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Senate committee punts on school bus advertising, 'Kings Dominion Bill'

Senate committee punts on school bus advertising, 'Kings Dominion Bill'

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Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg (left), chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee, confers with Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, during a legislative meeting in Richmond on Jan. 25.

RICHMOND — You won’t be seeing commercial advertising on school buses next year.

A Senate committee punted Thursday on a bill that would allow state school systems to sell commercial advertising on their buses as schools continue to struggle with funding. The bill had passed the House of Delegates, but was continued to the 2019 General Assembly session in an 11-4 vote.

HB 809 from Del. Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol, was considered an “outside-the-box revenue stream” for schools. Divisions could have used the money generated through the advertising as they deemed necessary.

The majority of the Senate Education and Health Committee, though, thought it’d be best to study the issue and bring it back next year.

Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, mentioned after the vote that the revenue from school bus advertising could be used to fund buying new buses.

A similar bill from O’Quinn died last year in subcommittee, but after some changes this year it made it through the full House.

Now it’s back on the table for another year.

Here are other education-related bills taken up Thursday:

School start dates: The 1986 law requiring Virginia school divisions to start school after Labor Day will still be law for another year.

HB 372 from Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and HB 1020 from Del. Les Adams, R-Chatham, would have made local school boards responsible for determining the opening day of the school year, eliminating the “Kings Dominion Bill.”

The Senate Education and Health Committee — after combining the two bills — voted 9-6 to continue them to next year.

School divisions currently can obtain waivers from the state to start school before Labor Day, and most in the Roanoke and New River valleys do so, except for Salem City Schools.

The bill voted on Thursday would have required the school calendars to include a five-day Labor Day weekend, either from Thursday through the Monday of Labor Day or Friday through Tuesday.

Divisions who already have waivers from the state would have been grandfathered into that provision.

During debate on the bill, senators railed against the tourism industry’s efforts to keep the post-Labor Day statute in place.

“We’ve allowed one specific industry to make this decision,” said Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County.

Robinson’s bill had passed the House of Delegates in a 76-22 vote.

Like in years past, efforts to repeal the law failed and will be brought back next year.

Student privacy: A bill to protect students’ contact information cleared another step Thursday.

HB 1 from Del. Tony Wilt, R-Rockingham, would stop college student directory information from being released under the Freedom of Information Act without student or parent — if the student is younger than 18 years old — consent.

The Senate Education and Health Committee voted 15-0 to report the bill to the full Senate.

The bill passed the House of Delegates last week in a 62-35 vote.

A political group last year obtained college students’ contact information through Freedom of Information Act requests and sent mass text messages about voter registration.

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond was among the schools that provided the information to the group.

The bill advanced Thursday includes colleges, universities and K-12 schools.

Superintendent searches: The Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously approved a bill allowing an extra 180 days for school boards to appoint a new superintendent.

HB 81 from Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, would allow school boards to request for the extension to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the public schools head of the state. School boards currently have 180 days to fill the post after it becomes open.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.

jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306​

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