School Board’s Request for Flexibility to Charge Bus Fees Gains Traction

School Board members sat down with Loudoun’s state delegation today to outline legislative priorities they want the lawmakers to champion for them in Richmond.

Specifically, they asked for a change in state law that would free school systems up to charge students for bus rides to optional programs, like Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County and Loudoun’s Academy of Science.

The request stems from a difficult budget season two years ago when the board was faced with a decision to eliminate bus service for Loudoun students to Thomas Jefferson High School, a magnet school in Fairfax County. Parents packed the board room, asking that the board at least let them pay for the service as opposed to getting rid of it all together.

“We only have the option to either not provide it… or provide it and we bear the cost,” said board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn).

Shea Ill, 14 of Taylorstown, boards a bus after saying bye to her mom, Tami Ill (Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now)
Shea Ill, 14 of Taylorstown, boards a bus after saying bye to her mom, Tami Ill. (Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now)

The board members got good news on this point. A bill to do just that is being drafted and co-sponsored by two of Loudoun’s state senators who rarely see eye to eye on issues, state Sens. Barbara A. Favola (D-31) and Richard M. “Dick” Black (R-13).

“So long as we are providing the basic transportation, when it comes to the extracurricular things, I don’t have any problem at all with granting the authority to charge for that,” Black said. “If the School Board decided, with public input, that that was the thing to do.”

Favola agreed. “You can’t have an all or nothing option. It just doesn’t work.”

The most discussed topic at the Legislative Breakfast was a request that all of the School Board members seemed in favor of: relaxing some of the state’s Standards of Quality staffing requirements. The SOQs mandate how many teachers and support staff schools must have at a minimum.

But as Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Cynthia B. Ambrose pointed out, every school has a different makeup and some principals would rather hire an additional math specialist or English Language Learner teacher than staff two librarian positions.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “What you needed to educate students well 25 years ago won’t cut it today.”

School Board member Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said that the current SOQ requirements inhibit innovation and sometimes restrict the best use of resources. She gave the example of a school that hires a third grade teacher who also happens to have extensive background in biochemistry, that could be put to use bolstering the school’s science program. “It would allow us that flexibility to staff our schools how we think best meets the needs of our students,” she said.

Favola and Del. Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-32) voiced support for the idea, but said it is difficult to come up with an accountability framework that works for all of the school systems statewide. “It’s tough because we don’t want to erode the Standards of Quality,” Favola said.

As a good place to start, Greason suggested that educators and legislators change how they look at assessments. “We’ve got to do a better job of separating the concepts of school accountability and student growth measures,” he said.

School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles) brought up one example he called a success story in what’s possible when more decisions are left up to local boards. He pointed to the repeal of a state law a few years ago that limited the number of charter schools a school system could approve.

“I’m glad that was defeated because, as you know, Loudoun is leading Virginia in charter schools,” Morse said. Loudoun County has two charter schools, more than any other jurisdiction in the state. “Allowing divisions to succeed and giving them the incentive and ability to do it in their own way is something that would benefit all the schools.”

[See the adopted 2017 Legislative Program here.]

One thought on “School Board’s Request for Flexibility to Charge Bus Fees Gains Traction

  • 2016-12-02 at 9:55 pm

    Once again, Tag “I lie to my constituents using my own child as a prop” Greason suggests that we water down all assessments. Tag doesn’t want any objective measurements that allow parents to evaluate the effectiveness of schools. He wants all schools to be rated “great” even if their students aren’t learning anything.

    Eighteen months ago Tag went so far as to use his own 3rd grade daughter as a prop in his push for zero accountability. He suggested that his daughter was so scared of taking the SOLs for the first time, she cried prior to the test. Tag suggested that even if a teacher achieved growth with a child who started behind grade level, the teacher would get no credit. This was simply a bunch of lies. SGP scores existed at the time and would give credit to teacher whose students achieved good growth even if the student still failed the SOL. That was lie #1. But students also are not scared of SOLs before they take them. They often never even know their scores in the early grades because there are no consequences.

    But Tag “I’m a shill for the zero accountability superintendents across the district” Greason made the SOLs very scary for some students. He passed a law that allowed districts to coerce kids that failed the SOLs into retaking them. Their friends found out they failed when they were pulled out of class for the retakes or given intensive prep classes prior to the retake. These students were not previously shamed by their very LCPS “educators” but after Tag got his law passed, students learn as early as the 3rd grade which of their peers learn more slowly. Such outing of students for the sole benefit of administrators (artificially inflating scores) is unethical and Tag shoulders almost exclusive blame for this. There is virtually no limit to how low this man will stoop.

Leave a Reply