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Governor pushes for school in August

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, right, gestures as he announced his legislative education agenda as Luca Rickey, left, Zane Childress, second from left, and Caroline Saady listen and react during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond on Monday. AP Photo/Steve Helber


Most area students returned to class before Labor Day this year. That's because most area school divisions receive waivers from the King's Dominion law, the tourism-industry-backed code that sets the date. Among local divisions, only Shenandoah County did not. School started on the following dates this academic year:

* Clarke County: Aug. 23

* Frederick County: Aug. 24

* Shenandoah County: Sept. 6

* Warren County: Aug. 29

* Winchester: Aug. 24

Labor Day was Sept. 5

By Zinie Chen Sampson, Associated Press

RICHMOND -- Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday he will push for the repeal of a state law that requires school divisions to open after Labor Day, saying the longstanding measure is outdated at a time when schools should be maximizing instructional time to prepare students for college and the workplace.

McDonnell said at a news conference highlighting his legislative agenda for public education that 77 of Virginia's 132 school divisions already have received waivers from the state Department of Education. Taking the law off the books would allow each district to determine the length of its academic year, giving students a chance to benefit from increased classroom time.

The governor's announcement marks a reversal of his support of the measure, which he had previously supported on behalf of the state's tourism industry. He now says changing the law is in the best interest of Virginia's students. He also said that the exception has become the rule, and most of the districts seeking waivers are west of a "direct line down I-95."

Virginia education groups, including the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and the Virginia School Boards Association, applauded McDonnell's support of their longtime efforts to repeal the so-called Kings Dominion law, which took effect in 1986.

"This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated and unnecessary state mandate," VASB President Joan Wodiska said. "In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virginia's economic and educational goals."

McDonnell expects pushback from tourism-dependent businesses, including those in southeast Virginia that depend on late-summer traffic. But he stressed that he isn't backing off state support for expanding Virginia's tourism industry.

Other initiatives in McDonnell's K-12 education agenda include expanding charter and virtual schools; establishing dual-enrollment tracks for high school and community college; and offering tax credits to corporations that contribute to private-school scholarships for low-income students -- a measure that died last year.

He also said he wants the state to establish an annual contract and review process for public school teachers and principals, a change from the existing continuing-contract system. Doing so, he said, would help districts remove substandard teachers. He also wants to accelerate the timetable for the employee grievance process.

The changes would allow superintendents and school boards to manage their staff and "weed out those who aren't doing their jobs," he said.

"The Virginia Education Association is opposed to any attempts on the part of the governor or the General Assembly to change the continuing contract language for teachers," VEA President Kitty Boitnott said in an email. "We contend that if the current evaluation process were used appropriately, there would be no need for this change."

He also wants to reduce the number of high-school diploma categories from seven to three and increase some requirements for attaining them. To earn a standard diploma, for example, a student would have to pass a workplace readiness skills assessment or a similar test.

McDonnell said the state should revise its Standards of Quality to ensure school districts use funds for prevention, intervention and remediation to correct reading deficiencies in third- and fourth-graders, and require such interventions before a child is allowed to advance to the next grade. He also would like to see changes to the school-funding formula to have dollars follow the student to ensure that charter schools are funded.

He also outlined several items in his proposed biennial budget, which includes $438 million in additional funding for public education.

The package includes $1.8 million in the budget that begins July 1 for high school sophomores to take the PSAT, an early measure of college readiness, in an effort to boost enrollment in Advanced Placement classes as well as improve SAT scores. McDonnell also designated $600,000 for pay incentives for teachers of science, technology, education and math, with preference given to hard-to-staff schools or those in need of raising their academic achievement.


Zinie Chen Sampson can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/zinie



I think its bull our kids have been getting plenty of learning the way its always been actually I hope the government is kicked out of our schools with a new president!

