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Va. Senate panel endorses 4 schools bills

Thursday - 1/17/2013, 3:30pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Bob McDonnell's attempt to leave a legacy of education reform as his four-year term winds down received a modest boost from a Senate committee Thursday.

The Education and Health Committee endorsed four bills in McDonnell's education package, but left for another day his most substantial proposals: a sweeping overhaul of the evaluation and grievance process that would make it easier to fire bad teachers, and creation of a new and easier-to-understand A-to-F scale for measuring public school performance.

One of the bills backed by the committee would provide up to $15 million in grants to local school divisions to give performance-based bonuses to teachers

"We support anything that will get more money to our teachers," Pat Lacy of the Virginia School Boards Association told the committee.

Meg Gruber, president of the Virginia Education Association, also urged approval of the bill. The panel endorsed it on a voice vote and sent it to the Finance Committee, which must sign off on the funding.

Another measure backed by the committee would give schools more flexibility in seeking relief from state regulations.

Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, opposed the bill. She said it would weaken the public school Standards of Quality, but supporters said the bill is consistent with an emphasis on measuring schools by their performance instead of whether they meet benchmarks on things like staffing ratios.

The committee voted 10-4 to send the bill to the Senate floor.

With little debate, the panel also advanced bills to streamline procedures for school consolidations and establishment of charter schools.

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