RICHMOND, VA – Delegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) announced today that House Bill 324 and House Joint Resolution 490 have passed in the State Senate.
Delegate Bell’s House Bill 324 establishes a new Virtual Virginia School and creates a Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency under the Secretary of Education (SOE). The School will offer both online classes and virtual school programs to students in Virginia. The Virginia Virtual School will be responsible for all federal and state accountability requirements applicable to those students enrolled on a full-time basis.
Earlier this week the Senate Finance committee heard the bill. Together, Delegate Bell and the Finance committee made a number of substantive changes to the legislation that would ease the concerns of some of its opponents. They added clarifying language ensuring that the School is only for full time virtual schooling, established an enrollment deadline and local enrollment cap, developed a model to pay for the administration of the program by charging providers a proportionate administration fee, and removed any costs to localities. They also added a reenactment clause that requires the bill to be passed again next year prior to the bill being implemented.
House Bill 324 passed the House in 2014 and was carried over by the State Senate Committee on Education and Health in 2014. In December it was reported and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The Finance committee adopted a substitute bill and reported it out 10-4. It passed in the Senate on February 19 on a vote of 22-16.
“This is a huge victory for virtual education in Virginia.” said Delegate Bell. “While we still have some work to do, passing this bill in the Senate is a tremendous accomplishment. I look forward to meeting with the stakeholders in the interim to ensure that next year we come back with the best bill possible. There are many students across Virginia that need access to a public virtual school, and we are one step closer to being able to provide this for those families.”
Delegate Bell began working on Virtual Education legislation in 2010. In 2010, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1388, which required the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Board of Education to develop criteria for approving and monitoring multi-division providers of online courses and virtual school programs. It also allowed localities to enter into contracts with approved private providers of such courses.
In addition to House Bill 324, House Joint Resolution 490 passed in the Senate today. HJ 490 is the first resolution to make our Right to Work laws part of Virginia’s Constitution. Current law provides that a citizen cannot be denied the employment or continuation of employment for failing to join a union or other labor organization. This amendment would make Virginia’s Right to Work law more permanent by adding it to the constitution.
“I am pleased to see the Right to Work amendment pass in the State Senate. This is the third time I have carried the Right to Work amendment, and this is the furthest that it has made it during my time in the House. ” said Delegate Bell. “The Right to Work law is a crucial factor in Virginia’s continued high rankings as one of the best states for business. By adding the existing Right to Work law to the Constitution of Virginia, we are protecting it from the whims of the legislature and thus ensuring it can remain in place for generations to come.”
In order to be added to the constitution, this resolution will have to pass again in the 2016 General Assembly Session. It will then be sent to the voters in the form of a referendum on the ballot for final approval.
Elected to the House of Delegates in 2009, Delegate Bell represents the 20th District, which includes Highland County, portions of Augusta and Nelson Counties, and the Cities of Staunton and Waynesboro. He is currently serving in his third term.