be done.
RPS tax credits
A bill from two former Richmond School Board members to give up to $250,000 in tax credits to local businesses that hire Richmond Public Schools upperclassmen for apprenticeships died in the House Appropriations Committee. It passed the Senate unanimously.
Two bills to reform student discipline in Virginia cleared both chambers.
Senate Bill 170 from Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, prohibits students in preschool through the third grade from being suspended or expelled, except for drug and firearm offenses.
House Bill 1600 from Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, limits the length of a long-term suspension — which is currently classified as 11 school days to 364 calendar days — at 45 school days, except for some instances.
Military spouses as teachers
Senate Bill 103 from Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, requires the Virginia Board of Education to provide a one-year teacher license for the spouse of an active-duty military member who has a valid out-of-state license. It passed both chambers.
House Bill 249 from Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach, would have required each public four-year college in the state to have the same tuition rate for the four academic years a student is there. It died in subcommittee.
House Bill 351 from Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, would have capped tuition at the rate students paid for the first academic term of this year. It was left in House Appropriations.
House Bill 159 from Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, would have removed the requirement for education on abstinence, the value of postponing sexual activity and benefits of adoption if a pregnancy is unwanted. It died in committee.
College student privacy
House Bill 1 from Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, stops college student directory information from being released under the Freedom of Information Act without student or parent — if the student is younger than 18 years old — consent. It passed both chambers.
First day of school
House Bill 372 from Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and House Bill 1020 from Del. Les Adams, R-Pittsylvania, would have made local school boards responsible for determining the opening day of the school year, eliminating the “Kings Dominion Bill.” They were continued to next year.
Limited English proficiency
House Bill 13 from Del. Kaye Kory, D-Fairfax, would have required the state to fund 20 full-time positions for every 1,000 students who have limited English proficiency. Current law requires the state to fund 17 positions for each 1,000 students. It was left in House Appropriations.
DACA in-state tuition
House Bill 11, also from Kory, would have allowed any Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to be eligible to receive in-state tuition at Virginia’s public colleges. It was left in the House Rules Committee.
School bus advertising
House Bill 809 from Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Washington County, would have allowed state school systems to sell commercial advertising on their buses as schools continue to struggle with funding. It was continued to next year.
House Bill 496 from Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, would have allowed home-schooled students to compete in public school sports and other interscholastic programs. The “Tebow bill” died in committee.
Student loan ombudsman
Senate Bill 394 from Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, creates the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman in an effort to help student loan borrowers. It passed both chambers.
School meals and debt
Senate Bill 840 from Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, and House Bill 50 from Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, require Virginia school boards to adopt policies that prohibit school employees from publicly identifying or shaming a student in the division who cannot pay for a school meal or who has meal debt. The bills passed both chambers.