Senate Falls Short on Denying Ill-advised Policy; Governor Calls Special Session
February 4, 2021
February 4, 2021
On Wednesday of this week, the Virginia Senate voted to move forward on SB 1303 by a vote of 26-13. The bill in its current posture would require each local school division in the Commonwealth to make virtual and in-person learning available to all students by choice of the student’s parent or guardian. The bill had an emergency clause that was stripped from it, which would have immediately become law upon the Governor’s signature. Now, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2021. So what does this bill actually do? SB 1303 does absolutely nothing to address return to in-person instruction for the immediate future. It is a blatant overreach of power and is being used primarily by some politicians to spread misinformation and spur further division amongst parents, educators, and community members.
During the debate on SB 1303, Senator Jennifer Boysko pushed back against Sen. Richard Stuart when he blamed the teacher’s union for schools remaining closed. “I take umbrage with the claim that the teachers are using this as a tool to get their way,” said Boysko, “They’re not only working as hard, they’re working harder.”
Senator Ghazala Hashmi rightly pointed out that without the emergency clause, SB1303 makes no reference to the timing of the health emergency & sounds like schools would forever have to provide dual tracks of in-person and virtual school.
A new poll commissioned by Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University (CNU) found that “45% of Virginia residents say schools are re-opening too quickly, 25% say too slowly, and 30% say the pace is about right.”
No one wants to return to in-person instruction more than the educators who dedicate their lives to help their students succeed – but we must do it safely. Educators have been leading from the start. We’ve been adapting, innovating, and showing up for our students every single day — our work has never stopped. Students know this, their parents know this too — and the small number of loud folks blaming educators should be taking up their concerns with the politicians who have relentlessly blocked the resources needed to actually reopen safely.
We continually argue about the vital importance of less and less government control over local matters, yet SB 1303 would require the state to take-over and have full and unfettered control of the local community school system in certain emergency matters. Some school divisions are fully open, some partially open and some are fully open in a virtual format. Local School Divisions have made these decisions based on guidance by the Center for Disease Control and Virginia Department of Health. These are local decisions that are best kept at the local level without state interference. And we must question whether SB 1303 is even constitutional on its face.
Governor Northam Calls Special Session
Governor Ralph Northam today signed a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into a special session on Wednesday, February 10, to align the legislative calendar with the customary 46-day length for odd-numbered years. This special session will coincide with the conclusion of the current 30-day session that began on January 13 and will ensure the legislature can complete its work on the state budget and pandemic relief.
“People across our Commonwealth are facing tremendous challenges, and they expect their elected officials to deliver results,” said Governor Northam. “I look forward to continuing our work together to move Virginia forward.”
The full text of Governor Northam’s proclamation is available here.