Sen. DeSteph criticizes Northam’s ‘Back to School’ plan, calls it ‘gubernatorial overreach’

Virginia Beach

State Sen. Bill DeSteph of the 8th Senate District arrives at the Republican victory party in Virginia Beach, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Steve Earley/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia senator is publicly criticizing the governor’s statewide “Back to School” plan for the fall, saying it is unconstitutional and a “gubernatorial overreach.”

Sen. Bill DeSteph, (R-Virginia Beach), sent the letter to Northam Thursday.

DeSteph says the General Assembly is responsible for making policies such as the ones for returning to school amid the coronavirus pandemic, and local school boards are responsible for applying the plans to their respective school divisions.

DeSteph wrote: “As the Senator representing the largest city in the Commonwealth, it is my duty to convey on behalf of my constituents their enormous disapproval of this plan. My office has been overwhelmed with calls and emails critical of this approach.”

DeSteph also said the law in Virginia does not allow the governor to intervene in schedules of public school districts.

Northam announced in a press conference June 9 that all Virginia schools will be able to reopen with in-person instruction in some capacity this fall, “but the experience will look different.” The reopening guidelines will be in phases that give school divisions flexibility, and are recommendations, not mandates.

Divisions will have to submit plans before they advance to the next phase.

DeSteph also said the Virginia Department of Education has sent communications that “misrepresent the role and authority of the VDOE.”

DeSteph continued: “Although you have not yet identified a specific date, you have suggested the General Assembly will reconvene for a special session in August. If there are policy decisions relating to our statewide educational system, they can and should be addressed by the members of the General Assembly at that time. I look forward to bringing the expressed thoughts and wishes of the 8th District to Richmond as the General Assembly works to enact legislation in the best interests of the Commonwealth and its citizens.”


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