Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sandy Garst on the Education Bills

Thanks to Sandy Garst for sharing this review of education issues in the Virginia General Assembly 2013:

"Comments on Selected Education Bills

*Important Reminder: As of 2010, each bill submitted costs approximately $3000-$5000 to process.*
60 Bills were tracked.

22 passed.
Oppose – Failed but not Really

SB 1069 Virginia Longitudinal Data System; established, report. Charles Carrico

 “Requires the Board of Education to establish the Virginia Longitudinal Data System to track and examine student progress from early childhood to postsecondary education to the student entering the workforce. The bill also establishes the Virginia Longitudinal Data System Advisory Council…”
A legislator explained that these bills failed in Appropriations because there was no funding. However, an amendment was added to and approved with the Budget Bill HB 1500:

“137 1c Va Longitudinal Data System - (This amendment provides $120,000 the second year from the general fund for the Virginia Longitudinal Data System to help offset the increased costs related to VITA charges.)”
So it appears that despite these two bills “establishing” a longitudinal data system being defeated, the system already exists and will be funded.

Our children will be tracked from early childhood until they enter the workforce.  There is no limit in the bill as to what data can be collected.
Oppose – Passed

 “$150,000 the second year from the general fund is provided to the Department of Education to support implementation of the Opportunity Educational Institution.”
The Institution will be administered by a Board:

That is a policy board in the executive branch of government
That has all the powers and duties of a local school board

That consists of 9 appointed members including two Delegates and two Senators
An appointed policy Board that is part of the executive branch of government and that has no accountability to parents is going to educate their children. 

The school board will be required to annually provide parents with information on eating disorders for children in grades 5 -12.

There is also the option of developing a screening program.
The Department of Education and the Department of Health will be responsible for providing the information.

This fiscal impact statement states that it cannot predict the fiscal impact of this legislation but lists the significant staff time necessary to provide information and update regulations and the cost of annually providing the information to parents.  The report does not address the local fiscal impact if screening is implemented.
If this information even gets into the parent’s hands it will likely be tossed without being read.  If this information is provided on a website, it will likely not reach the individuals who would need it. It is not the purpose of public education to provide health screenings.

HB 1344 Deaf and hard-of-hearing children; special education.    Dickie Bell

Fiscal Impact Statement:

Is this bill really necessary?
“The enrolled bill permits, but does not require, school divisions to ensure that IEP teams consider the specific communication needs of hearing-impaired children and address those needs in the child’s IEP. However, many of the provisions of this bill are already established in federal and state special education laws and/or regulations…”

How much is it really going to cost?
“if any school divisions elect to implement the provisions of this legislation, it could result in a local fiscal impact. There could also be a state fiscal impact if any such school divisions incur additional expenses related to the provisions of this bill and report those expenditures to the Department of Education…”

I submit that even though it would feel good, it is not possible for the public education system to meet every need of every child without bankrupting Virginians. 
HB 1871 Bullying; defines term and requires school boards to prohibit acts by students and school employees. Jennifer McClellan

“It is possible that the development of policies and procedures related to the prohibition of bullying in schools, as required by the legislation, could result in additional administrative costs for the Department of Education and local school divisions; however, it is anticipated that such costs could be absorbed within existing resources.”

We cannot legislate for every bad behavior.  It is a waste of time and resources.
Bullying is not a new behavior and should be handled the same way as any other unacceptable behavior. 

SB 1175 Teach for America; creates two-year provisional license for participants.  Frank Ruff

According to their website, Teach for America seeks a "diverse group of promising future leaders who have the leadership skills to change the prospects of students...." Those recruited do not have to have any prior teaching experience.”
Teach for America is a non-profit organization but is associated with AmeriCorps which means it receives federal funding. How much is this costing us?

I like the idea of bringing in non-educators to teach their subject.  For instance, I think it would be great to bring in an accountant to teach accounting or a chemist to teach chemistry but I think this could be done at a local level.  I also think it would be preferable to have someone with experience instead of fresh graduates.
Oppose – Failed

HJ 598 Public education; recognizing need to tackle problem of hunger in classroom.

In the Budget Bill, HB 1500

“School Nutrition (18502)                                  $ 1,532,843             $ 1,532,843”
Under the category Direct Aid to Public Education these are the figures listed for the School Breakfast Program

“School Breakfast Program                                 $3,693,543                    $3,837,586”
It is not the purpose of public education to feed the children.  It is the responsibility of the parents to feed their children.  Think of the savings to the taxpayers if parents fed their own children!

“The bill finally requires the Board, in conjunction with the Center for Innovative Technology, to annually report to the General Assembly on the level of broadband connectivity of each local school division as well as the level of computer ownership and access to broadband services for each student and make the data available through the Commonwealth's broadband connectivity map for the purpose of aiding each local school board in its decision to purchase electronic textbooks.”

