House Republicans Highlight Education Initiatives

Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates held a press conference Wednesday to highlight K-12 Education initiatives. Five major pieces of Governor Bob McDonnell's All Students Initiative will be debated on the floor of the House of Delegates Wednesday. Other components are expected to pass out of committee this week.

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said his party was committed to providing a top-quality education for Virginia students.

"House Republicans are committed to ensuring our children receive a top-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow," said Cox. "We have put forward several bills that will take Virginia's education system to the next level. In all, our reforms will help empower teachers, promote accountability and transparency, and emphasize local control."

Majority Leader Cox is also sponsoring two bills designed to reward Virginia's hardworking teachers and help bring bright, young teachers into our classrooms.

The first bill, House Bill 2083, would establish a compensation plan that will allow localities to reward teachers based on a comprehensive evaluation process. Each locality will have the flexibility to design an evaluation process that provides incentives tailored to its strategic goals and objectives. For example, a locality could decide to offer additional pay based on student improvement.

Cox's second bill, House Bill 2084, would allow for Teach for America teachers to teach in Virginia schools. Teach for America recruits some of the best and brightest recent college graduates to teach in hard to staff schools. Their recruits are often in the top 10 percent of their college classes or hold student leadership positions. Before Teach for America participants begin teaching, they must pass an intensive training course that involves practice in a classroom setting, community integration, and professional development.

"Currently, Virginia's best and brightest recent college graduates who sign up to participate in Teach for America are sent to classrooms in other states," said Cox. "This bill will simply allow for these individuals to stay at home and work to make a difference in our schools."

Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton) is sponsoring House Bill 2151, also known as the Educator Fairness Act. This legislation gives localities the option to extend the probationary window for new teachers from three to five years and clarifies the evaluation and grievance processes for teachers. This legislation has the support from many groups including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Association of Superintendents and the Virginia Education Association.

"The Educator Fairness Act is about doing all we can to evaluate new teachers and making sure they meet the highest professional standards," said Bell. "We have a lot of great teachers in Virginia. This bill will increase teacher professionalism and promote an atmosphere of accountability. I want to thank everyone who has been involved in the legislative process. This has been a team effort and we are taking a major step forward today."

House Bill 2101, which would create "High School to Work Partnerships," is also being debated Wednesday. Delegate David Ramadan (R-Loudon) said this was part of making sure all high school graduates are college or career ready when they graduate.

"Education is about jobs and opportunity. We have to make sure all of our children are college or career ready when they graduate," said Ramadan. "Creating high school to work partnerships will encourage businesses to take a hands-on role in educating our young citizens. This legislation will encourage cooperation and foster a stronger workforce that is prepared for the jobs of the 21st century."

Delegate Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) is the patron of House Bill 2076, a bill that would reduce barriers to creating charter schools in Virginia.  Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R-Prince William) is the patron of HJ 684, a Constitutional Amendment that would allow the State Board of Education to authorize charter schools.

"All students should have the opportunity to attend a challenging and innovative school," said Stolle.  "By creating more public charter schools in Virginia, we can make sure all students have that opportunity.  Public charter schools are an innovative way to raise student performance, increase teacher flexibility, encourage local control and emphasize accountability."

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