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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
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Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
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School board approves agenda for GA session

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

The Franklin County School Board has approved its legislative agenda for the the 2014 General Assembly Session, which started last week in Richmond.

The board is asking legislators not to provide state aid and funding to charter schools, home school parents, private schools or parents of children exempted from compulsory school attendance for religious reasons.

"These are private parental choices that should not be supported by state tax dollars, especially when public schools are currently funded at either 2006 or 2007 levels this year," according to a letter sent to Sens. Bill Stanley and Ralph Smith and Dels. Charles Poindexter and Kathy Byron.

The school board also states that the approval of charter school applications should remain with local school boards.

Third on the agenda is the repeal of the regulation requiring the school year to begin after Labor Day. The board asks that at the very least, schools in Western Virginia should be exempt.

"School boards should have the freedom to set their school calendars as they see fit to meet the needs of their students," the board said.

The school board also opposes any mandate that would require the school division to provide bus transportation to students of charter schools, private schools or home schools.

The school board further requested that the General Assembly calculate the Composite Index of Local Ability-to-Pay for an educational program under the Standards of Quality (SOQ) using either the total amount of real estate taxes collected annually or the true value of real property reduced by the reductions provided for land use.

SOQs are the minimum state standards for public schools as determined by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE). The SOQs are subject to revision only by the General Assembly.

Currently, the Composite Index is calculated using the true value of real estate. The board feels the change would be more fair because rural communities, such as Franklin County, have a large agribusiness presence and a land use program, causing them to receive less state aid for K-12 education.

The school board also requested that local legislators support the legislative agenda provided by the Virginia Association of School Business Officials (VASBO) and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS).

Topping the list of items on the VASBO agenda is full funding for the cost of Virginia's SOQs, which are the minimum state standards for public schools as determined by the Board of Education.

The VASBO legislative agenda also urges legislators to seek additional ways to attract and retain highly qualified teachers in Virginia by providing the state's share of funding to increase teacher pay in Virginia to the national average.

Thirdly, the VASBO agenda asks legislators to support school boards' ability to manage their own budgets by not supporting the requirement that every school division spend 65 percent of its budget on instruction.

"Transportation and facility needs and related expenditures vary widely and are often a function of being in a rural, suburban or urban area and may be further impacted by weather and population density," the agenda states. "Research by Standard & Poor's indicates that there is no correlation between student performance and the expenditure of 65 percent of the budget on instruction."

Additional requests include school construction and technology funding.

VASS supports an increase in the state SOQ funding and a full funding of SOQ mandates.

"Currently, most Virginia school divisions are operating with state funding that is below 2007 levels," the agenda states, "and the state funding provided to implement the SOQ mandates does not proportionally cover the true cost of these mandates. The difference results in an added burden on local school funding."

VASS also supports increased flexibility in local use of SOQ funding.

The agenda states that "increased flexibility would allow school divisions to move funds from one SOQ requirement category to another based on individual school needs."

VASS also wants to see the repeal of the A-F grading system for school divisions, and if not, a delay in the implementation of the system.

Another concern is the number of mandated SOL exams for students (currently, 34). VASS supports the reform of the SOL assessment and accountability system.

Proposed changes include:

•the piloting of alternate assessment and accountability measures (instead of SOL exams) in selected school divisions;

•the inclusion of alternate assessment and accountability measures in any reforms to the state accountability system; and

•the use of a tiered assessment system for state accountability that could include state mandated tests, locally developed assessments and existing external examinations such as the PSAT or AP tests.

 
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