Flanked by students, teachers and parents Monday in Richmond, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) unveiled his 2012 legislative and budget actions for his ongoing “Opportunity to Learn” education initiatives.
The proposed budget would include $438 million in new and additional K-12 funding over the next two years. McDonnell said his educational proposals for the commonwealth’s public school system, to be introduced in the 2012 General Assembly session which convenes Wednesday, focuses on better preparing students for college and beyond.
“The goal is to be college or career ready when you graduate,” McDonnell said. “If you want a good job, you need a good education.”
McDonnell’s 2012 education budget proposals focus on preparing Virginia students to compete with students from around the nation for college entrance and careers. McDonnell said he wants the school districts throughout the Commonwealth to develop relationships with local community colleges to create a program for high school students that would allow them to earn an associate’s degree or a one-year uniform certificate of General Studies.
The budget also focuses on reducing mandates on Virginia school districts, expanding educational options and enhancing teacher quality. The budget would provide $1.8 million in funding in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 for sophomores to take the PSAT, $80,000 (in fiscal year 2013) for planning and first year start-up funding for health sciences academies and $600,000 in funding for incentive awards for teachers in STEM areas.
The students surrounding the governor’s podium smiled throughout the presentation but those smiles became looks of confusion when the topic turned to returning to the classroom before the Labor Day holiday.
McDonnell supports the repeal of the requirement that school divisions must begin their school year after Labor Day unless they have a waiver from the Board of Education to increase the amount of instructional time students receive in a given year.
Joan Wodiska, president of the Virginia School Boards Association, was glad McDonnell supports the repeal.
“For many, many, many years, the Virginia School Boards Association’s top legislative priority has been to abolish the Labor Day Law,” said Wodiska, the former chair of the Falls Church City Public Schools Board, in a statement.
“Virginia School Board members strongly and loudly support your request for a full repeal. Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law. This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated, and unnecessary state mandate. In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virginia’s economic and educational goals. It must be repealed.”
McDonnell made it clear he also wants to increase literacy throughout the Commonwealth’s public schools, especially among those in lower grades. His “Advancing Literacy” initiative will ensure local school divisions use funds appropriated for prevention, intervention, and remediation to create reading intervention services to students in grades three and four who demonstrate deficiencies based on the SOL reading test or any reading diagnostic test that meets criteria established by the Department of Education.
Janie Strauss, chair of the Fairfax County Public Schools Board, said FCPS does significant literacy testing in the second grade as well. She said FCPS begins tracking student’s literacy as early as preschool (Head Start) and kindergarten.
“It is extremely important that students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade, because by the time you get to fourth grade, there is much more reading in each subject area that is required,” Strauss said in a telephone message. “Third grade is a very important benchmark year for literacy.”
For more on Gov. McDonnell’s “Opportunity to Learn” education initiatives, click here.