Friday, February 6, 2015

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Virginia Education Legislation

There are many interesting education bills before the Virginia legislature this year. I should have written a post exploring the most important ones and what position I take on them, but I didn't, so now I will feature the most, most important ones. Before I do that I want to thank the bloggers at VASB (Virginia Association of School Boards) and VEA (Virginia Education Association) for keeping us Virginia education policy geeks so well informed. For further information on various bills for the Virginia General Assembly and to find out who your legislators are and how to contact them, go here.

1. I'm going to start with the really, enormously huge stinker that is Senator Obenshain’s SJR256 (the House bill is HJR 526) which proposes a constitutional amendment that would take away decision-making power regarding the establishment of charter schools in school divisions from local school boards and hand it over to the nine-member Virginia Board of Education, which is appointed by the Governor. This is another version of the Opportunity Education Institution (which was found unconstitutional)--see what I think of that horror show here and here. Whatever you think of charter schools, whether or not to establish them is a decision for local communities and their school boards to make, not for a bunch of Governor appointees.

This initiative is an affront to democracy and an affront to local control, and the fact that the bill's supporters are using the democratic process and the state's own Constitution to undermine the democratic process and to disenfranchise citizens is offensive. If you contact your delegate and senator about any education matter this legislative session, make it this one. Unfortunately, it already passed the Senate on a 21-17 vote with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats voting against it. I guess Republican State Senators in Virginia are opposed to local control. Contact your delegate and senator and tell them you oppose this bill.

2. HB1328 would require school principals to assess and report the immigration status of students at their schools. This is wrong on many levels. Immigration policy enforcement is not the job of school principals (and they have enough on their plates as it is). This would put school administrators in the role of immigration officers and pose a real ethical dilemma for them, and it would intimidate students and parents who are immigrants, keeping them from going to school. Contact your delegate and senator and tell them you oppose this bill.

3. The "Tebow" bill which permits home-schooled high school students to participate in public school sports at their local high schools passed the House 57 to 41 on Thursday. It was defeated last year. For my thoughts on this bill, see last year's post on VA GA education legislation. Then, contact your senator and tell them to oppose this bill.

4. The first bill is already dead and gone but it would have reduced the number of SOL tests from 29 to 17. The Senate Education and Health Committee rejected the bill on a 9 to 6 vote. Thanks to Senator John Miller (D-Newport News) for proposing  this. Please contact your delegate and senator and let them know you support this type of bill.

Monday, February 2, 2015

School immunization policy. And you. And me.

A little over five years ago, before I even had a separate education blog, I started what became a series of blog posts about vaccines. I began thinking about vaccines after a friend posted on facebook a mutual friend's piece published in Slate about the risks un-vaccinated people, especially kids, pose to her young son who had been diagnosed with leukemia not long before. I subsequently got into a conversation on the comment thread on facebook which included the article's author, some detractors, and some other folks    After posting about the facebook conversation, I wrote this follow-up post and then this one. After that, I wrote two more (see here and here).

I no longer blog as often or at such length. These days I also avoid such conversations on social media any more unless the person/people with whom I would converse and I have a history of productive, informative conversations.

I learned a lot from those conversations, readings, and writing I did, but it just seemed like something that would remain just that. Last semester, though, I took a course called "The Politics of Education" and one class assignment was we to research and present a particular policy and its role at national, state, and local levels. At first, I was going to write about the Common Core but then it just felt like I would be taking on too large of a topic (don't worry, I wrote about that for one of my final exam essays) and then it hit me: I could combine my interest in education policy and vaccines and do a presentation on school immunization policy! My professor was skeptical at first, but she let me go with it and I ended up really enjoying the process--and I got good feedback, too.

I wasn't able to give the presentation in class as had been the assignment, so I put together a power point which I narrated. So just to warn you--it's not exactly polished, I do rather drone on a bit, the slides are text-heavy (since I wasn't going to be speaking to my class or facilitate a Q & A session, I needed to convey the information such that the audience could read or listen to it or both), and it might not be fully up to APA standards, but with the current measles outbreak, it's a timely topic and I thought maybe someone would be interested in what I found out. Enjoy!