Senate Education Committee to Hold Hearing Tuesday, Dec. 19

The state Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow on nine bills, many of which would impose mandates on public schools.  The hearing will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Room 411 South of the State Capitol.

Bill scheduled to be heard include:

Senate Bill 159, relating to: nutrition education.  The WASB opposes provisions in this bill that would impose a graduation requirement that students must complete a half-credit health education class that includes nutrition education, but supports amending the bill to remove this mandate.  If this mandate were dropped, the WASB would be neutral on this bill.

Senate Bill 222 and Assembly Bill 300, a pair of identical companion bills relating to: providing information about mandatory pupil examinations.  This bill would require school boards to annually publish on the district’s Internet site a plain language summary of the pupil examinations that the school board must administer under state and federal law and any other pupil examinations used to assess pupil, school, or school district performance. Further, the bill would require each school board to annually provide the parent or guardian of each pupil enrolled in the school district, with a copy of or instructions on how to access that summary information.  (As the Senate bill is currently drafted, this requirement would be in effect for the 2017-18 school year. The Assembly version has been amended to delay the requirement until the 2018-19 school year.)  The WASB opposed this bill as originally introduced and still has strong concerns about the impact and cost of its mandates. (See previous post.)

Senate Bill 234 and Assembly Bill 304, a pair of identical companion bills relating to:  allowing a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of statewide examinations required by federal law.  Current law requires school boards to grant opt-outs of statewide examinations required by state law. The WASB is neutral on these bills.

Senate Bill 427, relating to: notification of certain construction activities in school buildings.  The bill would require a school board to make certain notifications to “interested parties” regarding planned construction projects that exceed $10,000 in cost at least two months in advance of the project start date.  “Interested parties” include parents and guardians of pupils enrolled in a school of the school district, teachers, administrators, and other employees of the school district who are assigned to the school, and members of the community.  While this bill is well-intended, it is unnecessarily burdensome and may or may not provide effective notification.  As a result, the WASB opposes the bill in its current form.  If the goal is to make sure students with specific sensitivities or health issues are notified prior to any construction work, we recommended that school districts and families address this type of issue directly in a written Section 504 plan that addresses the needs and sensitivities of a child on an individualized basis.

Senate Bill 483, relating to: robotics league participation grants. This bill expands the category of teams eligible to receive a grant to participate in a robotics competition to include teams containing pupils in grades 6, 7, and 8. Current law permits a team containing pupils in grades 9 to 12 to apply to receive such a grant.  The WASB supports this bill.

Senate Bill 491, relating to: the collection and maintenance of certain public library data by the Division for Libraries and Technology, authorizing small, rural libraries to apply for information technology block grants and educational technology training grants, and making appropriations. The WASB supports this bill.

Senate Bill 494, relating to: publication of school and school district accountability reports.  This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to publish its annual school and school district accountability report (a/k/a school and school district report cards) by November 30, rather than in September. The WASB supports this bill.

Senate Bill 536 and Assembly Bill 488, relating to: access to pupil assessments that are required to be administered by school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program and repealing rules related to accessing pupil assessments. The WASB supports this bill, which does not affect schools, but bill requires the DPI to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law.

 Senate Bill 556, relating to: requiring an evaluation to determine whether a pupil with an extended absence from school is a child with a disability.  The WASB has strong concerns about provisions in the bill that would require a notice of habitual truancy to include a statement that the pupil’s parent or guardian may request any of the following:

  1. A referral for an evaluation of whether the child is a child with a disability.
  2. A copy of the school district’s referral and evaluation procedures.
  3. For a child already identified as a child with a disability and for whom an individualized education program (IEP) is in effect, a meeting of the child’s IEP team to review, and, if appropriate, revise, that IEP.