Opinion — Bills address education issues

Published 4:40 pm Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Virginia General Assembly has completed its 2022 legislative session and while we are still waiting on the budget to be finalized, I would also like to take a moment to share with you some of our accomplishments from this year.

Over the next few weeks, I will highlight certain bills that have made an impact this year. This week, I am focusing on educators. You may also visit www.lis.virginia.gov for more information on the bills below, or any other bill that was presented this year.

We know how much time and effort goes into making sure all the red tape is handled properly when it comes to licensure. Republican colleagues worked to pass legislation that will extend teacher licenses expiring soon for two more years. And for our military spouses in the teaching profession, we passed legislation that requires the Department of Education to determine full reciprocity of your out-of-state license here in Virginia within 15 days of application. Teachers need to be working with their students to fight learning loss, not wrestling with bureaucracy.

HB 236 Board of Education; authority to temporarily extend certain teachers’ licenses; emergency. Permits the Board of Education to grant a two-year extension of the license of any individual licensed by the Board of Education pursuant to its statutory authority whose license expires on June 30, 2022, to provide the individual with sufficient additional time to complete the requirements for licensure or license renewal. The bill contains an emergency clause and was effective April 6.

HB 230 Applications for teacher licensure by reciprocity; military spouses; timeline for determination. Requires the Board of Education’s licensure regulations to provide for licensure by reciprocity for any spouse of an active duty or reserve member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a member of the Virginia National Guard who has obtained a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, that is in force at the time the application for a Virginia license is received by the Department of Education. Current law requires such regulations to provide for licensure by reciprocity for any spouse of an active-duty member of the Armed Forces of the United States or the Commonwealth. The bill requires such an individual to submit an official copy of the military permanent assignment orders of the individual’s spouse as part of the complete application packet. The bill requires the Department to determine and communicate such individual’s eligibility for licensure by reciprocity within 15 business days of receipt of the complete application packet. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 319 Virginia Literacy Act; early student literacy; evidence-based literacy instruction; science-based reading research. Makes several changes relating to early student literacy, including requiring (i) each education preparation program offered by a public institution of higher education or private institution of higher education or alternative certification program that provides training for any individual seeking initial licensure with an endorsement in a certain area, including as a reading specialist, to demonstrate mastery of science-based reading research and evidence-based literacy instruction, as such terms are defined in the bill; (ii) the literacy assessment required of individuals seeking initial teacher licensure with endorsements in certain areas to include a rigorous test of science-based reading research and evidence-based literacy instruction; (iii) each local school board to establish a division wide literacy plan; (iv) each local school board to employ one reading specialist for each 550 students in kindergarten through grade three; and (v) each local school board to provide a program of literacy instruction whereby, among other things, (a) the program provides reading intervention services to students in kindergarten through grade three who demonstrate deficiencies based on their individual performance on the Standards of Learning reading assessment or an early literacy screener provided or approved by the Department of Education; (b) a reading specialist, in collaboration with the teacher of any student who receives such reading intervention services, develops, oversees implementation of, and monitors student progress on a student reading plan; and (c) each student who receives such reading intervention services is assessed utilizing either the early literacy screener provided or approved by the Department or the grade-level reading Standards of Learning assessment again at the end of that school year. The provisions of the bill become effective beginning with the 2024–2025 school year.

HB 419 Institutions of higher education; education preparation programs; coursework; audit. Requires each education preparation program offered by a public institution of higher education or private institution of higher education that provides training for any student seeking initial licensure by the Board of Education to (i) include a program of coursework and require all such students to demonstrate mastery in science-based reading research and evidence-based literacy instruction and require such program of coursework and the student mastery required to be demonstrated therein to be consistent with definitions and expectations established by the Board of Education and the Department of Education after consultation with a commission consisting of independent literacy experts and stakeholders with knowledge of science-based reading research and evidence-based literacy instruction that has reviewed the relevant regulations and (ii) for any such student seeking initial licensure by the Board of Education as a teacher with an endorsement in early childhood, elementary education, or special education or with an endorsement as a reading specialist, ensure that reading course work and field practice opportunities are a significant focus of the education preparation program. The bill requires the Department of Education to audit at least once every seven years each education preparation program, in alignment with each program’s accreditation cycle, for compliance with such requirements. The provisions of the bill become effective beginning with the 2024-2025 school year.

HB 649 Language development for children who are deaf or hard of hearing; assessment resources for parents and educators; advisory committee; report. Requires the Department of Education, in coordination with the Department for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, to (i) select, with input from an advisory committee that the bill establishes, language developmental milestones and include such milestones in a resource for use by parents of a child from birth to age five who is identified as deaf or hard of hearing to monitor and track their child’s expressive and receptive language acquisition and developmental stages toward English literacy; (ii) disseminate such resource to such parents; (iii) select existing tools or assessments for educators for use in assessing the language and literacy development of children from birth to age five who are deaf or hard of hearing; (iv) disseminate such tools or assessments to local educational agencies and provide materials and training on their use; and (v) annually produce a report that compares the language and literacy development of children from birth to age five who are deaf or hard of hearing with the language and literacy development of their peers who are not deaf or hard of hearing and make such report available to the public on its website. The bill states that the advisory committee function shall terminate effective June 30, 2023.

HB 979 Board of Education; provisional teacher licensure; teachers licensed or certified outside of the United States. Permits the Board of Education to provide for the issuance of a provisional license, valid for a period not to exceed three years, to any individual who has held within the last five years a valid and officially issued and recognized license or certification to teach issued by an entity outside of the United States but does not meet the requirements for a renewable license if the individual’s license or certification to teach has been evaluated and verified by an entity approved by the Department of Education. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 1022 Certain public elementary and secondary school students; excused absences; attendance at pow wow. Provides that, subject to guidelines established by the Department of Education, any student who is a member of a state-recognized or federally recognized tribal nation that is headquartered in the Commonwealth and who is absent from school to attend such tribal nation’s pow wow gathering shall be granted one excused absence per academic year, provided that the parent of such student provides to the student’s school advance notice of such absence in the manner required by the school. This bill is effective July 1.

HB 1215 Physical education; personal safety training. Requires any physical education class offered to students in grades seven and eight to include at least one hour of personal safety training per school year in each such grade level that is developed and delivered in partnership with the local law-enforcement agency and consists of situational safety awareness training and social media education. This bill is effective July 1.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.