January 10, 2012
Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday he will push for the repeal of a state law that requires school divisions to open after Labor Day, saying the longstanding measure is outdated at a time when schools should be maximizing instructional time to prepare students for college and the workplace.
McDonnell said at a news conference highlighting his legislative agenda for public education that 77 of Virginia's 132 school divisions already have received waivers from the state Department of Education. Taking the law off the books would allow each district to determine the length of its academic year, giving students a chance to benefit from increased classroom time.
The impact in Albemarle County would be more school days instead of longer school days.
The governor's announcement marks a reversal of his support of the measure, which he had previously supported on behalf of the state's tourism industry. He now says changing the law is in the best interest of Virginia's students. He also said that the exception has become the rule, and most of the districts seeking waivers are west of a "direct line down I-95."
Virginia education groups, including the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and the Virginia School Boards Association, applauded McDonnell's support of their longtime efforts to repeal the so-called Kings Dominion law, which took effect in 1986.
"This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated and unnecessary state mandate," VASB President Joan Wodiska said. "In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virginia's economic and educational goals."
McDonnell expects pushback from tourism-dependent businesses, including those in southeast Virginia that depend on late-summer traffic. But he stressed that he isn't backing off state support for expanding Virginia's tourism industry.
Also a concern for superintendents is funding for the Virginia Retirement System. The state borrowed $600 million from the fund last year and is now asking school boards to contribute more money to fill it up again, but many are already strapped for cash. School officials are hoping the VRS is available without sacrificing programs or staff.
"We're going to work hard to educate senators and delegates and the the governor's staff to the needs of K-12 education to support those things we can support," said Alfred Butler, Executive Director of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.
Another proposed law, House Bill 4, is a reaction to the Penn State child abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. It requires athletic coaches and directors from K-12 and universities to report child abuse or neglect to the Virginia Department of Social Services.