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Mandate Removals Would Give School Divisions Control of Calendars, Cut Down on Paperwork

Repeal of ‘Labor Day Law’ could become a reality in General Assembly this year.

Virginia's "Labor Day Law" could soon be a thing of the past, according to some lawmakers.

On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), along with members of the Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review, burdensome to localities.

In all, there were 20 recommendations made on behalf of the state’s school divisions, including removing a mandate that requires local school boards to apply for a waiver from the state to start school before Labor Day.

, president of the Virginia School Board Association, said Virginia and Michigan are the only two states that require a special waiver to start classes in public schools before Labor Day.

She said the process to acquire the waiver is lengthy and time consuming to prepare. Of the 132 school divisions in Virginia, only 77 have been granted permission to begin classes before Labor Day, Wodiska said.

In a town hall meeting over the weekend, Sen. Dick Saslaw (D-35th District), who represents the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, and helped write the Labor Day Law in 1986, said he has talked to most of the state's school boards and will go along with repealing the law.

"Those of us in Northern Virginia have been unable to get a waiver," said Wodiska, who is co-chair of the task force's education subcommittee. "The exception of the Labor Day Law has become the rule."

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale said  the system's board had supported the repeal for a number of years. Changes to the county's calendar wouldn't take effect until Fall 2013 to allow adequate time for more community outreach and input, though 64 percent of parents and 71 percent of teachers surveyed last year indicated they would support the change, Dale said.

Wodiska said McDonnell's recommendations for public education would accomplish three things: School divisions would have control of school calendars; school staff members would spend less time completing paperwork and more time with students; and educators would not have to complete more schooling in order to renew teaching licenses.

In all, the governor’s task force targeted 61 state mandates for elimination with the goal of unburdening local governments. McDonnell appointed the five-member task force last fall.

Virginia's educators have 75 reports to complete either quarterly or annually that consume hours of time teachers could use for classroom preparation, Wodiska said.

Until recently, she said she had no idea how much work went into each report until she saw one prepared by Falls Church City Public Schools, for which she serves as a school board member.

She said the binder, which held several months of reports, was almost too much to lift. According to a release sent out Monday, the administration will request the Department of Education identify burdensome or unnecessary state statutory and federal data collection and reporting requirements and submit recommendations to the governor and General Assembly on which to eliminate or consolidate with the goal of reducing reporting requirements by 15 percent.

"I knew it was bad but I had no idea," she said.

Some of the governor’s other mandates for removal were:

  • Remove mandate that proceeds from education surplus property go to capital improvements
  • Clarify that state law does not mandate that notices be mailed to every parent on per pupil educational costs
  • Remove mandates for various local education advisory committees
  • Remove mandate for annual report on remediation programs
  • Remove mandate for civics trainings for teachers
  • Remove mandate that libraries send Internet policies to the Librarian of Virginia (the requirement that libraries continue to have policies that prohibit access to inappropriate Internet materials will remain)

Wodiska said she is ecstatic about the recommendations and believes every school division will benefit from them in the end.

"That’s the great thing about moving one mandate, you help all 132 school divisions," she said.

For the full report from the task force, click here.

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