2021 General Assembly Weekly Update

March 1, 2021

2021 General Assembly Update
Key Education-Related Subjects
Week ending Monday, March 1, 2021 - Adjournment Sine Die Report
Fairfax County Public Schools, Office of Government Relations

Adjournment Sine Die

The General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on Monday, March 1st after finalizing actions on bill Conference reports as well as on the Budget.  All passed legislation will now go to the Governor for his consideration.  While some bills have already been signed by the Governor, for those which haven’t he has until March 31 to sign, amend, or veto any legislation adopted by the General Assembly, including the Budget.  The General Assembly is currently scheduled to return for a Reconvened Session on April 7, 2021 which is held for the sole purpose of considering bills that may have been vetoed or returned with amendments by the Governor.  Upon final signature, all bills become effective July 1, 2021 (unless otherwise specified in the legislation itself).

A detailed final report containing additional information regarding all passed and failed education related legislation, as well as all other bills related to education will be forthcoming.  This report will address bills in thirteen subject categories and will be located on the web pages of the FCPS Office of Government Relations at https://www.fcps.edu/about-fcps/departments-and-offices/government-relations/virginia-general-assemblyBills in all thirteen categories are linked to the Virginia Division of Legislative Services web pages, which provide up-to-date summary, fiscal impact, and bill status information.

K-12 Education Related Bills – Key Previously Reported Bills with Final Status Updates

In Person Learning SB 1303 (Dunnavant) as approved by the House and Senate in their Conference report 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 exceptions to the above-mentioned requirement, but only on a building by building basis and only based on actual transmission levels within that building. 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 and would permit school boards to offer fully virtual education upon request during the Governor’s state of emergency. The bill would allow teachers under quarantine to continue to teach in-person students virtually and would permit any teacher or staff member permitted to perform job functions from remote locations to continue to do so.  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.

Budget Bill HB 1800 (Torian) the following provides a policy-focused summary of key Pre-K through 12 education related items included in the final Conference report for HB 1800, the biennial budget bill.  Detailed information on the financial impacts of the components of the Conference report will be forthcoming. As with all other legislation, the Governor has the option to sign, amend, or veto the budget bill prior to March 31.

Compensation – would provide in FY 2022 the state share of an up to a 5% salary increase for SOQ-recognized instructional and support staff, subject to provision of required local matching funds.  To access funds school divisions would have to provide at least a 2.0% salary increase over the biennium, and funding is prorated for school divisions providing increases between 2.0% and 5.0%.

Cost of Competing Adjustment (COCA) – would provide funding in FY 2022 to increase COCA rate for support positions in Northern Virginia from 10.6% to 18.0%. Partial COCA for outlying Norther Virginia localities would increase from 2.65% to 4.5%.

Additional School Counselors – would retain Governor’s proposed funding in FY 2022 to provide one counselor per 325 students as provided in 2020 legislation.

Additional Specialized Student Support Positions – would provide funding in FY 2022 requiring school divisions to provide three specialized support positions per 1,000 students as required by SB 1257.  These positions include school nurses, school social workers, school psychologists, and behavioral analysts.

Student Growth Assessments – would provide funds in FY 2022 from federal ESSER II funds to begin implementing a growth assessment system in fall 2021 as directed by HB 2027.  These assessments would replace grade 3-8 End-of-Year Standards of Learning assessments.

School Nurse Workgroup – would direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene a workgroup to make recommendations to the General Assembly on the required qualifications and training for school personnel providing health services in schools.

Extended Special Education Eligibility – would include funding in FY 2022 from ESSER II funds to require school divisions to permit certain special education students to attend high school for an additional year to aid with post-secondary transition impacted by school closures.

Plan for Monitoring School Division Compliance with State Standards – would direct the  Department of Education to develop and implement a pilot program to more comprehensively supervise school division compliance with a subset of key standards by requiring (i) the submission of more comprehensive compliance information, (ii) selective independent verification of compliance, (iii) monitoring of corrective action implementation, and (iv) analysis of compliance trends and issues.

