The Summer of 2011
It has been a very busy season since the 2011 General Assembly adjourned. In their wake, politicians left a number of issues on the table if not on the books. VASSP worked hard to defeat many of the legislative mandates that were left on the table such as expansion of PE, reduced authority of administrators over discipline issues, high school sports opening up to private school students, and the 65% Rule. Legislative and Board/Department of Education studies are continuing to look at a number of issues including suspension and expulsion reporting policies, bullying, participation of non-public school students in public school sports, testing timelines, opening of school, waivers to NCLB as well as rebenchmarking and the education budget overall. Throughout the summer, there have been several articles on theobesity issue as well as bullying (cited as top concern of students; also topic of national survey specifically related to gay and lesbian students). The Department of Education is still gathering information for its study on bullying that was mandated during the 2011 session. I suspect that we will see a number of bills re-submitted as well as new ideas launched in 2012 related to these issues.
HB 2395 House Education Subcommittee has been challenged with working out a solution acceptable to all parties in what is becoming a perennial fight over legislation to allow non-public school students to participate in high school sports programs.
Proponents – “Fairness” issue
Opponents – Need for a “level playing field” and comparable academic and discipline standards.
VASSP testimony – Education is a right and participation in sports a privilege; discipline and how to hold non-public students to comparable disciplinary standards is a major concern
Major sticking point for subcommittee – Equity and how to compare public school academic requirements with those of home-schoolers (some have suggested a national test for non-public students to use as comparison).
Legal issues and laws in other states: Courts have repeatedly rejected constitutional complaints of home school students who have been denied access to either academic or extracurricular activities having routinely held that schools are not acting unreasonably in requiring full-time attendance, and have the right to set eligibility requirements for school activities. Problematic – Proponents of this legislation, primarily the home school population, believe that because the Code allows parents to home school their students and recognizes those who complete their home school courses as graduates, the issue of academic equity is a non-issue.
Current law (DOE guidelines) requires that coaches, parents and students be informed of new guidelines on concussions; schools are obligated to collect verification completed by coach, parent, student; VHSL ramping up to be a resource to schools. The Virginia High School League (VHSL) reports that CDC tool kits are available. Key web sites to check: www.vata.us (athletic trainers); www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/guidance/health/concusssions.
The Governor has said that he will take into consideration that federal stimulus dollars are no longer available to schools. However, with the state’s bond rating at risk and issues of VRS, transportation, Medicare, and other needs looming large, it is difficult to imagine that K-12 will be at the top of the state’s funding list.
The Department of Education has reported that an additional $319M will be needed to adjust K-12 funding to reflect new “rebenchmarking” figures. Major funding categories: SOQ, incentive and categorical funding; lottery; supplemental education; federal funding. SOQ category includes: enrollment, staffing, salary changes, fringe benefits, support costs, inflation, federal revenue deduct from support costs, sales tax revenue and LCI.
Major cost drivers: Enrollment, special education (downward trend), SOL failure rates (downward trend); free lunch (major increase); salaries.