About time. Shenandoah County schools has been using the fair to start school later for years which has been BS. Our children need more time in school. The world is becoming a more complicated place and the competition for jobs will REQUIRE more education. The emphasis should be on the children and what is best for them. I thank God for the govt wanting the best of education.

All of the local counties and the city of Winchester currently begin classes before Labor Day because they take advantage of the wavier; so if the King's Dominion law gets the ax; we wouldn't see a change.
If Government gets "kicked out" of our schools then there goes all of the government perks such as the wavier of textbook rental fees, free and reduced lunch program, as well as the free tranportation of the students to and from school via those big yellow buses. This would also mean that the government would no longer pay for the teachers, or even provide the money for school upgrades, sports fields, and sports equipment.
Without Government in the schools, it would make them private schools.............. and we know how expensive they are now don't we.
I guess we have to take the good with the bad, huh. But at least we still have the choice.

First OFF the fair is not something that is used by the schools to have them start later then everyone else. Why don't you go take care of them animals the way that them kids do and love them the way them kids do. It is a program in the school FFA. I only went to Central for 2 and 1/2 years and them farmers kids are true blood.

We need the programs in the schools. There are kids that would not be able to eat if they didn't have the free lunch. So we need the goverment in the schools.

I think that learning starts at home in teaching kids in wanting to work and the meaning of a job and money. My children that are still in school work every summer. They save their money and they know how to spend it wisely.

If the parents are dead beats then the kids are not going to want to be like their parents and get the hell out. Or they will be just like them. If they are taught right from wrong then they will know right from wrong.

Don't blame the schools and the goverment because you don't want to raise your kids.

Yep. Because everyone knows QUANTITY is an excellent substitute for QUALITY. How about a little focus on what goes on IN the classroom rather than just the amount of time spent there.

Changing this law has nothing to do with "more time in school." It is simply changing the start time of the school year. If you start earlier in August, you will have the same number of school days (or class hours if your county uses that for setting the length of the school year instead of number of days - which is within VA law) as starting in September, or October, or whenever. This law simply has school starting after a certain date, Labor Day. You will have no more or less time in school by changing this law. Its 180 days (or whatever the number of hours is stated in that part of the law) no matter when you start the school year.

This will be the end result of this law. School systems that use the 4x4 schedule or A/B schedule, and most in VA do, will decide that they want to have exams, which are right now at the end of January, before the Christmas Break. That means starting the school year in the first week of August. That stinks, from experience as a student and now a teacher who moved from another state which did this. Not only are you in school all of August, you can't have sports camps or marching band camps (well, you can have band camps in July because the VHSL doesn't control when you can start practice in Band) because the first of August is when sports are allowed to begin practicing. And no, the VHSL won't change their start times because the schools who start after Labor Day will have had their teams practicing for a month in all-days, etc. and that will create all sorts of issues when they protest the other side of the argument.

The schools (notice they are "west of I-95") that are requesting the waiver most times cite excessive snow days as their reason for requesting the waiver. If you start earlier in the summer, you'll have more days missed from broken A/C's and excessive heat. No matter how you slice this, you have to attend school for the same number of days and you have one issue or another no matter what you do. Lets' have summer be summer and fall be school time I say. You don't learn everything in life in a classroom.

Your post is on point.

The fair has everything to do with the late start. Has for years. AND EXCUSE me, I work in education, your facts are not correct. Do the research about time and quality. We are not doing the best for the children.

I find it insulting and self serving of the VEA President Kitty Boitnot to immediately put the interest of the Teachers and VEA in front of the Childrens Education andthe Governor efforts to hold the Teachers of Virginia to the highest standards possible. For far too long this state has been in the grips of the VEA in regards to Teachers. The Governor wants to put into place a process that will give the power back to the districts School Boards and Superintendents and allow them to weed out substandard Teachers.

