Friday, November 5, 2010

Pre-Labor Day school opening is complicated

City Manager and Senator John Edwards

The Roanoke Times Editorial Board leaves out key information for readers in their editorial today. A member of the RTEB board was at the Monday morning council briefing with Senator John Edwards – the only legislator who showed up. 

The pre-Labor Day school opening law is in the hands of the Virginia Department of Education. The VDOE grants Labor Day waivers for the following: 
  • A school division has been closed an average of eight days per year during any five of the last ten years because of severe weather conditions, energy shortages, power failures, or other emergency situations.
  • An instructional program or programs in one or more of its elementary, middle or high schools iss not offered but is offered by another school system.
  • An experimental or innovative program requires an earlier opening date.

Salem City and Roanoke City do not meet these criteria in Western Virginia. Seventy-four school districts met the exemption in 2010. Most if not all fell in the weather category. Application for the waiver must be submitted every year. 

It is no fault of Senator Edwards. That’s why he murmured with eyebrows raised after the meeting Monday saying, “it won’t pass.” 

Admittedly I thought last year he was being selfish but after “very little research” it became clear that patroning the bill would be a waste of time. Time is already too short during sessions for bills that have a chance of passing. The climate may change some day but until these old dogs learn new tricks it ain’t gonna happen. 

Gov. Bob McDonnell as well as a majority of senators and delegates say it is a tourism killer and would hurt tax revenue. Delegate Robert Tata, R-Virginia Beach dropped his bill in the 2010 session like a hot potato when he discovered McDonnell was against it. 

It is surprising how many parents object to such a bill. Since my children are older then most of The Roanoke Times reporters I don’t recall the start date being detrimental to any family plans. 

Bills have been patroned as far back as 2000 attempting to drop the Kings Dominion Law. I caught this little quote from Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) who called educators’ arguments “hogwash … you would think that this is the end of Western civilization … it’s just a matter of a few days.” 

No matter how righteous the reasons for allowing the start date for RCPS before Labor Day no legislator is going to waste their time patroning a bill that has zero chance of getting out of committee. 

Governor McDonnell wants more funding for tourism to the tune of $3.6 million. Even if the Department of Magic Fairy Dust floated the bill to the governor’s desk he’d blowtorch it before it hit the desk. 

Perhaps Delegate Bill Cleaveland will have a workaround for RCPS as alluded to during the meeting. Cleaveland is new to the legislature but smart and maybe he has a way to meet the waiver or can usher in a bill that would add an exemption that would fit only Roanoke City. Then again would he go against the Republican governor? 

That, my dear RTEB,  is why “it’s complicated.”

Roanoke City School Board pushes for early start date

Chair of RCPS school board gets his point across to legislators

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Politics, Roanoke City Public Schools, State Politics

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