Tuesday, September 15, 2015

JLARC Report Exposes Disinvestment in Virginia's Schools

Yesterday’s  JLARC report, Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending, which provides substantive ammunition for the budget battle ahead all began with a meeting President Gruber and I had with Senator Dick Saslaw on November 26, 2012.  Meg and I were following up on an item on the 2013 VEA Legislative Agenda adopted by the VEA Board in August of 2012.  The item read:

JLARC Study of the SOQ - Substantial revisions to the SOQ are needed as a consequence of a number of factors not limited to the following:

v  The continued failure of the General Assembly to fund revisions proposed by the Board of education,

v  The revised graduation requirements,

v  The more vigorous Standards of Learning tests, and

v  The many arbitrary, budget-driven cuts to SOQ funding made in the 2009 through 2012 legislative sessions.

It is time for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct a study of how the SOQ may be revised and adequately funded to meet the Standards of Learning and Standards of Accreditation. 

Senator Saslaw agreed to be our champion, and the General Assembly passed SJ328 in 2013.

Despite the fact that the House weakened the language of the VEA drafted resolution considerably, yesterday’s report clearly delineates the fact that Virginia is disinvesting in the education of her children.  While I urge you to read the report, or at least the summary, here are some highlights:

    The average Virginia school division spends nine percent less per student to provide instruction than it did in FY 2005.
     Divisions reduced per-student spending on instruction through a combination of employing fewer teachers per student, limiting teacher salary growth, and requiring teachers to pay a higher percentage of health insurance and retirement benefit costs. Divisions report that these spending reductions are hindering instructional effectiveness.

·     Divisions have more students per teacher, and report that larger class sizes hinder instructional effectiveness.

·    Teacher salaries have remained level, but teachers pay more for their benefits …. Take-home pay likely decreased for many teachers.

·    More than 80% of divisions report challenges to recruitment and retention of teachers.
Recommendations of the report include:

RECOMMENDATION 1 The General Assembly may wish to consider amending § 22.1-23 of the Code of Virginia to require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to track teacher turnover and report annually to the General Assembly and governor the numbers of and most common reasons for teacher turnover (Chapter 3, page 25).

OPTION 1 The General Assembly could amend § 2.2-1204 of the Code of Virginia to allow school division employees to participate in the state employee health plan (Chapter 2, page 11).

This JLARC report is also remarkable for what it doesn’t say.  For example, it says that the “Local share of K-12 funds” ranks 11th in the nation.  It does not say that the state share ranks 41stIs there some reason they left out that statistic?  Could it be politics and cowardice?

Because the House watered down the wording of the VEA/Saslaw resolution, this report has no bold recommendations, but even with the weaker language imposed by the House, the report could not paper over a marked disinvestment in the education of the next generation.  The underlying truth survives, and now we must use the information in this report to fight for more funding for public education in the session ahead.

Let’s make the idea VEA hatched in 2012 pay off in the session ahead!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Veto Session: Tebow Bill Veto Sustained/Common Core Silliness Over

The General Assembly returned to the Capitol today for the reconvened session to consider the Governor's vetoes and amendments. 

HB1626, the Tebow Bill, was vetoed by the Governor, and the House, the chamber of origin, failed to override the veto on a 60-39 vote.  It takes two thirds of the votes to override so this bill is dead.

Two of the silliest bills of the session, HB1752 and SB724 would have prohibited the Board of Education to replacing the Standards of Learning with Common Core State Standards without approval of the General Assembly.  The Board rejected the Common Core in 2010, and there is no indication that anyone in Virginia wants to adopt the Common Core.  Beyond that, the Board of Education should not me micromanaged by the General Assembly in regard to standards.   The Senate sustained the Governor's veto of SB724 on a 22-18 vote.  The House overrode the Governor's veto of HB1752 on a 70-28 vote; however, the Senate sustained the veto ob HB1752 on a 22-18 vote, killing the bill.

