Virtual Education Legislation Passes in the State Senate RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia Senate has passed legislation to establish a statewide virtual school to provide full-time virtual school programs here in Virginia.
This legislation, patroned by Delegate Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), passed the House on February 16 with a vote of 58-40-1 and has now passed the Senate on March 7 with a vote of 23-17.
This legislation will establish the Virginia Virtual School, which is for full-time virtual only. Students who attend this school will be subject to the same Standards of Quality, including SOLs and standards of accreditation, of any other brick and mortar school.
Special education services for students needing it can also be received through the school. Most importantly, this bill allows any student in Virginia to enroll in the School should their parents choose, and gives the parents the flexibility to choose any approved multi-division online provider.
The Senate Finance committee made a series of amendments to the bill. These amendments change the membership of the board of the Virginia Virtual School, delay the start of the school until the 2017-2018 school year, and direct the Department of Education to review the statewide use of online learning, including virtual courses and programs and develop a proposed methodology for estimating the cost of fully online programs. They will report these findings to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees by November of 2017.
Delegate Bell requested today that the House reject the Senate amendments and request a committee of conference to hammer out the House and Senate differences.
“I am pleased that the State Senate has shown bipartisan support for full-time virtual learning here in the Commonwealth” said Delegate Bell. “This is a huge step forward for school choice and shows that the General Assembly trusts parents to make the best choices for their children. Every child is unique and we have a responsibility to teach them in an environment that best meets their unique needs. For some children this is virtual and I am pleased that we are on the right path. Over 30 states have already established statewide full-time virtual schools, and I believe Virginia should be next. While there are some differences in the versions of this legislation that passed in the House and Senate, I remain confident that we will be able to hammer out the differences, make compromises, and send the best bill possible to Governor McAuliffe’s desk.”
Delegate Bell carried similar legislation in the 2015 Session, which passed both Houses and was signed by the Governor with re-enactment language. Several improvements to the bill were adopted by the House Appropriations committee, putting the bill in a stronger posture.
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 fourth term.