Legislature Overrides DeJongh Veto of School Calendar Legislation

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The V.I. Legislature overrode Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s veto of legislation to define when public school semesters begin and end. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Neville James, says the school year shall begin no later than the second Tuesday after the second Monday in August and end no later than the first Friday in June, so long as the calendar includes at least 1,080 hours of instruction and the first semester ends by Dec. 23. The change must be implemented no later than the 2013-14 school year.

When deJongh vetoed the measure in mid-June, he described it as an unfunded mandate. DeJongh said the bill would do nothing to help better prepare students, "while at the same time costing an estimated $3.2 million in the first year alone to effect it, which the Legislature has not funded and which the Department of Education cannot accommodate without such funds."

After the vote to enact the measure over the governor’s objection, James said, "It is still a work in process."

He said he "took offense to the suggestion that it is an unfunded mandate." And he said the "embarrassment" of the recent collapse of deJongh administration plans for a sports stadium in Frederiksted "was proof" the administration should not criticize others for fiscal irresponsibility.

There was no mention of funding for the measure during Wednesday’s session.

Voting to override the governor’s veto and enact the measure into law were James, Sens. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Usie Richards, Ronald Russell, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve, Alvin Williams and Janette Millin-Young. Sen. Craig Barshinger abstained and Sens. Louis Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone and Celestino White were absent.

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