A creative way to improve school funding has made it out of committee.
The House Education Committee approved House Bill 809 from Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, that would allow state school systems to sell commercial advertising on their buses as schools continue to struggle with funding. The committee voted 18-2 in favor of the bill.
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, was one of two opponents and said he voted no because of the long-term implications.
“This is a short-term Band-Aid,” said VanValkenburg, a government teacher in Henrico County. “It kind of lets us off the hook in terms of our constitutional responsibility to fund our schools.”
“It potentially has longer-term consequences than what we’re thinking about.”
State K-12 funding has dropped about 11 percent since the Great Recession, with per-student contributions falling across the state. In rural schools, for example, the per-student state funding has gone from $6,893 in 2009 to $6,117 this school year, according to an analysis by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, a research organization based in Richmond that focuses on economics and policy.
“This is an outside-the-box revenue stream,” O’Quinn said.
Here are other education bills taken up Monday:
Media literacy advisory council
The establishment of a state advisory council aimed at improving media literacy cleared its first hurdle Monday.
A House Education subcommittee unanimously voted to report House Bill 199 from Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington. The bill would establish the Digital Citizenship, Internet Safety and Media Literacy Advisory Council, a 12-person group appointed by the superintendent of public instruction.
The council would include at least one teacher, librarian, parent-teacher organization representative, school administrator and expert. Committee members raised concern about the bill not having a cap on the number of appointees, but eventually agreed with Sullivan on a 12-person group.
“I’m not trying to create a big bureaucracy here,” Sullivan said. “It’s a needed effort.”
The council would have two years to complete its work before reporting back to the General Assembly.
The bill now heads to the full House Education Committee.
College civics course bill fails
Virginia college students won’t have to finish a civics course in order to graduate.
House Bill 327 from Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, would have required each undergraduate student at public colleges in Virginia to complete at least one civics course in order to graduate. The bill failed to get out of subcommittee.
A House Education subcommittee on Monday opted to pass the bill by indefinitely in a 7-0 vote.
Home-school dual enrollment
A bill that would expand home-schooled students’ access to dual-enrollment classes was killed Monday.
House Bill 497 from Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle, who had introduced the “Tebow bill” that met a similar fate Monday, failed in a House Education subcommittee. Although they currently have access to the classes, home-schooled students usually have to pay for them. The bill would have mandated that home-schooled students wouldn’t have to pay more for the classes than regular public school students.
Like the “Tebow bill,” defeated on an 11-11 vote in the full House Education Committee on Monday, this bill was intended to improve access for home-schooled students.
A third home-school-related measure from Bell, House Bill 521, would have given home-schooled students access to Virtual Virginia, the Education Department’s program for online courses. That bill also met opposition, being struck from the docket in subcommittee.
Bills related to in-state tuition tabled
A House Appropriations subcommittee tabled two bills related to in-state tuition.
House Bill 46 from Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, would have given in-state tuition rates until July 1, 2022, to any student from the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico who was affected by Hurricane Maria in September. The Higher Education Subcommittee passed the bill by indefinitely in a 5-3 vote.
House Bill 1425 from Del. Debra Rodman, D-Henrico, would have allowed public colleges in Virginia to grant full or partial tuition waivers to dependent students of faculty members.
The bill from Rodman, a college professor, was tabled, also in a 5-3 vote.
Committee members raised concern about the bill’s limitations to just professors, rather than all state employees, including college staff members.