Virginia Senate Republican Caucus

Senator Mark Obenshain's News Release - February 26

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Thu, 2010-02-25 19:00 -- ajohnston
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Two Obenshain Bills Easing Burden on Local
School Divisions Head to Governors Desk

Bills Will Allow Schools to Focus
on Their Most Urgent Priorities

RICHMOND--Today, the Virginia House of Delegates lent their unanimous support to two bills patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), both designed to provide greater flexibility to local school divisions and lift costly mandates at a time when school divisions are being asked to do more with less. The bills, Senate Bills 352 and 354, now head to the Governor for his signature. A budget amendment Obenshain proposed is also reflected in the budget amendments adopted by the House and Senate money committees, and in the Governor's recommendations.

"Although the General Assembly is working to make cuts as modest as possible, the reality is that public education will not be spared in the 2010 budget," said Obenshain. "My bills will help free up funding for local education priorities by lifting expensive state mandates and providing greater flexibility in the use of state aid."

The first bill, SB 352, delays the adoption of accreditation standards for one year to grant local school divisions a reprieve from a costly transition during a period in which those schools face funding reductions.

"Schools cannot afford to create new programs at a time when they are struggling to maintain their current educational offerings," said Obenshain. "Superintendents and school board members in my district have consistently emphasized the importance of dedicating their resources to maintaining their existing programs, and have expressed concern about the cost of implementing new standards this coming academic year. A one year reprieve will offer an opportunity for the economy to catch up."

The legislation makes no changes to Standards of Learning, Standards of Quality, or similar educational standards, merely delaying implementation of revised standards by one year, after which accreditation standards will proceed on schedule. "This is about giving schools a breather so that the state is not asking them to expand programming while funding dips," said Obenshain, "and I am pleased that the House concurred with the bill."

The second bill, SB 354, deals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) testing. "Schools are required to administer Limited English Proficiency tests to determine instructional placement," Obenshain explained. In recent years, Virginia has used a single test, the ACCESS test, on an exclusive basis, even though the LEP is principally for internal use by local school divisions, rendering standardization across divisions unnecessary.

"Arlington and Fairfax have developed their own proficiency tests, and there are a variety of competing commercially available tests as well," said Obenshain. "Granting local school divisions the ability to select or develop their own qualifying test, should they so choose, allows for the inclusion of local considerations and could save local school divisions the $27 per student spent on administering the ACCESS test."

"Not every test is equally suited to measuring progress in every school environment, and the law should reflect that reality," added Obenshain. "I was pleased to see that the House and Senate concurred, with both chambers passing the bill unanimously."

Senate Bills 352 and 354 now head to the Governor for his signature.

Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).

ON THE WEB:
Mark'Â’s website: http://www.markobenshain.com
Mark's Facebook profile: http://www.facebook.com/markobenshain
Senate Bill 352: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?101+sum+SB352
Senate Bill 354: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?101+sum+SB354

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