The 2021 General Assembly Session completed its sixth week and legislative work is scheduled to conclude this Saturday, February 27th Sine Die. When we came to Richmond this year, virtually and otherwise, one thing we heard from our constituents was the overwhelming desire to have our kids back in school five days a week. The well documented educational and emotional toll on children is simply too great to ignore. Every day spent on virtual platforms rather than in the classroom with a teacher is a disservice to students and parents alike.
Parents should have the ability to make an informed decision for their children, which is why they should have a real choice: in-person school, five days a week if they want it, or virtual education if they don’t. Parents have made it very clear this is what they expect. A bill that would do that just passed the Senate and is pending before the House. Unfortunately, it is being amended by the majority in such a fashion that it differs drastically from its original intent, substituting “hybrid” schooling for the real deal. The data supports the safety of in-person learning when proper protocols are followed, and Republicans are committed to getting our kids back in school. We’re listening to parents, and we’re following the science.
In other news, Virginia has finally launched a central registration system for those wishing to make an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. People who have already signed up through their local health departments can also use this site to confirm registration. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t provide specific information about appointment dates and times, or how long the wait list is. Nonetheless it is an improvement over the scattershot web forms that were in use across Virginia until last Tuesday. For more information, or to check on your status, go to vaccinate.virginia.gov, or call 877-VAX-INVA, or 877-829-4682.
As for my bills, HB1827 and HB2091 were both passed unanimously by the Senate and are headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. HB1827 seeks to rectify the geographically concentrated representation of Virginia’s Board of Education. Currently, four of the eight regions are unrepresented on the Board of Education, and Richmond alone has four members representing its metropolitan area. This bill will require that this nine-member board have at least five members who reside in different superintendent's regions throughout the Commonwealth.
HB2091 came at the request of the City of Covington. It amends the City Charter so that it may continue the process of consolidating its school system with Alleghany County. Both localities are experiencing declining enrollment and their respective boards have determined that consolidating resources is the most fiscally responsible way to provide their students with a high quality education. My budget amendment to enable this merger remains in place.
My other budget amendments to fund our regional health sciences initiative and to study the effects of the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) boat access fees have also made it into the House Budget. I am hopeful that they will remain as we work with the Senate to reconcile our budget differences over the next week.
As always, if I or my staff may be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me at DelTAustin@house.virginia.gov or 804-698-1019.
Delegate Terry L. Austin
19th House District