Cumberland's School Legislative Priorities

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

CUMBERLAND – Members of the County's School Board were in agreement with Cumberland County Public Schools' Superintendent recently concerning a list of 2012 priorities that will be shared with legislative representatives at the end of this month during the General Assembly.

Superintendent Dr. Amy Griffin presented the School Board with the proposed legislative priorities during its last meeting in response to anticipated state budget cuts and rebenchmarking for approval in preparation for the Board's meeting later this month with legislative representatives and also for informational purposes.

Dr. Griffin expressed to the Board that the legislative priorities should be shared with the Cumberland community and that letters should also be written to the County's representatives.

Email newsletter signup

The priorities include: The 65 percent rule. According to Chair Ginger Sanderson, Cumberland County's School Board “strongly supports the Standards of Quality (SOQ) as the foundation of the educational program in Virginia and believes that all mandated education programs and services should be funded on the basis of realistic costs.”

Cumberland's position is that this legislation, which requires school boards to allocate at least 65 percent of their operating budgets to “instructional spending,” should be rejected because it could restrict a board's authority to supervise schools.

The next priority on the list is related to the extended school year and pre-Labor Day opening, advised Sanderson.

According to Sanderson, Cumberland's stated position is that the public school calendar should be left to local school boards.

Concerning a probationary period for teachers and instructional supervisory personnel, Cumberland's position, Sanderson said, is that this period should be extended from three to five years.

“Extending the probationary period from three to five years will enable school divisions to obtain a more longitudinal view of a teacher's performance on recently adopted student growth measures,” added Dr. Griffin.

In regards to the change in the non-renewal and reassignment notification, Cumberland school division supports the change from April 15 to June 15. This, according to Sanderson, would change the date by which school boards must give notice of non-renewal of probationary teachers and the reassignment of continuing contract principals, assistant principals, and supervisors.

“The new evaluation tool is going to require student growth,” explained Dr. Griffin about the evaluation and testing. “It is going to be based on growth from one year to the next and so some of the data won't come out until June and if you have an April 15th deadline but your data doesn't come in until June it's kind of hard to get that data to do that evaluation-that's what that is based on.”

The School Board also took a stance against unfunded and underfunded mandates during the meeting.

Sanderson said, “School divisions recognize that there are two types of unfunded and underfunded mandates.”

She later noted that there are mandates “which do not work and serve no educational purpose.” And then there are mandates “which may work and serve an educational purpose but should be funded by the state.”

Cumberland's stance as a legislative priority is that “both types of mandates require the school board to eliminate programs, forgo raises, and eliminate positions,” she added.

The Board's position, according to Sanderson, is that “no new mandates should be enacted without adequate state funding.”

“I know that is something that we've all spoken on at some time or another,” she explained.

Rebenchmarking And The State Budget

“I think with the budget coming out and looking at the proposed budget we need to have something in our legislative priorities about re-benchmarking the state's budget,” offered Dr. Griffin to the Cumberland Board.

The Board then agreed with information that was presented by the Superintendent and voted to add it to the list of legislative priorities.

That new budget priority information concerning the proposed state budget includes items such as:

“The Cumberland School Board supports restoring state money for BASIC Aid and categorical funding. The Cumberland School Board supports the Virginia Attorney General's opinion that rebenchmarking should reflect the actual cost of providing K12 public education. The Cumberland School Board opposes any changes in Standards of Quality Funding Formula, which would reduce any funds to local school divisions. The Cumberland School Board opposes the inclusion of ARRA funds in the federal deduct calculations.”

According to information sent out by Dr. Griffin last week, the School Board also supports “fully funding VRS without reducing SOQ funding through a multi-year plan.”