Friday, December 07, 2012
Editorial: A chance to do right by students
Roanoke Valley's newest senator should show he values education.
From the RoundTable blog
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Beginning in 2014, all Virginia high school students will be able to earn an associate's degree simultaneously with their high school diploma. It's a change lawmakers and educators embrace since it gives industrious students a leg up in completing college or in having marketable skills to immediately enter the workforce.
Public schools and community colleges are working on articulation agreements that will allow more high schoolers to attend classes on the college campuses. Yet lawmakers have yet to remove a major obstacle, the Kings Dominion Law that could prevent students from attending the first two weeks of the fall semester.
The upcoming General Assembly offers lawmakers their perennial chance to abolish the law that prevents school districts from starting classes before Labor Day unless they earn weather-related hardship exemptions.
Last year the bill passed the House and had the governor's support. It failed in the Senate Committee on Education and Health; nine of 15members opposed it.
One of the nine is Sen.Steve Newman, who through the benefits of redistricting now represents part of Roanoke County. County schools, until now, have not been hampered to the same extent as Roanoke and Salem schools by the Kings Dominion Law. But unless the weather soon turns frightful, Roanoke County will lose its snow-given right to control its calendar.
Roanoke County's other senator, Ralph Smith, also serves on the committee. He was on the short end of the vote last time. He'll need to convince Newman to join his side.
Newman's aide said he now favors granting permanent waivers to schools that started early four out of the last five years. This is a partial remedy that could, if not worded just right, exclude Roanoke city and keep the issue perpetually on lawmakers' calendar.
Better if Newman would cast his vote with Smith and help to persuade at least one more committee member to place the needs of public school students ahead of an industry that, by many accounts, is doing quite well in Virginia, even in places where children start school early.