BRISTOL – Flanked by leaders from the General Assembly, students, teachers and staff from Virginia High School in Bristol, Governor Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed into law four pieces of legislation today aimed at making students graduating from college or high school ready to enter the workforce as productive members of society. The laws support the governor’s “Opportunity to Learn” legislative agenda in this year’s General Assembly session.
“Our role as parents, educators and citizens is to ensure that our students have received the skills and training necessary to enter the workforce of the 21st century and are prepared for the careers of today and tomorrow,” Governor McDonnell said. “We are taking a large step forward in providing the skills necessary for success in our high school and college curricula. We fail our children if we do not ensure that they have the basic knowledge, training and skills necessary to compete in the complex global marketplace, and we sacrifice the futures of our young people and our country if we are not vigilant about ensuring that our diplomas prepare our students to thrive. Standing here today in front of all of these students, we may be in the presence of the next great military leader, inventor, scientist, teacher, doctor, or even governor. Our students can accomplish great things in their lifetimes so long as we give them the tools necessary to think, work and thrive in our complex world.”
Senator Frank Ruff, who sponsored legislation to enhance diploma requirements to build job skills for high school graduates, said, “There is no more significant investment we can make in our Commonwealth than to ensure that our young people, when they leave high school to enter the workforce or to go on to college, are prepared for the various career opportunities that await them.”
Delegate Kathy Byron, who sponsored this legislation in the House, added, “Our education policies must empower today’s and tomorrow’s students to pursue an academic and career pathway that leads to success – this bill provides the rigor and relevance needed in our diplomas to make that journey come true for all students.”
Delegate Tom Rust, sponsor of legislation allowing high school students to complete and associate’s degree concurrent with their high school diploma, said, “Many of today’s young minds are able to complete advanced workload while still in high school. Allowing students to complete and associate’s degree while still in high school will provide them additional options for entering the workforce, or provide them with a leg up to enter advanced-degree programs. Community colleges are a spectacular resource with which to partner to provide students with these life-changing opportunities.”
Delegate Joseph Yost, who sponsored legislation to provide character education to high school students during the summer, said, “Learning to be a productive citizen is about more than just mastering reading, writing and arithmetic. Character education to ensure our students are prepared for the difficult ethical, moral and personal decisions they will face in their lifetimes will help round out their education and allow them to get ready for the complexities of their career and personal decisions.”
These new laws will go into effect July 1, 2012 in time for the 2012-2013 school year. The Board of Education, local school divisions, and the leaders of public and private colleges and universities will be working together to develop and implement these new programs between now and July 1, when they take effect.