Public Comments for 02/01/2021 Education
HB1980 - Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program; established, report.
Virginia Military Institute appreciates the opportunity to provide comment on House Bill 1980. We offer the following observations as the subcommittee considers this bill: 1. Honoring the enslaved persons who labored on our campuses and memorializing them appropriately is a worthy endeavor. To that end, VMI has begun a research project in an effort to identify those individuals. 2. One question raised in our review of the bill is the use of general funds. Is it appropriate to exclude the use of general funds as a source for an ongoing program of this nature at state institutions? We realize that the use of general funds may inspire and merit a larger policy discussion. 3. Each of the institutions named in this legislation is different and the language needs to provide flexibility to tailor a program to the specific needs of each institution. 4. We do feel it important for subcommittee members to understand that VMI commits a significant amount of institutional funds to scholarships. For the 2020-21 academic year, the Institute provided $13.1 million in institutional scholarship aid.
HB2093 - School Construction Fund and Program; created and established.
Members of the House Education – SOL SOQ Subcommittee Committee. I am Kim Evans, Division Superintendent of Greensville County Public Schools. I am a member of the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools. The Coalition serves 78 of the 133 public school divisions in the Commonwealth. I write to express my support for House Bill 2093. Ensuring safe, healthy, and modern school facilities that can support innovative teaching and personalization is critical to closing the achievement gap. As schools and educators are asked to provide more innovative lessons, to incorporate project-based learning teaching strategies, and to provide more personalized learning in the form of small groups and makerspaces, it is important that school facilities are conducive to such opportunities. Greensville County Public Schools is comprised of four schools. Two of those schools (Greensville County High School and Belfield Elementary School) are in poor shape. Greensville County High School is comprised of four separate buildings. The original building was constructed in 1953. 1n 1989, an addition to the original building was completed as well as a separate gym and vocational building. Belfield Elementary was built in 1960 and no renovations have been made to this building. Greensville Elementary School was a new construction project in 1998 and E. W. Wyatt Middle School was renovated in 2009. Due to the age of these facilities, the price tag to modernize or build new structures is high and continues to rise while local officials lament over funding new school facilities. The need to fund regular maintenance projects to keep these facilities operational is also critical. The school system is funded locally by the City of Emporia and the County of Greensville. Both governing bodies were invited to a joint presentation of the capital improvement needs of the school division in December 2020 in the hopes that a long-term school capital improvement plan is created. In the meantime, our students are being educated in facilities that do not provide the optimal learning environment to support their success. In January 2020, we conducted empathy interviews with our students to provide an opportunity for them to share with us their opinions about their education. One question centered around the learning environment. A high school student responded, “I feel bad when I go to other schools for sporting events and see how nice their high school is compared to ours.” Similar comments were made by students regarding the lack of a modern school. House Bill 2093 would provide needed assistance to school divisions, such as Greensville, in receiving the support and funding for new school facilities and the maintenance of current facilities. This Bill will also assist in fostering a sense of pride in the learning environment for students and staff. Thank you for your consideration. Kim F. Evans, Ed.D. Division Superintendent
HB2120 - Higher educational institutions, public; governing boards, meetings, input, and disclosures.
As a college student at Virginia Tech, a public research university, I've learned very quickly that college isn't cheap. I try my hardest to think of it as a valuable investment, which it is. College debt has increased more so towards the exponential side than linearly over the years throughout Virginia and the U.S. as a whole. My university is no exception and Virginia Tech, at times, especially now, continues to charge students for nearly everything without regard to their financial situations. It seems like the people making the decisions about how Virginia Tech handles student tuition are thousands of miles away. Other students close to me and I are constantly giving feedback about our situations during the pandemic and pre-pandemic. The HB2120 would be a great effort towards bringing students to the table when it comes to budget plans, issues, and future directions where they could have a more direct and timely impact on decisions. Even being open to the student body on how the budget is used throughout campus and beyond would foster a student body that supports the many, many financial endeavors that are undertaken.