Learning Loss Supplemental Payments – would support local efforts in FY 2021 to address COVID-19 learning loss with no local match required.  Funding would be available for extended school year, summer school, tutoring, remediation and recovery, counseling and student supports, certain facility modifications.  School divisions would be permitted to carryover funds from FY 2021 to FY 2022.

Prioritize VPI Flexible Funding for Four-Year-Old Children – would require the Department of Education to prioritize serving at-risk four-year-old children when reallocating funds among components of the Virginia Preschool Initiative, such as the community provider add-on, and the at-risk three-year-old pilot program.

Publish Academic Year Governor's Schools Diversity Planning and Progress Information Online – would require each Academic Year Governor's School to post their diversity goals and implementation plans, and related annual progress reports to their websites. In 2020, language was added to the Appropriation Act requiring Academic Year Governor's Schools to: (i) establish diversity goals for its student body and faculty; (ii) to develop a plan to meet such goals; and (iii) provide an annual progress report to the Governor including information about admissions processes, outreach and demographics; however, no requirement was included to make such information easily accessible to the public.

Expanded Child Care Subsidy Eligibility – would provide funds from federal CCDF funds to implement HB 2206, which would temporarily expand family eligibility for child care subsidy program.

CTE Resource Center Database Replacement – would provide funds to replace Virginia's Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum database and content management system managed by the Virginia CTE Resource Center.

Remediation and Recovery Grants – would include funding in FY 2022 from federal ESSER II state set-aside to support competitive grants to support innovative COVID-19 learning loss programs aligned with best practices.

Infrastructure & Operations Per Pupil Payments – would include funding to increase these payments to meet the House’s goal to distribute 40% of lottery proceeds through these funds.

JLARC Special Education Recommendations – would include funding to support training modules for IEP team members, training modules for teachers on special education matters, and special education teacher recruitment and retention efforts.

Fully Restore 2020 Session Early Childhood Initiatives – would provide in the second year funding to increase Virginia Preschool Initiative per pupil amount from $6,326 in FY 2021 to $7,655 in FY 2022.  Funding is provided in the second year to restore Early Childhood Educator Recruitment/Retention Incentives.  Additionally, funding is provided to expand Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to Pre-K.

VRS Benefits – would retain Governor’s funding for the final phase of the repayment of deferred contributions to the public-school teacher’s retirement plan, covering both the state and school divisions’ shares.

Special Education JLARC Recommendations HB 2299 (Carr) and SB 1288 (Dunnavant) as approved by the House and Senate in their Conference report would require state and local implementation of most of the recommendations made in the 2020 JLARC study K-12 Special Education in Virginia regarding special education policies and procedures as well as for teacher and administrator preparation programs and for on-going in-service training.

The final bill language largely parallels the much more extensive language included in SB 1288, with a couple of modifications, including language which would now require each local school board to provide guidance from the Department to parents of students with disabilities regarding the Applied Studies diploma and its limitations at a student's annual individualized education program meeting corresponding to grades three through 12 when curriculum or statewide assessment decisions are being made that could impact the type of diploma for which the student can qualify and a requirement which would require the Department of Education to study the need for and feasibility of allowing parents to provide partial consent to the initial implementation of their child’s individualized education program (IEP).

Electric School Buses – SB 1380 (Lucas) and HB 2118 (Keam) the Conference report for HB 2118 reverted the legislation back closer to its original form, and would establish the Electric Vehicle Grant Fund and Program for the purpose of (i) awarding grants on a competitive basis to public school divisions for (a) assisting with costs of replacing diesel school buses with electric school buses; (b) the implementation of recharging infrastructure or other infrastructure needed to charge or maintain such electric school buses; and (c) workforce development and training to support the maintenance, charging, and operation of such electric school buses and (ii) projects by public, private, and non-profit Virginia entities to assist with replacing diesel-fueled vehicles and machinery with electric vehicles.  No allocation of funds would be made to the Fund or the Program unless federal or nonstate funds are available to cover the entire cost of such allocation. The bill would contain provisions relating to grant applications, priority, awards, and uses.  The Department of Environmental Quality would be required to convene a stakeholder workgroup to develop recommendations for establishing and administering the Fund and Program and shall report the workgroup findings to the General Assembly. Note that this version of the legislation passed both the House and Senate.

