Virginia Board of Education Standards of Quality bills

February 20, 2020

The fate of several bills codifying changes to the Standards of Quality (SOQ) prescribed by the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) remains uncertain. HB 1316 (Aird)/ SB 728 (McClellan) would codify several changes to SOQ prescribed in VBOE’s biannual revisions from November 2019. As previously reported, these recommendations are mandated by the Constitution of Virginia, however the General Assembly has historically chosen to selectively enact and/or fund VBOE recommendations.

HB 1316 and SB 728 require a variety of provisions meant to address the needs of K-12 education as seen by VBOE. These include the establishment of a unit in the Department of Education to oversee work-based learning statewide, the establishment and of expanded teacher-leader and teacher-mentor programs, as well as principal mentoring. The bills also establish schoolwide ratios of students to teachers in certain schools with high concentrations of poverty and grant flexibility to provide compensation adjustments to teachers in such schools, requiring each school board to assign licensed personnel in a manner that provides an equitable distribution of experienced, effective teachers. The bills also remove four specialized student support positions, including school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, and other licensed health and behavioral positions, from the cap on support positions and require 4 of any of these positions per 1,000 students, among other items.

Though Governor Ralph Northam provided funding in his introduced budget for portions of the Board’s proposals, including increasing funding for at-risk-add-on, reducing the ratio of school counselors and English Learner instructors, many of the Board’s recommendations contained in these bills remain unfunded both in the Governor’s introduced budget and the latest budget proposals from the House and Senate. HB 1316 was left in the House Appropriations Committee and as a result, did not cross over to the Senate. SB 728 passed the Senate unanimously, however the financial contingency clause was added to the bill. SB 728 was reported from the House Education Committee, 15-7, with an amendment stripping the clause language from the bill.

HB 1508 (McQuinn) / SB 880 (Locke) require school boards to employ K-12 school counselors in increased ratios. Since 2016, VBOE has recommended one full-time counselor for every 250 students. Currently, code requires one counselor per 375 elementary-school students, one full-time counselor per 325 middle-school students, and one full-time counselor per 300 high-school students. However, the enacted 2019 budget only allows state funding for one counselor for every 455 elementary-school students, one for every 370 middle-school students and one for every 325 high-school students. Both bills update the enactment for the new ratio to take effect for 2020-2021 school year, however they differ on final ratios. HB 1508 as engrossed by the House increases the ratio effective with the 2021-2022 school year to one full-time counselor position for every 325 regardless of grade level. SB 880 as engrossed by the Senate increases the ratio effective with the 2021-2022 school year to one full-time counselor position for every 250 regardless of grade level. The bills will likely make their way into a conference committee to determine the final ratio.

HB 975 (Guzman) / SB 910 (Hashmi) requires state funding to support increased ratios of instructors for students identified as having limited English proficiency (also known as English Language Learners (ELL). Current standards in code requires state support for 17 positions per 1,000 ELL students meeting. VBOE prescribed increasing the ratio and basing the requisite number upon levels of English proficiency. HB 975 as engrossed by the House sets the new ratio at 18.5 instructional positions per 1,000 ELL students effective with the 2020-2021 school year, and 20 instructional positions effective with the 2021-2022 school year. SB 910 as engrossed by the Senate sets the new ratio at 20 instructional positions effective with the 2020-2021 school year and has financial contingency clause. As with the school counselor legislation, these bills will likely make their way into a conference committee to determine the final ratio.

Any increased ratios for SOQ staffing positions will require additional state and local funds, the division of which to be determined by the local composite index. Local school boards will be responsible for finding qualified candidates and hiring the required staff.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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