Friday, January 30, 2015

CPS Timeline and Teacher Turnover Study Advance, They Are Looking for Salary Money

Another VEA initiated bill, Senator Norment's SB1117, was reported from the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services on a unanimous vote this morning.

YEAS--Wagner, Hanger, Puller, Locke, McDougle, Barker, Norment, Black, Reeves, Favola, Wexton, McWaters, Petersen, Chafin--14.

NAYS--0.

Currrently, if a teacher is accused of child abuse, they are removed from the classroom with pay pending a finding from the local Child Protective Services agency.  The law specifies that CPS has from 45 to 90 days to issue a finding - 90 if local law enforcement is involved in the investigation.  However, the courts have ruled that the timelines are "merely directory, not mandatory."

When these timelines are ignored and the investigations drag, sometime taking more than a year, the teacher is out of the classroom, the quality of instruction suffers, and the life of the accused is a hellish purgatory.

Norment's bill affirms the legislative intent in regard to the timelines, ensuring that they will be adhered to.

This bill heads to Senate, probably on Monday, and it should be on the uncontested calendar.  VEA owe's a special thanks to Senator Norment and to all members of the committee.

Delegate Orrock's HJ558, which calls on various entities to study the teacher shortage, reported from the House Rules Subcommittee on Studies today. 

YEAS--Knight, Orrock, Joannou, Spruill--4.

NAYS--Landes--1.

ABSTENTIONS--0.

NOT VOTING--Ware--1.

This resolution and Delegate Ware's HJ504 are steps in the right direction.  Virginia is flying blind in regard to teacher demographics and turnover rates, and we are in danger of being wholly unprepared as baby-boom teachers retire in great numbers.

The provision of some funds for school employee salaries in the budget seems probable at this point.  It is important to understand that the introduced budget has no funds for salaries, but the Governor expressed a willingness to work with the GA on that issue.  The House leadership took the first public step forward, and the Senate leadership is working in the same direction.  Stones are being turned in search of the needed funds, and, fortunately, revenue projections are improving.  Any salary funding will improve the ability of your school division to provide a raise for the next school year.  It is of crucial importance that we appreciate the efforts underway and not respond to them by saying "That's not enough."  Unless, of course, you think nothing is better than something.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

3 Person Panel Reported by Subcommittee, Something Stinks!


Delegate Hugo’s HB1744, a VEA initiated bill to allow local school boards to use a three person panel in teacher dismissal cases rather than a hearing officer, was reported by the Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of House Education with direction to the full committee to re-refer the bill to the House Committee on County Cities and Towns.

YEAS--Bell, Richard P., Lingamfelter, LeMunyon, Farrell, Hester, Preston, McClellan--7.

NAYS--Cole, Pogge--2.

The same subcommittee reported Delegate Farrell’s bill, HB1320, making it so that teachers don’t have to take college courses at their own expense for re-licensure.

YEAS--Bell, Richard P., Cole, Pogge, LeMunyon, Farrell, Hester, Preston, McClellan--8.

NAYS--0.

They also reported Delegate Bacotes HB 2020, which allows retired teachers to return to teaching at a school identified as at-risk and to receive both their retirement and their pay without accruing additional retirement benefits.

YEAS--Bell, Richard P., Pogge, LeMunyon, Farrell, Hester, Preston, McClellan--7.

NAYS--0.

As it did last year, Delegate Rob Bell’s Tebow bill, HB1626, cleared the House on a 57-41 vote.  It will be harder to defeat this bill in the Senate this year.
YEAS--Adams, Anderson, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Berg, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Cox, Davis, DeSteph, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Hodges, Joannou, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Miller, Minchew, Morris, Morrissey, O'Bannon, O'Quinn, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Scott, Stolle, Taylor, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Mr. Speaker--57.

NAYS--Albo, Austin, BaCote, Bloxom, Bulova, Carr, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Futrell, Helsel, Herring, Hester, Hope, Hugo, Ingram, James, Keam, Kory, Krupicka, Lindsey, Lopez, Mason, McClellan, Morefield, Murphy, Orrock, Plum, Preston, Rasoul, Rust, Sickles, Simon, Spruill, Sullivan, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts, Yost--41.

