First Look: Education Bills at the VA General Assembly
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – As the General Assembly prepares to enter its first session of 2022, lawmakers set to tackle a series of sweeping education proposals, many of which aim to roll back policies adopted by Democratic lawmakers in recent years.
Education was a priority for Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin during the election campaign, but he presented few specific proposals.
One of its key commitments was the pledge to open 20 charter schools across the Commonwealth of Nations. SB 125, sponsored by Republican Mark Obenshain, would lay the groundwork for that plan by establishing regional charter school boards to oversee charter schools that attract students from multiple localities.
Several pieces of legislation seek to overturn the policies implemented by Democrats when they controlled the “trio” of state government – the House of Delegates, the State Senate and the Governor’s Residence.
Both HB 4 and HB 59 would require school principals to report crimes committed by students to law enforcement. Currently, school officials are only required to report crimes, a change implemented by Democrats to reduce the criminalization of students.
SB 20, proposed by Republican Senator Travis Hackworth, would repeal a law that requires local school boards to adopt inclusive policies for trans. The law, which took effect last year, has been a source of conflict at the local level, with some school boards choosing to violate the law by going through trans-inclusive policy updates.
These bills will face an uphill battle in this year’s session as Democrats control the state Senate by a narrow margin.
Police in schools
HB 37 would require every college and high school in the state of Virginia to have at least one school resources officer – a police officer assigned to a school in cooperation with a local police department – and at least one officer for five elementary schools.
This bill is a so-called unfunded mandate – a regulation passed on to local school divisions that has no funding attached, and therefore may require localities to bear some or all of the costs.
HB 89 would remove a provision exempting students from the definition of disorderly conduct. Indeed, this bill would allow school resources officers to charge students with disorderly conduct – a class 1 misdemeanor – for any behavior that “prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of the [school] operation or activity.
Class 1 offenses can carry a sentence of up to 12 months or a fine of $ 2,500 in the state of Virginia.
Finally, HB 127 would ban affirmative action admission policies in Virginia state-run governor schools. Policies aimed at tackling admissions bias to elite high schools came under scrutiny after data showed black and Hispanic students were disproportionately excluded.