Schools request General Assembly pursue waiver of federal mandate

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Staff Report

On Tuesday, Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) President Edgar Hatrick asked that the state continue with its educational reforms and accountability standards rather than be sidetracked by federal legislation.

&uot;Roughly eight out of 10 schools, or 84 percent, are now fully accredited based on the performance of students on Standards of Learning (SOL) tests in English, math, science and history,&uot; Hatrick said at a press conference of approximately

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130 public school superintendents in Richmond.

&uot;Last year, 74 percent were accredited.

When Virginia’s reform program was first implemented eight years ago, only two percent were accredited. That is why we should be allowed to stay the course rather than be detoured by the cumbersome and, in many cases, counterproductive federal requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.&uot;

The VASS was in town to request that the General Assembly seek a waiver for Virginia from the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), among several other priorities.

Last year in the midst of increasing local frustration over unfunded mandates, Suffolk Schools Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman suggested it may be time to consider whether meeting NCLB standards is really worth it in the long run.

In referring to the legislation being introduced in the General Assembly to give Virginia a waiver, Hatrick said the superintendents would advocate several revisions be made to the federal law and regulations if the bills failed.

Today, the Board of Education is scheduled to approve the incorporation of the revisions in their State Plan for NCLB.

Full funding for the Standards of Quality (SOQ), maintaining the school construction grants program and addressing the teacher and administrator shortage were other legislative priorities addressed by the superintendents at the press conference.

VASS President-elect Margaret Blackmon stated that low salaries were the major deterrents to attracting young people to the education profession.

Pointing out how Virginia is slipping in paying teacher salaries, Blackmon said, &uot;The current average teacher salary in Virginia is $2,809 below the national average, whereas 15 years ago it was only $423 below the national average.

&uot;Inadequate starting salaries are troublesome, but the limited potential career earnings is even more serious to attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers.

This year, 42 percent of teachers in Virginia with 10 years of experience have salaries of less than $35,000, and 91 percent have salaries of less than $40,000. These are not salaries on which a person can raise a family or purchase a home.&uot;

In parat, VASS has asked for these revisions to NCLB:

-Target offers of transfer and the provision of supplemental services only to students in the sub-group that fails to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in consecutive years rather than offer these options to all students.

-Reverse the order in which sanctions are applied with supplemental services preceding offers of transfer.