The Conference report for SB 1380 would have permitted a Phase II Utility, as defined in § 56-585.1, may petition the Commission on or after July 1,2021, for approval of a plan to provide no more than 1,000 electric school buses to participating school divisions within its certificated service territory and of the utility's proposed method of cost recovery.  Any such plan for electric school bus projects would have to include measures to (i) provide safe and efficient transportation to Virginia students and (ii) utilize the energy storage system in such buses as an electric grid stabilization or peak-shaving resource when the bus is not needed for transportation of students. Note that the House rejected the conference report for SB 1380, so this version of the legislation did not pass.

Establishment of Gun Free Zones, Certain School Board Property HB 1909 (Subramanyam)  as approved by the House and Senate in their Conference report would permit any school board to deem any non-school zone building or property that it owns or leases where employees of such school board are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties as a gun-free zone and prohibit any individual from knowingly possessing, purchasing, transferring, carrying, storing, or transporting firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof while such individual is upon such property, except certain individuals such as law-enforcement officers and qualified retired law-enforcement officers.

Through-Year Growth Assessment System HB 2027 (Coyner) and SB 1357 (Dunnavant) as approved by the House and Senate would require the Board of Education to establish, in lieu of a one-time end-of-year assessment and for the purpose of providing measures of individual student growth over the course of the school year, a through-year growth assessment system, aligned with the Standards of Learning, for the administration of reading and mathematics assessments in grades three through eight. The bill would require such through-year growth assessment system to include at least one beginning-of-year, one mid-year, and one end-of-year assessment in order to provide individual student growth scores over the course of the school year, provided that the total time scheduled for taking all such assessments shall not exceed 150 percent of the time scheduled for taking a single end-of-year proficiency assessment. The bill would require the Department of Education to ensure adequate training for teachers and principals on how to interpret and use student growth data from such assessments to improve reading and mathematics instruction in grades three through eight throughout the school year. The bill would provide that with such funds and content as are available for such purpose, such through-year growth assessment system shall provide accurate measurement of a student's performance, through computer adaptive technology, using test items at, below, and above the student's grade level as necessary. The bill would require full implementation of such system no later than the 2022–2023 school year and partial implementation during the 2021–2022 school year consisting of one beginning-of-year assessment and one end-of-year assessment.

Children's Services Act; Special Education Programs HB 2117 (VanValkenburg) and SB 1313 (Mason) as adopted by the House and Senate would require that funds expended for private special education services under the Children's Services Act only be expended on educational programs that are licensed by the Board of Education or an equivalent out-of-state licensing agency. The bills also would provide that as of July 1, 2022, such funds may only be expended for programs that the Office of Children's Services certify as having reported their tuition rates. The bills would add children and youth previously placed in approved private school educational programs for at least six months who will receive transitional services in a public school setting to the target population for eligibility for the state pool of funds. The bill would provide that state funds shall be allocated for no longer than 12 months for transitional services. The bills would require the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Resources, in conjunction with the Office of Children's Services and the Department of Education, to establish a work group with appropriate stakeholders to develop a detailed plan to direct the transfer of Children's Services Act funds currently reserved for children requiring an educational placement in a private special education day school or residential facility to the Department of Education, as well as several other topics. The bills would require that the work group submit its plan and recommendations to the Chairmen of the House Committee on Appropriations and Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations by November 1, 2021, as well as a final plan and recommendations by November 1, 2022. 

Guidelines on Excused Student Absences, Civic Engagement HB 1940 (Rasoul) and SB 1439 (McClellan) as adopted by the House and Senate would provide that, subject to guidelines established by the Department of Education, each school board (i) shall permit one school day-long excused absence per school year for any middle school or high school student in the local school division who is absent from school to engage in a civic event and (ii) may permit additional excused absences for such students who are absent for such purposes. The bills would also provide that local school boards may require that the student provide advance notice of the intended absence and require that the student provide documentation of participation in a civic event.