Being a college student and graduating has become an increasingly unaffordable goal for many students in Virginia. I am currently a student at Virginia Tech, a public land grant university. I have found that the school does whatever it can to profit and expand their brand, while at the same time squeezing every cent out of their student body. My classmates are worrying about student debt and their futures in these unprecedented times. Virginia Tech is not making it any easier on us. Students have to pay top dollar just to park on campus and acquire reading material on top of our tuition that increases almost every year. Now with the COVID pandemic, students even have to pay monthly subscriptions for online classroom platforms. While students are struggling, administrators continue to rake in six figure salaries and work on business ventures like the Amazon campus. If tax dollars are paying for these institutions, then I believe it should be more democratically run. Students have no say in what their tuition goes towards or what direction the school is headed. HB2120 would require more transparency about school budgets, and would give students more opportunities to speak up on school budget issues. I think passing this bill is a step in the right direction.
The Virginia Press Association supports HB 2120.
Representing the student population of James Madison University, the Student Government Association (SGA) of James Madison University would like to officially support House Bill 2120 (patron, Delegate Mark Keam). In past years, individual members as well as the entire SGA have advocated to the General Assembly to immensely improve the practices of governing boards at higher education institutions. This has included but is not limited to demanding the passage of HB 1157 (2020 session, Del. Kathy Tran) in order to add a student voting member to our Board of Visitors. These calls have been in response to growing sentiment that the Board of Visitors is inaccessible, undemocratic, and out of touch from the everyday concerns of both students and faculty on our campus. Most recently, the Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust conducted a report analyzing the policies and practices of higher education governing boards across the Commonwealth of Virginia. James Madison University received a total “F” rating, an “F” rating for Board receptiveness, an “F” rating for member accessibility, and a “C” rating for Board transparency. In addition, no public institution in Virginia received a total “A” rating and the average rating for all institutions in the study was just a “C-”. We recognize this legislation as a great start at initial reforms and tackling the obvious issues plaguing higher education institutions across the Commonwealth. Positive changes found in this legislation such as providing proper notices of meetings, displaying past meetings’ minutes, and including commenting periods would go a long way in bettering our Board of Visitors. For this reason, we support this legislation as a first step in achieving proper transparency and accountability. However members of the subcommittee, please recognize that this legislation could go further in truly reforming the Board of Visitors structure. As an SGA, we feel that productive changes would be to require more continuous and deeper student and faculty engagement by the Board, in the process of members being nominated as well as during their governing terms. There should also be harsher guidelines on who can sit on these governing boards to avoid the influence of deep-pocketed donors or political connections getting a member a seat over those with a resume filled with deep connections to the student body, knowledge of school functions, and leadership experience. Thank you for your time reading our sentiments regarding HB 2120. We expect that this subcommittee will respect student voice through supporting the passage of this legislation in full. We hope that members will consider additional amendments in order to take greater steps toward bettering the democratic structures at higher education institutions.
My husband, myself and other family members who live in Virginia (Vienna and Arlington) are very supportive of this bill. My oldest son (Aaron - Graduated from Marshall High School) is a Freshman Swimmer at William & Mary (W&M) and unfortunately had to go through mental and emotional distress when the school cut 7 sports programs including Men & Women's swimming for supposedly "budgetary" reasons. The Athletic Director (AD) at the time had not discussed these cuts with any of the teams or allowed the teams to prove they could help with fundraising and the school could keep these teams (which also had very good GPA's as well as winning records). Parents, Alumni and swimmers had asked for access to school documents/meetings, etc. to find out the real story but got the run-around and had to file Freedom of Information Acts but did not receive all that they wanted. Fortunately after a valiant effort by the W&M community including being one of the few sports teams to reach our FY21 fundraising goal (see W&M January 2021 Tribe Club Newsletter) - the cut teams were all reinstated. My son (and his roommate who is also from Virginia and on the team too) are thrilled. Passing this Bill will help tremendously for the future of sports at W&M.
HB2277 - Children with disabilities, certain; one-year high school extensions permitted.
VCASE supports the goals of HB2277. We are concerned with the larger costs to localities in this effort. The estimated $5 million ADM with not fund the potential for additional teachers that school divisions may require for theses intensive services as the final school year to transition to work, training or postseconday opportunities. We applad Del. Bell for his effort to recognize this critical last year of services for students with disabilities! Mike Asip
I'm in support of this bill. Thank you.
I recognize this is late, so just submitting for the record. HB 2238 - Strongly Support HB 2277 - Strongly Support HB 2299 - Strongly Support HB 2211 - Support HB 2117 - As written Strongly Oppose Thank you, Tonya Milling, Executive Director
Support kids getting some extra time to graduate on time.