2021 General Assembly Session

School Board/Governance Related Legislation

2021 General Assembly Summary – Post Session Report
School Board Governance Related Legislation
Fairfax County Public Schools, Office of Government Relations

This report describes the School Board Governance related legislation considered during the 2021 General Assembly Regular Session.  Bills are listed as having Passed or Failed. 

The Governor has until March 31 to act on any legislation adopted by the General Assembly and he has the option to sign, amend, or veto any bill.  Bills with amendments or vetoes will be considered by the General Assembly at its Reconvened Session, scheduled for April 7.  Legislation signed by the Governor goes into effect on July 1, 2021 unless otherwise specified in the legislation itself.

Summaries are linked to the Division of Legislative Services’ web pages for text, up to date summary information, and fiscal impact statements. If a bill of interest is not found in one category, please check another as legislation often can fit under multiple categories.

 

UPDATED: 03/19/2021

 

PASSED

Board of Education Membership; Geographic Representation HB 1827 (Austin) would require the nine-member Board of Education to include at least five members, appointed by the Governor, who each reside in different superintendent's regions in the Commonwealth.

Brunswick County School Board; Appointed School Board Salaries HB 1798 (Tyler) and SB 1175 (Ruff) would remove the Brunswick County school board from the list of approved member salaries for appointed school boards.

City of Covington Consolidated School Division; Salaries HB 2091 (Austin) would amend the charter for the City of Covington to help facilitate the consolidation of the school divisions of the City of Covington and Alleghany County. The bill would set out the salary of a school board member of such consolidated school district and shall become effective on July 1, 2022, provided that the consolidation of the City of Covington and Alleghany County school divisions is approved by the Board of Education prior to that date.

Continuity of Government SB 1208 (Barker) would extend from six to 12 months the period of time after an enemy attack or other disaster that a locality may, by ordinance, provide for a method to assure continuity in its government and requires the ordinance to provide a method for the locality to resume normal governmental authority by the end of that 12-month period.

June Primary Election SB 1148 (Kiggans) would change the date of the primary election held in June from the second Tuesday in June to the third Tuesday in June. The bill also changes candidate filing deadlines to reflect the change of date. The bill would satisfy the reenactment requirement of Chapter 1253 of the Acts of Assembly of 2020.

Voting and Elections Administration, Prohibited Discrimination and Required Process for Enacting Certain Covered Practices; Civil Causes of Action HB 1890 (Price) and SB 1395 (McClellan) would prohibit any voting qualification or any standard, practice, or procedure related to voting from being imposed or applied in a manner that results in the denial or abridgment of the right of any United States citizen to vote based on his race or color or membership in a language minority group. The bill would further prohibit at-large methods of election from being imposed or applied in a locality in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class, defined in the bill, to elect candidates of its choice or to influence the outcome of an election, by diluting or abridging the rights of voters who are members of a protected class. Prior to enacting or administering a covered practice, defined in the bill, the governing body of a locality would be required to publish the proposed covered practice and accept public comment for a minimum of 30 days on the proposed covered practice; after the public comment period, a 30-day waiting period is required. During this period, any person who will be subject to or affected by the covered practice would be able to challenge the covered practice as (i) having the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on the basis of race or color or membership in a language minority group or (ii) resulting in the retrogression in the position of members of a racial or ethnic group with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise. The bill would permit the local governing body to instead submit the proposed covered practice to the Office of the Attorney General for issuance of a certification of no objection and, once such certification is issued, to enact or administer the covered practice. Certain unlawful actions, including knowingly communicating false information to voters, that are currently subject to criminal penalties would create civil causes of action under the bill. The bill would authorize the Attorney General to commence civil actions when there is reasonable cause to believe that a violation of an election law has occurred and the rights of any voter or group of voters have been affected by the violation. Civil penalties assessed because of such action would be payable to the Voter Education and Outreach Fund, established by the bill. Current provisions related to language minority accessibility would be moved to a newly created chapter relating to the rights of voters.

Virtual and In-Person Learning SB 1303 (Dunnavant) would require each school board to offer in-person instruction to each student enrolled in the local school division in a public elementary and secondary school for at least the minimum number of required instructional hours and to each student enrolled in the local school division in a public school-based early childhood care and education program for the entirety of the instructional time provided pursuant to such program. The bill would contain certain exceptions to the abovementioned requirement. The bill would require each school board to provide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bill would require the Department of Education to establish benchmarks for successful virtual learning and guidelines for providing interventions to students who fail to meet such benchmarks and for transitioning such students back to in-person instruction. The bill also would require all teachers and school staff to be offered access to receive an approved COVID-19 vaccination through their relevant local health district. The bill would expire on August 1, 2022.

