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Loudoun School Board, state lawmakers review legislative priorities

The Loudoun County School Board welcomed the county’s General Assembly delegation for its annual Legislative Breakfast Dec. 1.

The school calendar, full-day kindergarten and increasing cost of college education dominated the discussion between legislators, board members and student representatives.

Having just approved the 2018-19 school calendar, Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) was quick to ask state senators and delegates about school divisions having more control over academic calendars. Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said the board spent a total three hours talking about the calendar in its past three meetings.

Historically, the state has retained control because of fears that school systems would start the year too early and cause a conflict for the tourism industry that relies on teenage labor, like amusement parks.

However, advocates for more local control reminded legislators that School Board members are part of the community and know how local economies work, which they can take into account when crafting the school calendar.

“The government that’s closest to the people should actually be the government that controls this issue,” State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31). “I think, frankly, this year we’re going to gain some momentum.”

Above all, what constituents want is a sense of consistency, which the school system can’t guarantee if it has to wait to apply for waivers to state regulations, Joy Maloney (Broad Run) said.

Newcomer Del. David Reid (D-32) asked about the status of universal full-day kindergarten. Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said the largest challenge the school system faces is having enough seats available.

Roughly 80 percent of the county has access to full-day kindergarten, with the most vulnerable student population guaranteed access, Hornberger said.

Morse said LCPS is adding three new schools and expanding some existing schools with additional classrooms to try to expand full-day kindergarten capabilities.

“It’s an infrastructure problem, not a lack of desire,” Morse said.

Morse said it was important for Loudoun to reach universal full-day kindergarten in its own time, because if it is mandated by the state to provide universal full-day kindergarten, class sizes would become unmanageable.

Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34th) asked about school sizes and if LCPS was considering larger schools to accommodate the increasing need for space for full-day kindergarten. Morse said new schools have used new designs and Loudoun has some of the largest elementary schools in the state.

Broad Run High School student representative Fionn Desmond asked legislators to keep in mind the increasing cost of higher education. Desmond, like many seniors in his class, is in the midst of the college application process and said many of his peers are having to choose schools on cost and not academics.

Favola spoke in favor of funding more dual degree programs, while Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) said he’d like to see Virginia schools take more in-state students and potentially drafting legislation to require the change.

Black also spoke about potentially making a legislative item standardizing how Virginia schools accepted dual enrollment or community college credits. As it stands, some four-year universities may take a credit as a general requirement credit toward a degree, while others may only take it as an elective. This then impacts how quickly a student can graduate.

Superintendent Eric Williams also mentioned that while Northern Virginia Community College has waived tuition fees for LCPS students taking dual enrollment classes, state legislation may mandate community colleges to charge a flat rate to all students and such legislation would hurt Loudoun students.

Additionally, Maloney urged those present to speak with Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-Va.-10th) about a provision in the current tax reform bill that would eliminate student loan deductions, making college more costly for students and families.

State legislators can submit as many bills as they want through Dec. 5, after which they are limited to five more bills for the rest of the legislative session. Murphy encouraged constituents to share thoughts with legislators as quickly as possible so they don’t miss the deadline.

“Every year we fight the same battle,” Murphy said.

Other items Friday included the School Board request for legislation to keep unspent funds. Favola said she did not imagine this item passing the General Assembly.

The group also talked about supporting legislation clarifying conflict of interest law.

Hornberger said there are different practices across jurisdictions because the law is unclear. LCPS consultant Mark Flynn said this becomes an issue during budget discussions because some board members have spouses employed by LCPS, and they have to disclose the relationship at every discussion. The law is archaic and could use updating to better streamline this process, Flynn said.

Favola said she would sponsor this legislation in the state Senate, and Murphy said she would support it in the House.

Comments


Callme,

1. Even I didn’t know Morse’s spouse worked for LCPS until the special prosecutor ruled they were violating the law and identified her.

2. Despite what you might think, people move to Loudoun everyday and not every citizen reads the online comments section of LTM. The law requires disclosure so that folks watching the board meetings in person or via recorded video will understand 4 of the 9 members may have had ulterior motives in passing 5% raises.

3. Not even the union (LEA) knew Hornberger was an operative of a billionaire charter school magnate before I publicly disclosed it. (I didn’t discover that either but was tipped off) The law was clear. Hornberger had been taken to court but the LCSB members still refused to comply with disclosure law. Who else but biased politicians would refyse to disclose?

It appears Favola and Murphy may have ulterior motives as well. They may want more taxes shoveled to their union supporters and disclosure would hurt that effort. Thus, they are not “reforming” the law but trying to protect the swamp. We shall see if that position carries the day… Maybe they need some time in federal court. Not hard to find violations among this corrupt group of politicians.


So, SGP - if you know about the spouses of the SB, then why do you keep going on that they are hiding the relationship.  There have been full disclosure and the proof is that you and everyone else knows about their spouses - time to move on


The conflict of interest law is perfectly clear. If a board member has a personal conflict (e.g. their spouse stands to gain a $2-4k raise from the budget), the board member must disclose it. It took less than 25 seconds for all 4 board members to orally disclose that conflict. Why would Favola and Murphy want to eliminate this reqt? Are you going to “streamline” a 10-second disclosure?


Citing their problem attaching teachers, LCPS is asking legislators to decriminalize alcohol is classrooms.  “They need to take the edge off at 8am and how else are they going to do that with these restrictive, archaic, anti-fun bans on alcohol in the classroom?” the School Board asks.

How about a modification to the CIP to allow for the construction of a drunk tank at Education Court?

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