Monday, March 2, 2015

VEA Legislative Committee Awards 2015


The Legislative Champion Awards

 Del. Plum and Sen. Chafin for Salary Budget Amendment for Public School Employees

 Delegate Jackson Miller, for Sponsoring A-F Repeal (HB1368)

Delegate Hugo, for Sponsoring 3 Person Panel (HB1744)

Sen. Vogel and Sen. Chafin for Sponsoring Statewide Health Insurance (SB866)

Sen. Norment for Sponsoring Mandatory CPS Timelines (SB1117)

Sen. Howell for Sponsoring Tuition Tax Credit Accountability (SB905)

OneVirginia2021 for Advocacy of Redistricting (8 bills)

Rookie of the Year (100% VEA voting record first year in chamber)


Rosalyn Dance (D)

 Delegates (five-way tie)

Bob Bloxom (R)
Joseph Lindsey (D)
Kathleen Murphy (D)
Joseph Preston (D)
Rip Sullivan (D)

Solid as a Rock (100% for two or more years in a row)


Kenny Alexander                                                                                            
George Barker                                                                                                 
Chuck Colgan                                                                                                    
Creigh Deeds                                                                                    
Adam Ebbin                                                                                                       
John Edwards                                                                                   
Barbara Favola                                                                                                 
Janet Howell                                                                                                     
Lynwood Lewis                                                                                                
Mamie Locke                                                                                                    
Louise Lucas                                                                                                      
Dave Marsden                                                                                                 
Donald McEachin                                                                                            
John Miller                                                                                                         
Toddy Puller
Dick Saslaw
Jennifer Wexton



Mayme Bacote
David Bulova
Betsy Carr
Eileen Filler-Corn
Michael Futrell
Charniele Herring
Patrick Hope
Tim Hugo
Matthew James
Mark Keam
Kaye Kory
Rob Krupicka
Alfonso Lopez
Monty Mason
Jennifer McClellan
Delores McQuinn
Ken Plum
Sam Rasoul
Tom Rust
Mark Sickles
Marcus Simon
Lionell Spruill
Scott Surovell
Luke Torian
David Toscano
Roslyn Tyler
Jeion Ward
Vivian Watts
Joseph Yost

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seat-Time Bill Passes, First Annual WUWT Award, Sine Die

Yesterday, the House adopted the conference report for Delegate Greason's HB1616.  The Senate followed suit today.  This bill has not attracted much attention, but it could fundamentally change the way schools operate, as it eliminates the 140 hour seat-time requirement to earn a credit for graduation.  This bill would allow a student to demonstrate knowledge of the content, gain the credit, and move on.  School divisions, based on Board guidelines, could develop tests to use to assess the demonstration of knowledge.  The Board of Education will develop the regulations, but the elimination of the seat-time requirement is sure to change the lives of all involved in secondary education.  Here is the meat of the bill:

9. Permit local school divisions to waive the requirement for students to receive 140 clock hours of instruction to earn a standard unit of credit upon providing the Board with satisfactory proof, based on Board guidelines, that the students for whom such requirements are waived have learned the content and skills included in the relevant Standards of Learning.

In every session there is a bill that makes you wonder, "What's up with that?"  This year, it's HB2331, which "defines the fisher as a fur bearing animal."  When my curiosity got the best of me, I started fishing for some facts about this animal, which, as of July 1, when the law goes into effect, will be fur bearing.  When I found out that the habitat of the fisher does not include Virginia, that the closest one to here is in Maine, I again asked myself, "What's up with that?"  Who will tell the fishers of their change in status if any can be found?  Not one person in the General Assembly voted against this important bill.  The whole thing seems fishy to me.  And, oh, by the way, no wonder we had 2,774 bills! 
The session adjourned Sine Die at 9:09 PM, but please check in periodically, as I will be posting from time to time as we approach the reconvened session (veto session). 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Diploma Seals, Seat Time, and Hinkle

HB1351, which approves granting a diploma seal for bilingual students gained final passage as the House and Senate concurred with the conference report.

The House concurred with the conference report on HB1675, but we await Senate action.  This is a most consequential bill as it eliminates the seat-time requirement for a unit of credit.

This past Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch was not a pleasant read, for any number of reasons, this biggest of which was Bart Hinkle’s column, “More money doesn’tequal better schools.”  Folks, this is what we are up against, so I would suggest you read it, internalize it, and be ready to combat this reasoning.  As Sun Tzu said, “Know thy enemy….”




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

LaRock Voucher Bill Defeated, Howell Teacher Turnover Study Passes

In what was an incredible day, VEA and VSBA worked together to deliver key votes to defeat Delegate Dave Larocks’s HB2238, a voucher bill to shift public school funding to home and private schools (see yesterday’s post).

As the day started, we feared the NAACP’s position in support of the bill threatened our efforts to defeat the bill.  With help from Senator McEachin’s office and heavy lifting from Senator Locke, the NAACP changed their position to one of opposition.  We thank the NAACP for taking another look at the bill.

On the floor Senators Petersen, Favola and Locke spoke against the bill.  The bill’s champions were Senators Garrett, Obenshain, Stuart, Black and Martin.
When the votes were on the board, it stood 18-18 (see below).  Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam cast the tie breaking vote against the bill and it failed.

Take a look at the vote below.  Senator Puller was not present for health reasons.  Note that those Republicans who "took a walk" helped us.

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--18.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--18.

RULE 36--Norment--1.

NOT VOTING--Chafin, Puller, Watkins--3.

Mr. President: NAY

We thank the eighteen Democrats who stood strong.  We thank Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam for breaking the tie.  Se thank Norment, Chafin, and Watkins for not voting.

Additional good news came when the Senate concurred with the House substitute for Senator Howell’s SJR218, sending this study of teacher turnover to the Governor’s desk for his signature.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

House Holds Budget Briefings, Busy Day in Both Chambers

The Conference budget from the House and Senate has couple of bright spots.  First, there is $52.9 million in funding for a 1.5% salary increase for educators.  Secondly, the General Assembly is pouring about $193 million into the Teacher VRS plan, alleviating some of the pressure, due to the unfunded liability, on the pension plan.

The salary increase is long overdue.  The increase is funded for ten and a half months – apparently a compromise between the Senate’s ten months and the House’s 11 months that they had proposed in earlier budgets.  The teacher raise is also lower than the amount being provided to state workers, faculty at universities and colleges, and state-supported local employees such as Commissioners of Revenue and Treasurers. 
Other than the pay increase and the funding for VRS, there are only minor changes to K-12 funding.  There is $52.9 million for school construction loans through the Literary Fund.  This is more than there has been in the fund for loans for years but less than what the Governor had proposed for construction loans and interest rate subsidies.  There is some money for K-12 initiatives such as extended year programs and training.
The budget language does keep hope of a statewide health insurance option alive.  It “Includes language instructing the Department of Human Resource Management to conduct an actuarial analysis of the impact of including employees of political subdivisions and their dependents in the state employee health plan and also to conduct a review of the Local Choice Health program.

Much more detail will be coming out from VEA soon.  From here, each of the two chambers vote on the budget.  Assuming they pass it, it then goes to the Governor. 

On the legislative front, the House passed the Dickie Bell’s virtual school bill, HB324, but it contains a reenactment clause requiring passage next year if it is to go into effect.  The vote was 61-38.
Senator Howell’s teacher turnover study, SJR218, passed the House on a 99-0 vote.

Obenshain’s Charter School Constitutional Amendment, SJR256, which had passes the Senate by 1 vote (See yesterday’s post), passed the House on a58-42 vote.
In the Senate, Delegate Farrell’s bill, HB1320, prohibiting requiring teachers to pay for courses for relicensure, passed 39-0 in a block vote.