Loudoun County School Board; Staggered Terms HB 1838 (Reid) would enable the Loudoun County school board to stagger the terms of its members at the November election immediately preceding the end of the board's term and upon the board's prior vote for staggered terms.

Severe Weather Conditions and Other Emergency Situations; Unscheduled Remote Learning Days HB 1790 (McNamara) and SB 1132 (Suetterlein) would provide that when severe weather conditions or other emergency situations have resulted in the closing of any school in a school division for in-person instruction, the school division may declare an unscheduled remote learning day whereby the school provides instruction and student services, consistent with guidelines established by the Department of Education to ensure the equitable provision of such services, without a reduction in the amount paid by the Commonwealth from the Basic School Aid Fund. The bill would prohibit any school division from claiming more than 10 unscheduled remote learning days in a school year unless the Superintendent of Public Instruction grants an extension. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Virginia's Public Schools, Students, and School Employees; Report SJ 308 (Lucas) would direct the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia's public schools, students, and school employees, including examining and determining reasons for barriers to student success in virtual and hybrid models as well as the overall impact of COVID-19 face-to-face learning restrictions on previously existing student achievement gaps, student achievement, and student well-being, including any disproportionate impact on at-risk populations; determining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on staffing levels, including the impact of teacher and school employee retirements and resignations on delivery of instruction and the ability of local school boards to fully staff their needs, employment levels, and local budgets; determining the short-term and projected long-term changes in student enrollment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of such changes on funding levels; determining the impact of implementing COVID-19 health and safety measures in public schools; evaluating public schools' level of emergency preparedness to face another pandemic or statewide crisis and making recommendations to help guide planning for such events and examining programs that can address learning loss and identifying barriers to implementing those programs, including resource gaps. Note that a House version of this legislation, HJ 549 (Guy), did not pass.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; Electronic Meetings HB 1931 (Levine) would authorize a public body to conduct through electronic communication means a meeting for which, on or before the day of the meeting, a member of the public body holding the meeting notifies the chair that such member is unable to attend the meeting due to a family member's medical condition that requires the member to provide care for such family member, thereby preventing the member's physical attendance. The bill also would clarify that participation in an electronic meeting by a member of a public body due to the inability to attend because of a personal matter is limited each calendar year to two such meetings, which is current law, or 25 percent of the meetings held that calendar year rounded up to the next whole number, whichever is greater.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; Meetings Held Through Electronic Communication Means During a State of Emergency SB 1271 (McPike) would allow a public body, or a joint meeting thereof, to meet by electronic communication means without a quorum of the public body physically assembled at one location when a locality in which the public body is located has declared a local state of emergency, provided that (i) the catastrophic nature of the declared emergency makes it impracticable or unsafe to assemble a quorum in a single location and (ii) the purpose of the meeting is to provide for the continuity of operations of the public body or the discharge of its lawful purposes, duties, and responsibilities. Under current law, public bodies may only meet in such manner when the Governor has declared a state of emergency and only for the purpose of addressing the emergency. Finally, the bill would require public bodies meeting through electronic communication means during a local or state declaration of a state of emergency to (a) make arrangements for public access to such meeting through electronic communication means, including videoconferencing if already used by the public body, and (b) provide the public with the opportunity to comment at such meetings when public comment is customarily received.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; Record Exclusion for Personal Contact Information Provided to a Public Body HB 2025 (Gooditis) would provide that personal contact information provided to a public body or any of its members for the purpose of receiving electronic communications from the public body or any of its members is excluded from the mandatory disclosure provisions of FOIA, unless the recipient of such electronic communications indicates his approval for the public body to disclose such information. Currently, the law provides protections for personal contact information provided to a public body, not to its members; only applies to electronic mail; and requires the electronic mail recipient to request the public body not to disclose his personal contact information in order for the information to be exempt from mandatory disclosure.

Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board HB 2130 (Lopez) would establish the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board to advise the Governor regarding the economic, professional, cultural, educational, and governmental links between the Commonwealth and the LGBTQ+ community in Virginia and sets out the powers and duties of the Board. The Board would be composed of 21 nonlegislative citizen members, at least 15 of whom shall identify as LGBTQ+, to be appointed by the Governor, and the Secretaries of the Commonwealth, Commerce and Trade, Education, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security, or their designees, who shall serve as ex officio members.