ABSTENTIONS--0.

NOT VOTING--McQuinn, Pillion--2.

Yesterday, I reported to you that as Henry Howell used to say, “There’s more sneaking around in the middle of the night in Richmond than Santa Claus.”  Well, the House Education Committee killed HB2238 yesterday on a 10-10 vote, but the vote was never recorded.  Please see Tuesday's post for a description of the bill.  Now the rumor is that the bill will be resurrected, and there is great pressure on delegates voting no to switch their votes.  Do you smell something? 

 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

State-Wide Health Insurance Clears SFC 14-0!

This morning in the Senate Finance Committee, The Chafin/Vogel Statewide health insurance bill, SB866, reported on a vote of 14-0.  This is a VEA initiated bill, and it is now headed to the floor of the senate on the uncontested calendar.  The bill was amended to allow inclusion school board and local government employees.

YEAS--Stosch, Colgan, Howell, Saslaw, Norment, Hanger, Watkins, Newman, Ruff, Wagner, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico, Alexander--14.
NAYS--0.

ABSTENTIONS--0.

SJ 256  as Senate Resolution to place on the ballot and Constitutional amendment to grant the Board of Education authority, subject to criteria and conditions prescribed by the General Assembly, to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth reported from the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee on a 8-7 party-line vote yesterday evening.

YEAS--Vogel, Martin, Obenshain, Smith, Carrico, Reeves, Garrett, Cosgrove--8.

NAYS--Howell, Deeds, Edwards, McEachin, Alexander, Miller, Dance--7.

ABSTENTIONS--0.

In a very interesting development, Senator Toddy Puller’s SB1021 was amended in the Public Education Subcommittee of Senate Health and Education this morning.  The added language is underlined:  “… the Board of Education may waive the requirement that school divisions provide additional teaching days or teaching hours to compensate for school closings resulting from a declared state of emergency or severe weather conditions or other emergency situations. This language could be most helpful when we have winters like we had last school year.  This bill now goes to full committee.
An unexpected victory this morning the House Education Committee was the failure of HB2238 to report.  Please see yesterday’s posting for details on this bill.  The committee vote is not posted as I write.  I hope we won’t see post-meeting vote switching.  As Henry Howell used to say, “There’s more sneaking around in the middle of the night in Richmond than Santa Claus.”

 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Voucher Alert! Retirement Boost for Some!

The Education Reform Subcommittee of the House Education Committee met this snowy morning at 7:30 am.  First, they took up local alternative paths to standard or verified units of credit.  Krupicka’s HB1592, Habeeb’s HB1491, and Surovell’s HB1684 were all tabled, leaving Subcommittee Chairman Greason’s HB1675 as the vehicle for addressing the issue.  This bill “Requires the Board of Education, in establishing course and credit requirements for a high school diploma, to permit local school divisions to waive (i) the requirement for students to receive 140 clock hours of instruction to earn a standard unit of credit or (ii) the requirement for students to achieve a satisfactory score on a Standards of Learning assessment or Board-approved substitute test to earn a verified unit of credit upon providing the Board with satisfactory proof, based on Board guidelines, that the students for whom such requirements are waived has learned the content and skills included in the relevant Standards of Learning.”

See if you see a pattern here.  Then they took up the issue of A-F grading of schools.  Delegate Davis’s HB1313 and Delegate Orrock’s HB1566 were tabled and Subcommittee Chairman Greason’s HB1672 became the vehicle for addressing the issue.   Although Greason was the sponsor of the A-F bill in 2013, this bill abolishes A-F (a VEA agenda item) and calls on “the Board of Education in consultation with the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee and no later than July 1, 2016, to redesign the School Performance Report Card so that it is more effective in communicating to parents and the public the status and achievements of the public schools and local school divisions in the Commonwealth and submit such design to the Chairmen of the House Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education and Health for final approval.”

