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Bills to watch at the General Assembly

January 23, 2012

Several education-related bills come up for committee hearings this week at the Statehouse.

One bill would broaden the allowable reasons for teacher layoffs, but they would still have to be based on seniority. The House Committee on Labor is scheduled to take up that bill on Tuesday. The sponsor, Rep. Scott Guthrie (D-Coventry), is proposing that the state allow school districts to let teachers go for reasons that include budget cuts, program changes and loss of student population. The bill would also push back the deadline for notifying teachers of potential layoffs, from March 1st to May 15th.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare will take up the question of whether Neumont University should be allowed to grant degrees in Rhode Island. The Utah-based school is hoping to open a campus in Providence in 2013. Neumont offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in computer science and computer programming. The for-profit university needs an exemption from a state law barring for-profit schools from granting BA and MA degrees.

The Health, Education and Welfare Committee will also be looking at a bill to ban texting during the school day. The measure sponsored by Rep. Peter Petrarca (D-Lincoln, Johnston, Smithfield) would prohibit all texting during school hours, except for pre-approved emergency or instructional purposes. Schools would have to adopt their own disciplinary measures to enforce the law, but the bill specifies that no cell phone should be taken away for any length of time beyond the day of the texting offence, and no student should be suspended for texting.

Finally the HEW Committee will consider allowing school districts to sell advertising space on school buses. The HEW Committee meets Wednesday at 5 p.m.

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