FAILED

Academic Year Governor's Schools, Guidance on Governance HB 2305 (Tyler) would have required the Board of Education to issue guidance on the governance of academic year Governor's Schools, including communication and outreach practices, admissions policies, and guidelines on diversity, equity, and inclusion training. The bill would have required such guidance to focus on the importance of increasing access to Governor's Schools for historically underserved students and to include best practices on conducting information sessions about the school and the availability of gifted, advanced, and specialty education program opportunities for feeder public middle schools; strengthening the student pipeline in feeder public middle schools, prioritizing the most underserved and underrepresented students and public middle schools; and conducting programs related to and evaluations of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The bill would have required the Board of Education, in developing such guidance, to collaborate with relevant stakeholders representing the geographical areas served by the Regional Governor's Schools, including local school boards representing the geographical areas served by the Regional Governor's Schools, Regional Governor's School boards, and Governor's School directors.

Board of Education Membership; Qualifications HB 1826 (Austin) would have required the nine-member Board of Education to include at least one member with experience or expertise in local government leadership or policymaking, at least one member with experience or expertise in career and technical education, and at least one member with experience or expertise in early childhood education, all of whom are appointed by the Governor.

Campaign Finance; Prohibited Personal Use; Child Care Exception HB 1952 (Simon) would have prohibited any person from converting any moneys, securities, or like intangible personal property contributed to a candidate or a candidate's campaign committee to his personal use, the personal use of the candidate, or the personal use of a member of the candidate's immediate family. Current law prohibits such conversion of contributions to personal use specifically with regard to disbursement of surplus funds at the dissolution of a campaign or political committee. The bill would have provided that a contribution is considered to have been converted to personal use if the contribution, in whole or in part, is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense that would exist irrespective of the person's seeking, holding, or maintaining public office but excepts from "personal use" the ordinary and accepted expenses related to campaigning for or holding elective office, including the use of campaign funds to pay for the candidate's child care expenses that are incurred as a direct result of campaign activity.

Consumer Protection Act; Prohibited Practices; Certain Advertising Related to School Quality HB 2003 (Samirah) would have added as a prohibited practice under the Consumer Protection Act the use in any advertising any information regarding the quality of any public or private elementary or secondary school other than information derived from the school quality indicators contained in the School Quality Profiles established by the Department of Education or information derived from the school's website or the website of the school's district, unless such advertising contains a statement, displayed on its face in a conspicuous manner, that such school quality information is not derived from the school quality indicators contained in the School Quality Profiles established by the Department of Education or endorsed by the Department of Education. The bill would have provided that such provisions shall not become effective unless reenacted by the 2022 Session of the General Assembly.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Established HB 2225 (Davis) would have permitted the parents of certain children to apply to the school division in which the child resides for a one-year, renewable Empowerment Scholarship Account that consists of an amount that is equivalent to a certain percentage of all applicable annual Standards of Quality per pupil state funds appropriated for public school purposes and apportioned to the resident school division in which the student resides, including the per pupil share of state sales tax funding in basic aid and any state per pupil share of special education funding for which the student is eligible.

Equitable Educational Opportunities Constitutional Amendment (first reference); Public Schools in the Commonwealth; SJ 275 (Stanley) would have required the General Assembly to provide for a system of public schools in the Commonwealth with equitable educational opportunities for all children and to ensure that all school-age children are provided with equitable educational opportunities.

Hearing Notice by Localities HB 2124 (Ransone) would have expanded from only localities in Planning District 23 to all localities a provision that provides that in any instance in which a locality has submitted a timely notice of public hearing to a newspaper published or having general circulation in the locality and the newspaper fails to publish the notice, such locality shall be deemed to have met certain notice requirements so long as the notice was published in the next available edition. The provision in the bill as it applies to all localities would have expired on July 1, 2022.

Home Instruction and Private School Tax Credit HB 2243 (LaRock) would have created an individual, nonrefundable income tax credit for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2021, but before January 1, 2026, for amounts paid by the parent or legal guardian of a child for the child's home instruction expenses or tuition for attending an accredited private school in Virginia. The credit would have equaled the lesser of the amount actually paid in the taxable year for such costs or half of the average state standards of quality funding per student per year. The credit could have been taken for instruction-related materials, courses, or programs used in home instruction or for private school tuition. The credit would have been available only to the parents and legal guardians of children who did not attend private school or were not home schooled in the previous year in Virginia. The credit would have been available for two years per child and can be carried forward for five taxable years.