The worst moment of the day was when the committee reported Delegate LaRock’s HB2238, a voucher bill.  This bill sends public dollars to “Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts” which parents can then use to pay private, sectarian or nonsectarian, school tuitions, tutoring, “educational therapies,” online learning programs,  and other educational related expenses.  The disabled (160,000), foster children (5,000), and children of active duty military (75,403) are eligible to participate.  The amount of funding would vary widely – it is “90 percent of the per pupil state funds appropriated for public school purposes and apportioned to the school divisions in which the qualified student resides.”  The bill was brought to Virginia by the Heritage Foundation, based on legislation in FL and AZ, and I am not sure that it anticipates how school funding works in Virginia.  A student in Highland County would have $7,477 deposited in his account, while a student in Goochland would have $2,397 deposited.

In part, I testified that we do not need to be creating a new entitlement in Virginia when we cannot afford to fund existing obligations such as public education.  I also urged the subcommittee to suggest that the bill go the House Appropriations Committee so that the fiscal impact of the bill could be considered.

No motion was made when Delegate LaRock finished his presentation.  I was hoping it would die.  Chairman Greason noted that there was no montion, Delegate LeMunyon moved that the bill be reported, Delegate Dickie Bell seconded the motion and the vote was 3-2 to report.

YEAS--Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon--3.
NAYS--Leftwich, Bulova--2.

ABSTENTIONS--0.
 
NOT VOTING--Yancey, Tyler--2.
The best legislative action of the day was the reporting of Senator Colgan’s SB1022 by the Senate Finance Committee.  This bill provides for an increase, beginning July 1, 2015, of the monthly retirement allowance payable to any person who retired with at least 15 years of creditable service before January 1, 1990, under the Virginia Retirement System or the State Police Officers' Retirement System.  The increase would be $4 times the number of years of service.  Both VEA and VRTA supported the bill.
 
 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thanks to All VEA Lobby Day Participants!!!


It was a very busy day at the Capitol.  First, thanks to the hundreds of VEA members who ignored the weatherman and made their way to Richmond for VEA Lobby Day.
Senator Howell’s SB 905 passed the full Senate on its third and final reading today.  This is the first VEA initiated bill to pass in its chamber of origin this year.  The tuition tax credit provisions in the Code of Virginia prescribe insufficient accountability requirements for the “eligible schools,” and don’t provide adequate information to facilitate an accurate comparison of these schools for interested parents.  Requiring these schools to compile the results of “any national norm referenced test” seems wholly inadequate if parents are to make informed choices of schools.  SB 905 fixes this problem.

YEAS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Norment, Petersen, Puller, Ruff, Saslaw, Stosch, Wagner, Watkins, Wexton--24.

NAYS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel--15.

Once again the “Tebow Bill,” HB 1626, has been reported by the House Education Committee.  This is the bill to allow home schooled students to participate in interscholastic activities including sports.  The vote was 13 to 9, and it did not fall down party lines as two Republicans voted NO - see below.

YEAS--Landes, Lingamfelter, Cole, Pogge, Massie, Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon, Robinson, Yancey, Farrell, Davis, Leftwich--13.

NAYS--Rust, Yost, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Preston, Lindsey--9.

You may remember that this bill passed the house last year, but was defeated in the Senate.  Things have changed a bit in the Senate, so time will tell.

In the Public Education Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Education and Health of number of significant bills advanced.  Senator John Miller’s SB 1020 reported to full committee on a 3-2 vote.  This bill will reduce the number of SOL tests given in our public school to the minimum required by the federal government.

Senator Mamie Locke’s SB 1320 reported unanimously.  This bill calls on the Board of Education to establish “accreditation ratings that recognize the progress of schools that do not meet the accreditation benchmarks but have significantly improved their pass rates, are within specified ranges of benchmarks, or have demonstrated significant growth for the majority of their students.”

Finally, a very significant bill from Senator Garrett, SB982, was reported to full committee.  This bill “Requires the Board of Education, in its course and credit requirements for earning a high school diploma, to provide that no verified unit of credit shall require a minimum number of clock hours of instruction.”  This could fundamentally change the manner in which we organize our high schools.  The bill has great promise, but will present substantial implementation challenges.   

 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Krupicka Is Not Just Blowing Smoke

Delegate Rob Krupicka, who knows a bit about public education, having served on the Board of Education prior to his election to the Virginia House, has offered a bill which may help Virginia begin moving in the right direction on public education.

