For Immediate Release: April 5, 2016
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Christina Nuckols, christina.nuckols@governor.virginia.gov

Governor McAuliffe Vetoes Legislation Undercutting Public Schools

 

Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed House Bill 518, House Bill 389 and House Bill 8. In a year when the Governor has secured support for an investment of over $1 billion in new funding for education at all levels, he believes that it sends the wrong signal to backtrack from the Commonwealth’s support for all public schools.

The Governor’s full veto statements are below including his letter on virtual learning to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Steven Staples:

April 5, 2016

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 518, which would require the Board of Education to select 12 schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement and require those schools to provide all enrolled students with the option to transfer to another public school within the school division. 

At its core, this legislation undercuts local school boards’ constitutional authority to assign students to schools. The local school board has the preeminent role over local public education, and HB 518 would unconstitutionally infringe on that role. 

Additionally, Virginia’s previous experience with implementing school choice policies to students in failing divisions proved costly and difficult to implement, and yielded no evidence to suggest that it had a positive impact on student achievement. 

Accordingly, I veto this bill. 

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

 

April 5, 2016

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 389, which would remove state funds from our public school systems and redirect those funds to Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts to pay for educational services outside the public school system. 

First and foremost, there are significant constitutional concerns with this legislation. The approved expenses as outlined in the bill include tuition at private sectarian institutions, bringing the legislation into direct conflict with Article VIII, Section 10 of the Virginia Constitution, which authorizes the use of public funds only for public and nonsectarian private schools. 

While the bill would divert much-needed resources away from public schools, operating costs would not be significantly lowered due to the continued need for teachers, buses, and other administrative supports upon which public school students rely. Additionally, the funds withdrawn from the public system bear no relationship to the needs of the particular student or the cost of the additional support services he or she would require, because the amount received will vary based on the local composite index of the home division. 

This bill raises constitutional questions, diverts funds from public schools, and creates an unfair system. Our goal is to support and improve public education across the Commonwealth for all students, not to codify inequality. 

Accordingly, I veto this bill. 

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

 

April 5, 2016

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto House Bill 8, which would create a new executive branch agency known as the Board of the Virginia Virtual School, to govern and facilitate the provision of full-time, online educational programs. 

This legislation raises significant concerns regarding proper management and oversight by allowing the Board of the Virginia Virtual School to operate outside the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, local divisions, and local school boards. This would disrupt the established constitutional framework and the roles these entities play in ensuring the appropriate governance of schools, regulatory compliance, and positive student outcomes. 

The corresponding resources allocated in the budget also would be insufficient to run a new state agency effectively. Inadequate funding and staffing will put all participating students, specifically English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and other at-risk youth, in danger of not receiving their constitutionally-guaranteed education. 

Finally, Board of the Virginia Virtual School is also unnecessary given the current availability of high quality, online virtual learning opportunities. Delegate Richard P. Bell, the bill’s patron, has a long standing commitment to advancing virtual learning, which has facilitated Virginia’s ability to expand virtual learning opportunities to students throughout the Commonwealth. This includes the Virtual Virginia program, overseen by the Virginia Department of Education, which makes full and part time programming available to students while ensuring high quality instruction, providing extracurricular opportunities, and maintaining ongoing support from their local school division. 

HB 8 would create a new state agency outside the constitutional framework governing school divisions and boards. There is no reason to sign into law legislation that would risk the educational well-being of our students.   

Accordingly, I veto this bill. 

Sincerely,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

 

Dr. Steven R. Staples
Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education
101 North 14th Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219 

Dear Dr. Staples: 

The need for virtual learning opportunities is becoming more and more apparent in this digital age. With limited resources and students with a wide range of needs, establishing virtual programs is one way we can address the growing demands on our education system.  

I would like to commend you for your work to expand the number and types of courses available through Virtual Virginia. The success of the pilot project allowing students to experience a full-time high school course of study through Virtual Virginia is encouraging. 

As you know, virtual learning was a topic of discussion during the most recent legislative session. It is clear to me that there is more work to be done in order to provide our students with virtual learning options. Therefore, I would like you to establish a working group to look at these issues, to include the advocates for and patron of HB 8. Please report back to me on your plans to further enhance virtual learning in the Commonwealth by November 15, 2016. 

Thank you,

 

Terence R. McAuliffe

 

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