I applaud Shen. Co. for not starting before Labor Day due to the fair. As a former 4-Her, I can tell you that programs such as 4-H and FFA are just as important in a child's education as attending school. 4-H and FFA teach respect, public speaking, poise, patience, discipline, a good work ethic, and many other qualities that we want to see in our children. For those in 4-H and FFA who decide to show animals at the fair, I don't think that we should make it harder for them to start school before the fair. They either have to miss school at the beginning of the year, which is a critical time in the school year and try to make up the work and do homework at the fair OR they have to drop out of showing animals at the fair. Just go and watch these children showing animals at the fair and you will see that these are good, descent, disciplined children and programs such as 4-H and FFA and raising and showing animals at the fair has helped in making them this way. The time that these children spend at the fair help them to create relationships with other children in the county and the organizations and companies that sponser these animal shows and buy animals at the fair. And let's not forget good, clean, old-fashioned fun that is just as important in a child's development as anything. And did you know that these children end up making money on the sale of their animals and some win scholarship money during this week? This money will be part of their future college tuition or whatever they decide to pursue after high school. I don't believe that all education happens in the classroom and we should make it easier for programs like 4-H and FFA to help in that education.

And I find it insulting that, as usual, it all seems to be falling back on teachers... I'd like to see parents having to sign waivers that allow schools to discipline effectively (no, I don't mean corporal punishment) and that agrees that their child CAN lose their "right" to free public education if he/she shows no effort or desire and is a constant hinderence to the education process.

Until then it is an errant assumption that more time in school is going to somehow make anything better.

The kids that don't want to learn aren't suddenly going to have an epiphany and become good students because we make them go back in early August.

How many children actually have animals at the fair? 50? Holding up an entire school system for 50 children, does not seem practical to me. When we went to school, it was before the fair started and FFA was given exemptions if they had animals at the fair. Nothing againest FFA, not the reason for my post. But answer this question. Are we concerned about the Chinese, Japanese, Indians and 30 other countries having better education success than the US? That is my point. If we are, then all school requirements must be examined, including when they start and how long they stay in school? If we do not compete and change, the US may become a third world country in the education arena. That would be disasterous for future generations.

Maybe that is what is wrong with the schools. They are worried about the illegal that live here for free. They can’t pass the SOL. The parents are doing drugs and gang members and the kids are going to school because they have to. How many people don’t belong here and we are footing the bill for. I hope that you are not a teacher for one of my kids because you are closed minded. Farming teaches the kids something just like a good old spanking. Maybe the kids would not be so bad in school. I feel that 75 percent of the learning comes from the home not from the teachers. I have taught my kids to work and be responsible. If I would have depended on some of the teachers that they have had then my kids would not have made it where they are and have been on the A/B honor roll all thru school. Some of the teachers could not even pay attention to the class and what was going on. So Ms. Teacher of the year please make sure you know all of what students go thru before you say I don’t know my facts.

Not a teacher but in the education field. Just do the research. Just do the research.

I find that helps before I talk.

Let's go a step further and give the power back to the localities and school boards! Allow them to put in place a performance evaluation system for the Teachers and give them the Authority to weed out the substandard Teachers!

Middle class production or factory jobs are disappearing in this country. The plain and simple truth is it costs less to manufacture products in other countries. This translates into an erosion of the middle class job market. This has been the trend for more than 20 years and there are no signs this will change. Education beyond High School is the most import asset an individual can have to survive and make a decent living going forward. We are quickly becoming a nation where intellectual property developers (i.e., Microsoft, Google, ATT) and their associated services are the backbone of our economy. Without an education our children stand little chance of succeeding in this new world. Our education systems are not providing our children with the skills and tools for them to succeed in the 21st century.

To argue over starting school in August vs. September is silly. Instead, we should be asking our government to extend the number of days in a school year. And as responsible parents we should raise the expectation bar for our children and demand more from our education systems.

IMO anyone who stands up and declares that the main problem with public education is the teachers, hasn't spent much time in a public school lately...

What compelling reason exists that prevents uninterrupted schooling all year long?

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