Why do I say right direction?   
·         Virginia has been heading in the wrong direction in its support for public schools since 2009.  In fact, inflation-adjusted state support on a per-pupil basis is 16% below what it was in 2009.

·         A recent report from MDC reveals that only 8 states have seen a larger disinvestment in public education than Virginia’s.

·         In 2000 Virginia ranked 37th in “Per Pupil Elementary and Secondary School Revenue from State Sources.”  In 2012, we ranked 41st.

·         In 1989, Virginia’s average teacher salary ranked 18th in the nation at $429 below the national average.  Last year we ranked 37th at $7,456 below the national average.

·         In the annual “Quality Counts” report from the Education Week Research Center, Virginia’s ranking in 2014 was 4th.  Our 2015 ranking is 12th.

Our legislators tell us that Virginia is cash-strapped and cannot afford to invest additional dollars in public education.  Let me remind you that Virginia is the 10th wealthiest state, and that we rank 46th in “State and Local Taxes as a Percent of Personal Income.”  We can do better!  Delegate Krupicka’s HB1590 may just be the first step in the right direction.
It is unlikely that this bill will pass in this session, but the good delegate is planting seeds and changing the conversation.

Consider clicking here to sign his petition.

 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Budget Amendments Posted/Restraint and Seclusion Bill Advances


Yesterday, the budget amendments from Delegates and Senators were posted for the pubic to see.

 
We thank Senator Chafin for his Item 136 #11s and Delegate Plum for Item 136 #28h.  These two amendments would, if adopted, provide the state share of a 6% salary increase for SOQ instructional and support positions.  The cost is $241,114,902.

 
Senators who are not on the Finance Committee will present their amendments this afternoon. It is not yet clear when House members will present their amendments.

 
The budget amendments a legislator submits are sometimes reflective of their priorities.  You may wish to take the time to check out the amendments submitted by your Delegate and your Senator.

 
To see House amendments, click here.

 
To see Senate amendments, click here.

Senator Favolas seclusion and restraint bill, SB782, reported from the Senate Education and Health Committee.  This bill is on the fast track, and we are going to have to be very vigilant as the resulting regulations are developed by the Board of Education.

 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

VEA Bill Advances in the Senate Finance Committee


The first of the bills initiated by VEA to be taken up by a committee was reported today by the Senate Finance Committee.  Senator Janet Howell's SB905 advanced on 9-6 bipartisan vote.

YEAS--Stosch, Colgan, Howell, Saslaw, Norment, Hanger, Watkins, Lucas, Alexander--9.

NAYS--Newman, Ruff, Wagner, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico--6.

ThIs bill addresses the fact that the tuition tax credit provisions in the Code of Virginia prescribe insufficient accountability requirements for the “eligible schools,” and don’t provide adequate information to facilitate an accurate comparison of these schools for interested parents.  Requiring these schools to compile the results of “any national norm referenced test” seems wholly inadequate if parents are to make informed choices of schools.  This bill provides that the Board of Education approve the tests employed to evaluate the private schools benefiting from tax dollars.
 
This bill  now advances to the Senate floor.  Please urge your Senator to support SB905.

In the House Education Committee, the bills taken up by the Education Reform Subcommittee yesterday (see yesterday's post) were considered.  HB1615, HB1674, HB1490, and HB1585 were reported and will now go to the full House.  When you check out yesterday’s post, please note the revised fiscal impact numbers for HB1490.

 

In an alarming development, yesterday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee reported Senator Obenshain's SJ255, a Constitutional amendment to "lockbox" transportation funding.  The problem with such an approach is that if you "lockbox" funds for one portion of the budget, it leaves the other portions of the budget vulnerable to more severe cuts when there is a recession or an emergency.  It would make it much harder for a future  Governor to hold public education harmless as Governor McAullife did with his budget amendments for FY 2016.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Into the Grind of the Session: Subcommittee Work Begins


The 7:30 a.m. meeting of the House Committee on Education's Education Reform Subcommittee focused on expedited research, calendar flexibility for low performing schools, and accreditation.

