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Justice signs virtual ed bill, vetoes non-public student vocational access bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday signed a bill allowing public school systems to offer home-schoolers and other students full-time K-12 virtual education, and vetoed legislation that would’ve let home and private school students attend public vocational education schools without being charged more than public schoolers.

Justice signed and vetoed several K-12 education bills Wednesday, the last day he had to either officially approve or disapprove of bills passed during this year’s regular legislative session. If he took no action, they would automatically become law without his signature.

Here are his actions on several bills:

Signed: Senate Bill 630, which will allow county public school systems to offer virtual education and “an online pathway for earning a high school diploma,” while also receiving the full per-pupil state school aid formula funding for each student who participates, including home-schoolers.

Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring spoke to lawmakers in favor of the bill. So did lobbyists and an official from K12 Inc., a company that provides online education.

Duerring said the bill also allows participating students, including home-schoolers, to participate in sports and other public school-related activities.

SB630, while it says it’s not intended to save money through personnel cuts, exempts online courses from things like maximum teacher-pupil ratios.

It will allow a county school board or groups of school boards to offer “virtual instruction programs,” which provide “a full-time online or blended program of instruction for students enrolled in any composition of grades kindergarten through twelve.”

SB630 defines “blended” programs as those that at least partly include online learning and at least partly include education “in a supervised setting outside the home.”

It says minimum qualifications for faculty must adhere to a section of current state law.

To create a virtual program, a county school board will have to choose to create a policy that lays out how the program will work. A board may then “contract with virtual school providers.”

The legislation says students in the virtual programs must meet the same state testing requirements “as other students in the school district.” To receive a diploma, students must complete “the same coursework required of regular public school students” in the county.

Vetoed: House Bill 2589, which would’ve allowed home-school and private school students to attend public county school systems’ vocational education schools without being charged more than public school students.

The bill would’ve also implemented a middle school career and technical education initiative to the bill.

Signed: House Bill 3080, which will designate the week of Sept. 11 in West Virginia schools as “Celebrate Freedom Week” and require public and private school students to study America’s founding documents then.

The bill will not require students to actually learn about the Sept. 11 attacks, experts’ beliefs about the motivations of those attacks, motivations for continuing terrorist attacks, the modern history events preceding Sept. 11 or the attacks’ aftermath.

It also doesn’t specifically require students to learn about how the founding documents do or don’t relate to Sept. 11 or the events surrounding it.

It specifically says students must receive “appropriate instruction in each social studies class which … Uses the historical, political and social environments surrounding each document at the time of its initial passage or ratification” and “Uses the historical, political and social environments surrounding each document at the time of its initial passage or ratification.”

It also requires an “in-depth study of the intent, meaning and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights.”

Signed: House Bill 2561, which senators said increases the flexibility in how county school boards can spend their state school aid formula funding.

Signed: House Bill 2702. Justice actually signed this bill Tuesday.

The bill will require, among other things, that for a student to receive an excused absence for a family member’s injury or illness, the student must provide “a reasonable explanation for why the student’s absence was necessary and caused by the illness or injury in the family.”

It says a “principal may request additional documentation including, but not limited to, a statement from a medical, osteopathic or chiropractic physician, physician’s assistant, or nurse practitioner confirming the existence of the family member’s illness or injury.”

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