It is nobody’s business if the student has a computer or broadband.  I also do not wish to have my taxes raised to pay for students to have a computer and broadband.
HJ 619 Study; state-supported preschool programs; report. Chris Jones

Taxpayers should not have to pay for preschool.
HB 2171 School safety audits; school crisis, emergency management, and medical emergency response plans.  Delores McQuinn

Bimonthly audits and reviews are a waste of time and money.
HB 2337 Public schools; school crisis, emergency management, and medical emergency response plans.

Kaye Kory
“Directs each local school board to hold and require the parents of each student in the local school division to attend an informational session no later than August 31 of each year at which the school board shall distribute and present an overview of the school crisis, emergency management, and medical emergency response plan. The bill requires each parent to sign a form to certify that he attended the informational session and received a copy of the plan.”

I oppose the state requiring me to attend any meeting. This information can be posted on the school website and at the school office if parents are interested.
HB 1469 Higher educational institutions; State Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive financial audit.    Dickie Bell

The cost is too great:     

“The OSIG estimates that to perform comprehensive financial and performance audits on the state’s 14 institutions of higher education would require 25 FTEs and approximately $4,000,000.”
HB 2287 Local school boards; mental health first aid training plan.  Rob Krupicka

“…each teacher in the local school division would be required to participate in a 12-hour interactive course initially provided by community services board staff members on the risk factors, warning signs, symptoms, and treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, trauma, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.”
Teachers are not nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, or parents.

This will be another education expense that has nothing to do with education.
SB 1153 Public schools; kindergarten instructional time.  George Barker

Very expensive and unnecessary:
“The estimated state fiscal impact is $2.0 million per year to fund full-day kindergarten in Loudoun County. It is estimated that the required local effort for Loudoun County approximately $2.6 million each year...Moreover, Loudoun County could incur additional local operational and capital costs …”

Education is not a right.

Early childhood education should come from the parents not the government.
HJ 684 Constitutional amendment (first resolution); charter schools. Scott Lingamfelter

“Grants the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.”

The first issue is that this should not be an amendment to the Constitution.

Second, charter schools are not the answer to our education issues because they are still public schools subject to the same state mandated Standards of Learning and Standards of Quality.
Third, charter schools will lead to higher taxes because money will be pulled from the regular public school system to help fund the Charter schools.

SJ 327 Constitutional amendment (first resolution); statewide school division; schools denied accreditation. Ryan McDougle

Not worthy of an amendment and a waste of money.
The answer to improving our schools lies in returning control to the local level.

Local Fiscal Impact:

“The estimates ranged from $55,271 per year in Prince Edward County to $7,000,000 per year in the City of Virginia Beach.”
State Fiscal Impact:

If the state shares costs with localities: “the state share of SRO costs would be $73.6 million the first year and $39.7 million in subsequent years”
If the assumption is that the state will cover the cost of all SROs, the cost for the existing 935 officers would also need to be added to the costs cited above for the new positions. This cost is estimated at an additional $64.5 million each year with the state share being $35.5 million

Adding resource officers will not make our schools safer and it is too costly.
Support – Passed

“Allows a public elementary school that had an adjusted pass rate of less than 75 percent on the third grade Standards of Learning reading assessment… to apply …for a two-year waiver from the science or history and social science Standards of Learning assessment requirement, or both, for third grade students….”

The only problem with this bill is that it expires in 2015 and does not apply to all grade levels. The most important subjects in school are still reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Science and history can wait.
Support with Reservations– Failed

SB 812 Public school interscholastic programs; participation of students receiving home instruction.

Tom Garrett
I support these bills with reservations because I do not think the taxpayer should fund school sports programs at all.  I realize that is heretical thinking but extracurricular sports are not a necessary part of education. 

However, as long as sports are included in public education, all children should have access to them. 
This was just an interesting item I found in the amended items of the Budget Bill HB 1500:

138 2c Va Teaching Scholarship Loan Program - $708,000

Top 10% Students to the Teaching Profession (This amendment restores funding in the second year to continue and better target the program in order to help attract top students into the teaching profession. The amount of the award is updated from $3,720 to $10,000.This appropriation includes $708,000 the second year from the general fund for the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan Program. These scholarships shall be for undergraduate students at or beyond the sophomore year in college with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.7 who were in the top 10 percent of their high school class…)  
What value is being in the top 10% of your high school class when you only have a 2.7 in college? A 2.7 equates to a top student for the teaching profession?

The above are just my opinions. My opinions are based on the belief that education is not a right. I have formed these opinions from my experience of having 5 children in the public school system and a brief experience with home schooling.   I have experience with preschool, special needs, academically gifted, dual enrollment, community college, and university education.  I have been a volunteer in the classroom, treasurer of the PTA, and worked in the school cafeteria. I have reviewed and reported on SOLs and textbooks. However, I am still learning.