 

Four expedited retake bills were taken up:  Habeeb's HB1490, Filler-Corn's HB1668, and Farrell's HB1706 and HB 1302.  Habeeb's HB 1490 was reported, while HB 1668 and HB 1706 were tabled.  The meat of HB 1490 is "That the Board of Education shall promulgate regulations to provide the same criteria for eligibility for an expedited retake of any Standard of Learning test, with the exception of writing Standards of Learning tests, to each student regardless of grade level or course."

 

Writing was excluded because it takes longer to take and it is more expensive.  The writing test alone costs $134,000.  Excluding writing reduces the fiscal impact of the bill to $200,000, a funding level thought to be more acceptable to the House Appropriations Committee.

 

Habeeb's HB 1302 was reported as a back-up should HB 1490 not gain final passage.  HB 1302 allows expedited retakes at local expense.  The  subcommittee hopes the state will provide the needed $200,000.

 

Delegate Stolle's HB 1585, which grants calendar flexibility to unaccredited schools was reported.  This bill is an absolute no-brainer.

 

Finally the subcommittee reported Subcommittee Chairman Greason's HB 1615 and HB 1674.  HB 1615 permits SOL tests to assess multiple subject areas on the same test.  HB 1674 permits schools which have historically met accreditation standards to move from an annual accreditation schedule to a multi-year schedule.

 

The Senate Finance Committee meeting included an overview of theGovernor's proposed budget amendments.  You may wish to review the Public Education section, on slides 18-23.  Secretary of Finance Richard D. Brown presented a December Revenue Report.  The figures give some cause for optimism, but January is a significant reporting month, and those numbers will need to come in before any celebration is in order.

Monday, January 19, 2015

King's Struggle Continues/Committees Begin Their Work


As I remember Martin Luther King Junior, I remember that he was a great supporter of voting rights and of public education. 

I know it in my heart that where he still with us that King would look at the 41.6% Virginia turnout of registered voters in November’s elections, and he would remind us that people died so that we could vote.  He would admonish us to go to the polls for each and every election.

Further, were King to see today’s disparity in educational opportunity between localities in Virginia and across the nation, he would speak up for equal opportunity for all children.

His struggle continues.

The Public Education Subcommittee of Senate Education and Health incorporated SB 897 and SB 757 into SB 874, which “Directs the Board of Education to promulgate regulations to provide the same criteria for eligibility for an expedited retake of any Standards of Learning assessment in reading or mathematics to each student regardless of grade level.”  This bill was reported to the full committee on a bipartisan 3-2 vote.  Voting in favor of expedited retake were Howell, Locke and Carrico.  Cosgrove and Smith voted NO.
 
At this same meeting, Lobby Cadre member Cheri James voice VEA’s concerns regarding Senator Favola’s SB 782, which, “Requires the Board of Education to adopt regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public elementary and secondary schools in the Commonwealth. The bill requires that such regulations incorporate certain existing guidance documents; include definitions of terms, criteria for use, restrictions for use, training requirements, notification requirements, reporting requirements, and follow-up requirements; and address distinctions between certain student populations.”  VEA’s concern is that there are times when restraint must be used to maintain order in our schools.  VSBA also raised concerns regarding the bill, and the language of the bill was tweaked a bit.  Should this bill pass, public school educators are going to need to become involved in the development of the regulations by the Board of Education.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Quote Of The Day/If I Had Five Minutes With My Delegate....

Yesterday, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents held their annual press conference at the Library of Virginia.  They issued The New Blueprint for the Future of Public Education:  Redefining Virginia’s Framework for Public Education.   Jennifer B. Parish, Superintendent of the Poquoson City Schools, when presenting the Funding Public Education section of the report, earned the quote of the day award:

“There is a fundamental mismatch in Virginia between the performance expectations and goals for K-12 public schools and the amount of state funding provided to meet our high expectations.” 

Yesterday, I related what I would say if I had five minutes with my Senator.  Today, let’s switch to the House.  What would I suggest that you say to your delegate were you to have five minutes of his time?

If I had five minutes with my Delegate, I’d use my time to help advance VEA’s Legislative Agenda, and to advance the cause of public education.  I’d tell him that our schools are suffering from a lack of state funding, and that this year we need to stop the cuts, and to look for ways to enhance state funding in the next biennial budget.  For background, I’d hand him the recentPolitiFact showing that VEA is right when we say state funding has been cut by 16% since 2009.

