Things happened very quickly today! I’m really learning the art of jumping up and down over seats to get to the podium—all while holding a laptop! The testing bill HB 1183 took an unusual turn.

8:30 a.m. Senate Education and Health meeting:

Membership: Houck (Chairman), Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Quayle, Martin, Newman, Edwards, Ruff, Whipple, Blevins, Locke, Barker, Northam, Miller, J.C.

The bills were heard in this order:

HB 259 (Fralin): In the bill requiring notification when withdrawing from public school, it was moved and seconded to adopt the amendment that included electronic notification. No discussion was made for or against the bill. The amendment was adopted. The bill was reported as amended.

HB 767 (Tata): The bill making changes to the homeschool statute was brought up. No discussion was made for or against the bill. The bill was quickly reported.

HB 1183 (Lingamfelter): In the bill clarifying testing options, the amendment from Monday’s subcommittee meeting was quickly adopted. The Senate received an older version of the bill so there was some initial confusion about the bill’s wording before the correct House Substitute was passed out.

Lingamfelter requested that it be amended on line 36 after (iii) to strike the pronoun ‘a’ and have it read ‘an evaluation.’ This amendment was adopted.

Senator Miller wanted to know why the superintendent does not have control over what he wants to review. Parrish Mort of Virginia Homeschoolers said it has historically been under the parents’ discretion as to what form of evaluation was used.

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) spoke in opposition to the bill, expressing concern in particular about the portfolio section of the bill because it was difficult and time consuming to determine if portfolios are evaluating what they say they are evaluating.

Senator Martin asked VASS if the evaluation acceptance still rested completely in the superintendent’s hands. The Virginia Association of School Superintendents replied that they wanted something more clearly “spelled out” than a portfolio. A VASS representative said he read the bill to mean superintendents MUST accept a portfolio and approve it. He indicated he wanted something that could be assessed more easily, like a standardized test.

It was suggested the bill be amended to strike the portion on line 38 regarding student portfolios.

Senator Miller then suggested two amendments that would, in essence, create a bill that would do the opposite of what was intended. He suggested that on line 31, (1) ‘shall’ be stricken and replaced with ‘to’ and (2) ‘shall ask’ be inserted after ‘division superintendent.’ A great deal of disapproval was expressed by Senator Martin, Senator Newman, and homeschool representatives. The bill was voted down (only Senator Miller and Senator Locke voted for the amendment).

HB 1183 was then voted upon to report. “No” Votes: 8 (Saslaw, Locke, Howell, Whipple, Northam, Miller, and Newman); “Yes” Votes: 7 (Houck, Lucas, Martin, Edwards, Ruff, Blevins, and Quayle).

Because Senator Newman voted on the prevailing side, he was able to move that the bill be “passed by” temporarily. Because of that strategic move, we expected HB 1183 to come back before the committee next week. At that point, Delegate Lingamfelter said it was very important that the senators who voted against the bill hear the voices of the homeschoolers in their districts.

Later in the same hearing, Senator Steve Newman—a long-time supporter of homeschooling—asked that the bill be brought up in committee again! He had privately talked with Senator Saslaw and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and had allayed their concerns about the bill. The committee chairman, Senator Houck, allowed the procedure. They took another vote and Senator Saslaw voted for the bill along with Senator Newman! The bill passed! It now goes to the full Senate for a final vote next week.

What a trip this bill has taken! And it’s not over yet!