In-Person Instruction; Education Vouchers; Emergency HB 1742 (Webert) would have required in the event that any school board does not provide the option of in-person instruction as the sole method of instruction for any enrolled student, the parent of any such student who withdraws his child from attendance to receive, upon request, an education voucher in an amount equal to a prorated share of the applicable Standards of Quality per-pupil state funds appropriated for public school purposes and apportioned to the school division, including the per-pupil share of state sales tax funding in basic aid and any state per-pupil share of special education funding for which the child is eligible, to cover the expenses of providing in-person instruction in an alternative setting. The bill would have permitted the Department of Education to establish rules, regulations, or procedures for the issuance of such education vouchers. The bill would have contained an emergency clause.

Legislative Process; Required Expiration Provision HB 1745 (Cole, M.L.) would have required any bill passed by the General Assembly when one or both houses meet and vote virtually to pass the bill to contain a provision requiring the expiration of such bill one year following the date the bill takes effect.

National Service Participation HJ 543 (Helmer) would have requested the Department of Social Services to study ways to increase participation in national service.

Open Enrollment Policy Required SB 1317 (Dunnavant) requires all local school boards to establish and implement policies to provide for the open enrollment to any school of any student who is eligible to receive free or reduced lunch upon the request of a parent or guardian, subject to conditions and limitations established by the local school board.

Public Hearing Notice by Localities HB 2114 (Ransone) would have expanded from only localities in Planning District 23 to all localities a provision that provides that in any instance in which a locality has submitted a timely notice of public hearing to a newspaper published or having general circulation in the locality and the newspaper fails to publish the notice, such locality shall be deemed to have met certain notice requirements so long as the notice was published in the next available edition. Under current law, this provision that was created by the 2020 Regular Session and only applies to localities in Planning District 23 will expire on July 1, 2022. The provision in the bill as it applies to all localities would also have expired on July 1, 2022.

READ Fund and READ Programs HB 2090 (Cox) would have established the Reimbursement for Education Access Decisions (READ) Fund (the Fund); permitted any school board to establish a READ program to provide, during the state of emergency declared by the Governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, funds to any parent or legal guardian who meets compulsory attendance requirements by having his child taught by a tutor or teacher of qualifications prescribed by the Board of Education and approved by the division superintendent in lieu of enrollment in the local school division to cover certain costs of such education; and permitted any such school board to apply to the Department of Education for an award from the Fund to reimburse the school board for half of the cost of making reimbursements to parents pursuant to its READ program.

Rights of Parents Constitutional Amendment HJ 515 (Cole, M.L.) would have added to the Constitution of Virginia the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children. The amendment would have prohibited the Commonwealth from infringing these rights without demonstrating that the governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served. This section would not have been construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would physically harm or end the life of the child.

School Division Boundaries; Conditions and Considerations HB 2247 (Aird) would removes several conditions on the Board of Education's constitutional duty to determine school division boundaries and requires the Board, in fulfilling such duty, to consider equity in educational programs within and between school divisions.

Student Education Accounts HB 1770 (Freitas) would have permitted any school division to establish a program to create savings accounts for students to be used for alternative educational programs. The bill would have required the Department of Education to establish policies and procedures under which the parent of each student may use such funds on public or private educational programs.

Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council; Charges for the Production of Public Records; Report HJ 564 (Mullin) would have directed the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council (FOIA Council) to study whether the provisions of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allowing public bodies to charge requesters for the production of public records should be amended to make access to public records easier for requesters. The study further directs the FOIA Council to examine the current FOIA provisions on charges and make recommendations on ways to amend such provisions to make the assessment of charges by public bodies for the production of public records more uniform, more transparent, easier to understand, and less costly.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; Charges for Production of Public Records HB 2000 (Roem) would have prohibited a public body from charging a requester for any costs incurred during the first two hours spent accessing or searching for requested records when such requester has made four or fewer individual records requests to such public body within 31 consecutive days.  Note that while the legislation failed, the subject matter was referred to the Virginia FOIA Council for further consideration.

Virginia Freedom of Information Act; Definition of "Meeting" HB 1997 (Murphy) would have increased from three to four the number of members of a public body meeting as an informal assemblage that constitutes a meeting under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. Note that while the legislation failed, the subject matter was referred to the Virginia FOIA Council for further consideration.

Voucher Program SB 1433 (Chase) would have provided that, if a school operates a reduced schedule and the school offers online or virtual learning as a substitute for in-person attendance, it shall deposit a portion of unused funds resulting from the reduced schedule in a voucher account for each student, for use on programs operated by the school division or other educational options, whether public, private, or parochial.