RICHMOND — A move to cap Virginia’s in-state tuition at this year’s rates gained more traction this past week.
House Bill 351, from Del. David Reid, D-Loudoun, would cap tuition rates at Virginia’s public colleges — such as Virginia Tech and Radford University — for the next four years at the 2017-18 rate charged to students. The bill was reported 15-4 out of the House of Delegates Education Committee and will now head to the chamber’s Appropriations Committee.
Some Virginia public colleges, such as the College of William & Mary, already have versions of this in place.
The William & Mary Promise says the tuition rate paid by first-year students is the same rate they will pay all four years. Incoming students next year, for example, will pay 6.5 percent more — $17,434 — than the freshman class this year. The class will pay $17,434 each year.
Reid’s bill would allow for increases in room and board charges and would cap the number of out-of-state students at this year’s number.
Peter Blake, the director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, said Wednesday that the decisions should be left to the boards of visitors at each school.
“It looks at only one side of the equation,” he said. “Higher education is a shared responsibility.”
Here are other education-related bills taken up this past week:
Student discipline measures
A day after the full House of Delegates approved a key school suspensions bill, a separate bill aimed at curbing the school-to-prison pipeline did not make it out of committee.
HB 296 from Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, would have banned students in preschool through third grade from being suspended or expelled except for drug offenses, gun offenses or other specific criminal acts. The House Education Committee voted 12-9 to kill the bill.
The Senate counterpart to the bill is in subcommittee.
Bell’s bill was one of several rolled out last week by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus with the intent of cutting the number of students who are referred to law enforcement.
HB 1600 from Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, passed the full House on Tuesday and would cap the maximum long-term suspension at 45 school days rather than the current 364 calendar days.
School meals and debt
The House Education Committee took action this past week to stop “lunch shaming.”
The committee unanimously voted to report HB 50 from Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, to the full House of Delegates. The bill would require each Virginia school board to adopt policies that prohibit school employees from publicly identifying or shaming a student in the division who cannot pay for a school meal or who has meal debt.
Also included in the bill is the requirement that the policies prohibit employees from making students do chores to pay for their meal debt.
A similar bill from Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, was killed in subcommittee. That bill would have required school divisions to cover the cost of meals if students and their families were unable to pay, among other things.
Virginia school divisions are one step closer to being required to phase in full-day kindergarten.
HB 350, also from Reid, would require Virginia school boards that do not have full-day kindergarten to develop and implement plans to fund and phase in universal full-day kindergarten. The plans would be submitted before next year’s General Assembly session.
The bill was approved 18-3 by the House Education Committee on Wednesday and referred to the Appropriations Committee.
Climate survey for teachers
Virginia has a teacher shortage. Lawmakers know about it and are taking action to stop it. One delegate — a teacher in Henrico — wants to know why his peers are leaving.
Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg, D-Henrico, has proposed HB 1119, which would require the state superintendent of public instruction — the state’s K-12 public schools chief — to develop a voluntary, anonymous school climate survey for Virginia teachers to take about teaching conditions and the impact of those conditions on teacher retention and student achievement.
The bill made it out of committee on Wednesday, being approved 18-1, and is headed to the Appropriations Committee.
The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved by the chamber.
Aiding student loan borrowers
Two days after a part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s higher education agenda made it out of subcommittee, a Republican-led committee overwhelmingly approved it. HB 1138 from Del. Marcia Price, D-Newport News, would create the Office of the Qualified Education Loan Ombudsman in an effort to help student loan borrowers.
The House Education Committee voted 17-4 on Wednesday to report and refer it to the Appropriations Committee.
The Senate version of the bill was approved by the chamber’s Education and Health Committee last week.
The office would be housed within the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
The office’s job, according to the bill, would include helping student loan borrowers “understand their rights and responsibilities” and helping with complaints from those borrowers.