Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed six pieces of legislation that would undermine support for Virginia’s public education system. The Governor’s full veto statements are below:

House Bill 1400

March 23, 2017

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1400, which would create a new executive branch agency known as the Virginia Virtual School. This entity, governed by an independent policy board, would facilitate the provision of full-time, online education programs for students throughout Virginia.

This bill is virtually identical to HB 8 (2016). The Office of the Attorney General advised that HB 8 was unconstitutional; consequently, I vetoed it.

In establishing the Virginia Virtual School outside of the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, and most importantly, local school boards, this legislation raises significant constitutional concerns.

Students throughout Virginia need and deserve access to a wide variety of high quality virtual learning opportunities, including both blended and full-time options. Following my 2016 veto of HB 8, the Secretary of Education and Virginia Department of Education convened a workgroup composed of a broad range of stakeholders to explore alternative policy proposals to expand access for students. The workgroup’s recommendations formed the basis of new legislation, proposed this year at my request, which would have expanded access for students in every corner of the Commonwealth. This would be accomplished within a constitutionally-sound governance model that provided flexibility for local school divisions and maximized necessary supports for enrolled students.

It is unfortunate that despite this alternative proposal, the legislature instead chose to send me unconstitutional legislation nearly identical to that which I vetoed last year.

HB 1400 would create a new state agency outside the constitutional framework governing school divisions and boards.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

House Bill 1605

March 23, 2017

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 1605. This bill would divert state funds from our public school systems and redirect those funds to “Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts” to pay for educational services outside the public school system. The bill is similar in purpose to HB 389 (2016), which I vetoed. Nothing in HB 1605 addresses the earlier measure’s fundamental infirmities.

First and foremost, this legislation raises significant constitutional concerns. Tuition at private sectarian institutions would be an approved expense. This places the legislation in direct conflict with Article VIII, Section 10, of the Virginia Constitution, which authorizes the use of public funds only for public and nonsectarian private schools.

In requiring local school divisions to transfer the bulk of a qualified student’s state SOQ funding to an outside “Education Savings Account,” the bill would deprive those schools of critically-needed resources.

Additionally, the funds that would be withdrawn from the public system bear no relationship to the cost of the private education to be provided. Since the bill requires only state funding to be transferred, the amount received by eligible families would vary widely, depending on which locality a student is from.

Finally, it should be noted that the bill lacks accountability standards for participating schools. There thus is no assurance that these state funds will be used to provide students high quality education.

House Bill 1605 raises constitutional concerns, diverts funds from public schools, and creates an inequitable system across different school divisions. It fails to support the goal of using state resources to strengthen and improve public education throughout the Commonwealth.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

House Bill 2191

March 23, 2017

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 2191. This bill  would require schools to notify parents if their child is enrolled in a course in which the instructional materials or related academic activities include sexually explicit content or the potential for sexually explicit content. The legislation would also require teachers to provide alternative instructional materials if requested by a parent.

The Virginia Administrative Code specifies that “Local school boards shall be responsible for the selection and utilization of instructional materials.” The same section of the Administrative Code requires each local school board to have policies in place enabling parents to inspect all instructional materials and to challenge the inclusion of materials that might be considered “sensitive or controversial,” for any reason.

The Virginia Board of Education has examined this issue in recent years. In doing so, the Board engaged in lengthy and substantive conversations with school boards, teachers, parents and students. At the conclusion of its inquiry, the Board determined that existing state policy regarding sensitive or controversial instructional material is sufficient and that additional action would be unnecessarily burdensome on the instructional process.

Because the Board of Education considered this issue in a broader and more complete context and deemed existing policies to be adequate, I believe House Bill 2191 is unwarranted.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

House Bill 2342 (and Senate Bill 1283)

March 23, 2017

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 2342/Senate Bill 1283. This bill would permit the Virginia Board of Education to create regional charter school divisions through which eligible school divisions could establish regional charter schools. Additionally, it would permit the state’s share of the student’s Standards of Quality funding to be diverted from the local school division to the regional charter school.

 

In establishing regional governing school boards that remove authority from local school boards and their members, this legislation proposes a governance model that is in conflict with the Constitution of Virginia. Public charter school arrangements are already available to divisions at the discretion of the local school board, which makes the ultimate decisions about the establishment, renewal and dissolution of charter schools within its division.

 

We should always consider new and innovative ways to provide a world class education to all of our students,  but this particular governance framework is not viable within the parameters of Virginia’s constitutional structure.

 

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

 

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

Senate Bill 1240

March 23, 2017

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 1240, which would create a new executive branch agency known as the Virginia Virtual School. This entity, governed by an independent policy board, would facilitate the provision of full-time, online education programs for students throughout Virginia.

This bill is virtually identical to HB 8 (2016). The Office of the Attorney General advised that HB 8 was unconstitutional; consequently, I vetoed it.

In establishing the Virginia Virtual School outside of the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, and most importantly, local school boards, this legislation raises significant constitutional concerns.

Students throughout Virginia need and deserve access to a wide variety of high quality virtual learning opportunities, including both blended and full-time options. Following my 2016 veto of HB 8, the Secretary of Education and Virginia Department of Education convened a workgroup composed of a broad range of stakeholders to explore alternative policy proposals to expand access for students. The workgroup’s recommendations formed the basis of new legislation, proposed this year at my request, which would have expanded access for students in every corner of the Commonwealth. This would be accomplished within a constitutionally-sound governance model that provided flexibility for local school divisions and maximized necessary supports for enrolled students.

It is unfortunate that despite this alternative proposal, the legislature instead chose to send me unconstitutional legislation nearly identical to that which I vetoed last year.

SB 1240 would create a new state agency outside the constitutional framework governing school divisions and boards.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe