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)

Senator

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)

Senators                                                                                                             

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

 

Delegates

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
Alphonso Lopez
Monty Mason
Jennifer McClellan
Delores McQuinn
Ken Plum
Sam Rasoul
Tom Rust
Mark Sickles
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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Voucher Bill Moves Forward, Charter School Constitutional Amendment Defeated In Senate, But Stll Much Alive In House

This morning, Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB2238, a voucher bill exploiting special needs children to open the door to the future use of public school funds for pay for home-school expenses and private school tuitions, reported from the Senate Finance Committee on a voice vote.  Senator Emmett Hanger was successful in placing a reenactment clause on the bill, requiring that it pass again next session before it becomes law.  Please click on the bill number and read the summary of the bill in the second Fiscal Impact Statement.

VEA offered the following statement on the bill:
VEA urges your opposition to House Bill 2238.  This bill creates a new government entitlement at a time when the Commonwealth is unable to properly fund existing core services.  For example, when inflation is considered, funding for our public schools is 16 percent below 2009 levels.

The new entitlement involves siphoning off funds now received by public schools to create Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts that can be used to pay for education-related expenses.

Although this bill has been amended to include only students having a disability, from what we have seen in the states of Arizona and Florida, the ultimate aim of advocates of Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts will be to broaden eligibility.  Indeed, HB2238 was amended to broaden the definition of disability.  In Arizona, one year after implementation, the scope was expanded to include students in low-performing schools, students with parents on active military duty, and students adopted or pending adoption from the state foster care system.

Beyond the fact that there is legal doubt as to whether the public school division can be relieved from the responsibility of implementing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is important to note that private schools are not bound by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or by the terms of a child’s IEP.  They are not compelled to avail the child of the least restrictive environment.  Further, this bill requires no review of student progress, as is required by IDEA, and there are no due-process provisions for parents if progress is not being made, as is required by IDEA.  The Florida plan requires an annual review of student performance with termination provisions if progress is not being achieved.  There are no such provisions in this bill.  IDEA has provisions for impartial due process if discipline is not being administered in an appropriate manner – this bill contains no such provisions.  This should give pause to any of you who recently voted in favor of great regulation of seclusion and restraint in our public schools and to those cognizant of the Constitutional provisions requiring an “educational program of high quality.”

What if the parent and student are not satisfied with the educational options chosen?  The provisions of the bill (lines 64-66) bar them from returning to the public school:  “Not enroll the qualified student in any school division in the school year for which the application or renewal applies ….”  The student is stranded.

The accounts are available without income limits, which raises the question, “Should this funding be available to those who can easily fund the education of their children?“  “Students whose family's annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent,” is a criterion used elsewhere in the code.  As written, funds from low-income Virginians could be handed over to the wealthy for their “Savings Accounts.”

We are just beginning to implement Virginia’s “Education Improvement Scholarships,” in keeping with the passage of HB321 in 2012.  Shouldn’t we evaluate how well this option is serving Virginia’s students before adopting another “choice” option?

According to multiple studies analyzing assessment data from voucher programs, students offered vouchers do not perform better than their public school peers.   Indeed, public school students have actually been found to outperform private school students when test scores are weighted to reflect socioeconomic level, race, and disability.
This same reenactment clause was added by the Senate to Delegate Dickie Bell’s HB324, which opens the door to full time virtual schools run by corporate providers, which is now on the House Floor again, awaiting House Action on the Senate amendments.  In a highly unusual moment, Delegate Dickie Bell refused to yield to Delegate Krupicka’s question regarding the Senate amendments.  Delegate Vivian Watts pointed out that the amendments did more than Delegate R. Bell’s explanation revealed, and the bill went by for the day.

In a bitter-sweet moment Delegate Rob Bell's HJ577 failed to pass today on a 20-20 vote, with Senator John Watkins’ defection from Republican ranks deciding it’s fate.
YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--20.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Puller, Saslaw, Watkins, Wexton--20.

Twenty-one votes are needed to advance a Constitutional Amendment.  This outcome contrasts sharply with the Senate vote on SJ256.

Unfortunately, it looks like the cow is out of the barn, as Senator Obenshain’s identical SJ256 is now in the House awaiting what appears to be sure passage.  But take a look at the vote on SJ256 when it passed the Senate on a 21-17 vote on 2/4.

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins--21.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--17.

RULE 36--0.

NOT VOTING--Lucas, Puller--2.

Senator Watkins provided the 21st vote and the ultimate passage of SJ256.  So Watkins was the deciding vote for it on 2/4, but the deciding vote against it today.  Will the real John Watkins please stand up? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Redistricting 2015 RIP, Teacher Turnover Study Reported

The Virginian-Pilot (the daily paper in South Hampton Roads) entitled a recent article “It's 7a.m.: Another redistricting bill is about to die.”  Today was a much kinder day, they waited until 9 a.m.  The Summary of Senator Jill Vogel’s SJ284, reads, “Establishes the Virginia Redistricting Commission that will conduct the decennial reapportionment of the election districts for the House of Representatives and the General Assembly. The amendment also establishes the criteria and process to be used for each decennial reapportionment.”  It was the last survivor of a package of redistricting bills to survive, but it died today when it was never taken up by the Privileges and Elections Committee.

The bill passed the Senate 27-12, but was never heard in the Senate.  Again, this is not the way our government, specifically the legislative branch, is supposed to work.

Despite the fact that all redistricting bills are now dead, the OneVirginia2021 Coalition was successful in increasing the profile of the issue and generating enough heat to make the legislators squirm.  That was the goal for this session.  We have two more sessions to pass legislation in time for the 2021 redistricting.

The good news of the day was House Rules reporting Senator Janet Howell’s SJ218.  This resolution “Requests the Department of Education to study the feasibility of implementing a program in the Commonwealth to track teacher turnover by developing exit questionnaires and other means.”  Leadership of the House and Senate indicate that the funding for this will be provided.  Cuts to DOE staff over the past years have left us with no demographic information regarding the teacher workforce, and this study may provide very useful information for teacher advocacy.  In addition to Senator Howell, two Delegates, Lee Ware and Bobby Orrock, have been especially helpful with this issue.

One more week until Sine Die.