Bob Stuart | Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2016 1:03 am
Since he took office in 2010, Del. Dickie Bell has worked to make virtual education an option across Virginia.
On Monday, legislation to expand the current pilot program of 100 high school students in virtual education to 5,000 K-12 students across Virginia, passed the state Senate.
The Senate vote was 23-17, and Bell said the legislation must clear a conference committee before heading to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his signature.
Bell, R-Staunton, said he hopes to have a one-on-one meeting with McAuliffe later this week to garner the governor’s approval. “Hopefully, he will talk to us,” said Bell, who said the per pupil basic aid going to online virtual school vendors would be capped at $4,700 per student.
The delegate remains “cautiously optimistic” that the governor would sign the virtual schools legislation when it goes to him.
Bell, a retired special education teacher in Augusta County, has long been a proponent of school choice. He believes the online option of virtual schools offers students who do not fare well in a classroom setting the opportunity to learn.
The delegate was not pleased with the limits of the pilot virtual schools program announced last year. He was displeased with limiting the pilot program to 100 students and allowing only high school students. Bell said the program should be offered statewide and to K-12 students.
Meanwhile, as the days and hours tick down to a Saturday General Assembly adjournment, there is reason to believe the state budget will be finalized in time.
Del. Steve Landes, a House budget conferee, said negotiations between the House and Senate could wrap us as early as Tuesday.
Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said the final budget would include teacher salary increases, funds for economic development and more money for K-12 education.
What is less certain is how much less funding there will be in a state bond package that McAuliffe had proposed at $2.4 billion.
Landes said he knows the final number will be lower, but is optimistic that funding for a bioscience building at Blue Ridge Community College will be included in the package.