Del. Mike Mullin (D- 93rd) and Del. Brenda Pogge (R-96th) have each proposed education-related bills for the 2018 legislative session.
The first bill from Mullin is HB 15, wich would no longer require principals to report to the police students who commit assault or assault and battery that does not result in physical harm.
Mullin said as a criminal prosecutor, he sees the school to prison pipeline firsthand. He wants to help the issue by reducing school referrals to law enforcement.
“Things that a decade ago sent you from the classroom to the principal's office now send you to my courtroom,” Mullin said. “We have more classroom to courtroom referrals than any other state in the union … and that’s unacceptable.”
While Mullin proposed a similar bill in the last session that didn’t garner much support, he said this year his bill has gotten a lot of backing.
“Teachers, school administrators, law enforcement, I think everybody is now in agreement that this is a problem that needs to find a practical solution,” Mullin said in reference to the school to prison pipeline. “There are (people on) both sides of the aisle, in both House and Senate, offering similar pieces of legislation because people realize this is a serious problem in Virginia.”
The second education bill from Mullin is HB 507. This legislation would set the standards for a school or school district to adopt a dual-language program. In these programs classes are taught in both English and a second language.
“When you enter the workforce nowadays speaking a second language is vitally important,” Mullin said. “This is a real opportunity to encourage our schools to encourage that first step to become fluent in a second or even third language.”
Mullin said the bill will empower schools to create a dual language program by setting standards and requirements to follow. He emphasized that this would not put an unfunded mandate on schools. It would simply give them the parameters to create a program if they wanted to.
Pogge sponsored HB 676, which is designed to help deaf children enter kindergarten with formal communication skills, such as being able to write, read or use sign language. These children may have developed a way to communicate with their parents at home, but don’t have a standard way to communicate with other children or teachers.
“Can you imagine a child entering kindergarten with no formal language?” asked Pogge.
Children two and younger are serviced by the Department of Behavior health, and when they turn three they are serviced by the state Board of Education. What the bill hopes to do is create a 14-member Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children's subcommittee that reports back to both entities, and allows parents to chose between having their children get cochlear implants and learning American sign language.
Cochlear implants are surgically placed implants that allow someone who is deaf or has hearing problems to pick up sounds.
In the past, Pogge said there has been a split between organizations promoting cochlear implants or teaching ASL for deaf students in legislation. In this bill, she hopes to bring the two groups together to provide parents with both options.
“There may be some remedies that incorporate both,” Pogge said. If a child is born to parents who are also deaf, the parents may have the child get a cochlear implant, but also have them learn ASL so they can communicate at home.
Pogge said the new sub-committee created by the bill will take the input of parents and experts to advise the state what programs would best help deaf children.
“We don’t want to upend the program we have right now because we have a very good program, but are willing to look at their suggestions and see what we can do better and how we can make it more accessible,” Pogge said.
Pogge’s second bill, HB 791, would require a school district to employ one full-time school nurse for each school or per every 550 K-12 students. Currently not every school has a full-time nurse. Some only have part-time nurses or one who will come to the school a few days a week.
The bill did not pass the last session because there was no budget amendment included. This time, Pogge has added the amendment and it is confident it will pass. With a little more money added to the school budget, Pogge thinks there will be enough to make sure every school gets at least one full-time nurse.
Pogge is also the chief sponsor ed of HB 1370, which has to deal with homeschool standards of learning. The bill states the parent must provide “the child with a program of study or curriculum which may be delivered through a correspondence course or distance learning program." This means a parent can have a child take an online learning course instead of going to public or private school.
Neither Tommy Norment nor Monty Mason has proposed any education-related bills this session.
Upcoming legislation deadlines
Budget amendments submitted by General Assembly members must be submitted by 5 p.m. Jan. 12 and all bills must be filed by 3 p.m. Jan.19.
Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.