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House Republicans Outline Education Agenda

By Grant Smith, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – House Republicans outlined their agenda for education on Tuesday, saying they want to expand early education and charter schools and give parents more options on where to send their children to school.

Speaking before the House, Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta, lauded his colleagues for a successful bipartisan effort in 2015 that brought “more money into the classroom.”

Landes, who chairs the House Education Committee, said he hopes to continue to work across the aisle to improve what Education Week ranked as the fourth best public education system in the nation.

Republican legislators believe that charter schools are a great option for parents. Charter schools are public schools that are free from certain regulations and provide alternative programs, often with an innovative focus. Students must apply to these schools and are enrolled through a selective lottery process.

Landes noted that while New York operates 187 charter schools and Washington, D.C., operates 115, Virginia has only nine.

The Republicans also are striving to increase early education access statewide by removing barriers between public and private early education institutions. Landes cited legislative proposals from Del. Thomas Greason, R-Loudoun, to establish an Early Education Workforce Committee (House Bill 46) and Del. James Massey, R-Henrico, whose HB 1019 would extend education scholarship eligibility to pre-kindergarten programs.

The GOP agenda stipulated that the party does not support universal pre-kindergarten schooling because of the expense.

Landes also highlighted a bill he is sponsoring (HB 516) that would allow students and their parents to opt out of exposure to sexually explicit material.

The final part of the GOP education agenda for 2016 is directed at improving access to, and reducing the financial burden of, higher education. Proposed legislation would aim to implement a state-guaranteed assistance program and provide options for flat-fee degrees.

In response, Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, expressed appreciation for the bipartisan efforts of the House regarding education. She indicated that the Democrats would like to do more – by making early education universal, for example.

“We don’t want to close the door to early education,” Herring said. But she applauded the improved efficiency that freed funding from the mire of bureaucracy, agreeing that “rubber meets the road in the classroom.”

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