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'Labor Day' bills advance

Friday, February 28, 2014

Three “Labor Day” bills have advanced in the General Assembly.

The Henry County and Martinsville city school divisions are seeking waivers from the Virginia Department of Education to continue opening before Labor Day. That way, their schedules will align with colleges with which the school divisions partner in the Martinsville-Henry County STEM Pipeline Initiative. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

If the county and city school divisions are not allowed to open before Labor Day, their students will miss opportunities available through partnering colleges, division officials have said.

“There are three ‘Labor Day’ bills that the Senate Public Education (subcommittee) recommended reporting (last) Friday morning, House Bills 333, 610 and 577,” according to a Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) legislative update this week.

H.B. 333 would repeal the so-called “King’s Dominion law,” the update said.

According to the General Assembly website, H.B. 333 “makes local school boards responsible for setting the school calendar and determining the opening date of the school year and eliminates the post-Labor Day opening requirement and ‘good cause’ scenarios for which the Board of Education may grant waivers of this requirement. The bill contains technical amendments.”

The House approved H.B. 333 on Feb. 11 by a vote of 75-24, according to the General Assembly website.

It says H.B. 610 includes the same language as H.B. 333. H.B. 610 also “prohibits local school boards from requiring students to attend school from either (i) the Thursday immediately preceding Labor Day through Labor Day or (ii) the Friday immediately preceding Labor Day through the Tuesday immediately following Labor Day.”

The VSBA legislative update described H.B. 610 as “a different and creative take on the Labor Day bills... . The members have been very intrigued by the Del. (Roxann) Robinson’s novel approach to this issue.”

The House approved H.B. 610 on Feb. 11 by a vote of 75-24, according to the General Assembly website. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health and assigned to the subcommittee on public education.

According to the General Assembly website, H.B. 577: “permits a division superintendent, with the approval of the local school board, to (i) set the academic calendar for any school within the local school division that has failed to achieve full accreditation status and (ii) set the academic calendar for the entire local school division if more than 15 percent of all public schools within the local school division have failed to achieve full accreditation status. The bill contains technical amendments.”

The House passed H.B. 577 on Feb. 11 by a vote of 80 to 19. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health and assigned to the subcommittee on public education.

The VSBA was urging support for all three bills. “Our preference is House Bill 333, which allows for full flexibility by the local school board, but we believe House Bill 577 or House Bill 610 may have a better chance of passing,” the VSBA legislative update said.

Two education bills introduced by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, also have advanced in the General Assembly: S.B. 107 (STEM education grant program) and S.B. 168 (teachers relocation incentive grant fund).

According to the General Assembly website, S.B. 107: “establishes a grant program beginning in 2014 for donations made by STEM organizations to qualified schools. The donations must be used by the qualified schools to support STEM programs. Qualified schools are public elementary and secondary schools where at least 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Grants are capped at $50,000 per organization per year. The Department of Education would administer the program.”

The Senate approved S.B. 107 40-0 on Feb. 10. It was reported from the House Education Committee on Monday and referred to the House Committee on Appropriations, according to the General Assembly website.

It says S.B. 168: “provides a grant of $5,000 to teachers who relocate to either a school where at least 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch or to a school in a locality with a population of 50,000 or less. The bill provides that total annual grants shall not exceed $1 million and directs the Department of Education to develop guidelines and application forms.”

The Senate approved S.B. 168 40-0 on Feb. 10. It was reported from the House Education Committee on Monday and referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.

 

 
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