Specialized Student Support Positions, Standards of Quality SB 1257 (McClellan) as adopted by the House and Senate and as funded in the Appropriations Act would modify a school personnel requirement in Standard 2 of the Standards of Quality. It would require each school board to provide at least three specialized student support positions, including school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions, per 1,000 students.

Possession and Administration of Undesignated Stock Albuterol Inhalers and Valved Holding Chambers HB 2019 (McQuinn) as adopted by the House and Senate would require each local school board to adopt and implement policies for the possession and administration of undesignated stock albuterol inhalers and valved holding chambers in every public school in the local school division, to be administered by any school nurse, employee of the school board, employee of a local governing body, or employee of a local health department who is authorized by the local health director and trained in the administration of albuterol inhalers and valved holding chambers for any student believed in good faith to be in need of such medication. The bill would require the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health, to develop and implement policies for the administration of stock albuterol in public schools. The bill would have a delayed effective date of January 1, 2022.

Paid sick leave; employers to provide to certain employees. HB 2137 (Guzman) as adopted by the House and Senate was amended to apply only to home health workers.

K-12 Education Related Bills Already Signed by the Governor

The following previously reported legislation has already been signed by the Governor and will go into effect on July 1, unless otherwise specified in the legislation itself.

  • Unscheduled Remote Learning Days, Severe Weather Conditions and Other Emergency Situations HB 1790 (McNamara) and SB 1132 (Suetterlein)
  • Cultural Competency, Teachers and Other Licensed School Board Employees HB 1904 (Jenkins) and SB 1196 (Locke)
  • Virginia Freedom of Information Act; public body authorized to conduct electronic meetings HB 1931 (Levine)
  • Lock-down drills, Annual requirement HB 1998 (Murphy)
  • Student driver education program; parent/student component exemption HB 2119 (Keam

K-12 Education Related Bills as Passed House and Senate

The following previously reported legislation passed both House and Senate in the final days of Session and await the Governor’s action to sign, amend, or veto each bill.  The Governor has until March 31 to take such actions.

  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors Required, Public Schools, Child Day Programs, and Certain Other Programs; HB 1823 (Askew)
  • Loudoun County School Board; Staggered Terms HB 1838 (Reid)
  • Reading Intervention Services HB 1865 (Delaney)
  • Early Childhood Education; Quality Rating and Improvement System Participation; School Readiness Committee HB 2105 (Bulova)
  • School Board Policies; School Meal Debt; Enforcement HB 2013 (Roem)
  • Participation in the Afterschool Meal Program HB 2135 (Roem)
  • Abusive Work Environments, Definitions in School Board Policies HB 2176 (Torian) 
  • Special Education and Related Services for Students with Disabilities, Updates to Eligibility Worksheets and Education Preparation Programs HB 2316 (Mundon-King)
  • Health Standards of Learning; Advanced Directive Education for High School Students SB 1190 (Kiggans)
  • Broadband Services; School Boards to Appropriate Funds for Expansion of Services for Education SB 1225 (Boysko)
  • Virginia Freedom of Information Act; meetings held through electronic communication means during a state of emergency SB 1271 (McPike)
  • Seizure Management and Action Plans, Biennial Training SB 1322 (DeSteph) Note would be effective July 1, 2022.
  • JLARC Study of the Costs of Education SJ 294 (Lewis) Note would require a mid-report update prior to the start of the 2023 General Assembly Session and a final report prior to the 2024 Session

K-12 Education Related Bills – Failed Legislation

The following previously reported legislation failed in the last days of Session

  • Virginia Human Rights Act; nondiscrimination in employment, sexual and workplace harassment HB 2155 (Watts)
  • Public School Assistance Fund and Program SB 1106 (Stanley)
  • Voter referendum; issuance of state general obligation bonds for school facility modernization SB 1109 (Stanley)
  • Department of Health, certain communication prohibited SB 1235 (Peake)
  • Local Arbitration Agreements SB 1384 (Surovell)
  • Standards of Learning Assessments; Reduction; Report SB 1401 (Pillion)