Then, I would urge him to support Delegate Plum’s teacher salary amendment providing the state share of a 6% salary increase for school employees.  The Commonwealth must take action to attract and retain high-quality school personnel.  Virginia is the 10th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 37th.  Our average teacher salary is $7,456 below the national average.  We must do better if our students are to continue to have highly qualified teachers.  State funding is critical to the ability of localities to make salaries of Virginia school employees more competitive.
I’d urge support for Delegate Jackson Miller’s HB 1368, which will eliminate the misguided A-F grading of our schools.  A single grade cannot fully represent the true measure of a school’s performance.   These letter grades too often reflect the impact of demographic factors and do little to reveal the quality of the instructional opportunity available to students.  Unintended consequences will include exacerbating the existing challenge of recruiting high-quality personnel to urban and poor rural schools, and negative effects on property values in these same areas, further reducing funding sources.

I’d ask them to vote for Delegate Hugo’s HB1744.  In the 2013 Session the passage of HB 2151 and SB 1223 eliminated the use of the “fact finding panel,” replacing the panel with a “hearing officer.”  VEA will seek legislation to provide local school boards with the option of utilizing ether option:  fact finding panel or hearing officer.  Many VEA members contend that the three-person panel leads to a more judicial resolution of the dismissal decision. 

I’d ask my delegate to support a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.   Four bills are before the Senate to advance this cause, and each one addresses a part of the problem.

Then there are three measures I’d ask them to oppose:
Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 526, a constitutional amendment, transfers the decision of whether or not to have a charter school in your school division from your local school board to the Virginia Board of Education, a board appointed by the Governor.  Let’s leave the charter granting authority closest to the people with local school boards.   The local board best knows the needs of the children in their locality.

Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 536 would amend the Constitution of Virginia to allow lottery proceeds to go to “education and training” for veterans.  The problem is that these funds now go to fund our schools.  We should do all we can for our veterans, but not by taking funding away from our schools.
HB324 and HB1361, these two, virtually identical bills, create a board in the executive branch of government to govern stand-alone virtual schools.  Funding would follow the students, with the state funding for virtual schools being the same as what is provided for traditional bricks-and-mortar schools.  The “all-or-none” approach these bills take to virtual learning is contrary to what is best for students.  Digital-based learning experiences are essential as we prepare today’s students for the world ahead, but blended instructional approaches, not “all-or-none” will be of much greater benefit to Virginia’s students.

 

 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

If I had five minutes with my Senator …

… I’d use my time to help advance VEA’s Legislative Agenda, and to advance the cause of public education.  I’d tell him that our schools are suffering from a lack of state funding, and that this year we need to stop the cuts, and to look for ways to enhance state funding in the next biennial budget.  For background, I’d hand him the recent PolitiFact showing that VEA is right when we say state funding has been cut by 16% since 2009.

Then, I would urge him to support Senator Chafin’s teacher salary amendment providing the state share of a 6% salary increase for school employees.  The Commonwealth must take action to attract and retain high-quality school personnel.  Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 37th.  Our average teacher salary is $7,456 below the national average.  We must do better if our students are to continue to have highly qualified teachers.  State funding is critical to the ability of localities to make salaries of Virginia school employees more competitive.
I’d urge him to vote for Senator Chafin’s SB 866.  Moving to a statewide insurance option for local school divisions could save millions of dollars in the years ahead. These savings could be used to provide needed school funding. The Commonwealth would have much greater leverage in rate negotiations with insurance providers than any one of the 132 individual school divisions.  The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission estimates savings of $44 to $66 million annually.

I’d ask him to vote for Senator Tommy Norment’s SB 1117.  Currently some teaches who are wrongly accused of child abuse are out of the classroom for more than a year awaiting a finding from CPS.  This bill amends the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia to make the CPS reporting deadlines mandatory.

Non-compliance to the limits now in Virginia law causes several problems:

o   Teacher are out of the classroom too long.

o   Local school divisions are paying both the teacher and the substitute.

o   The quality of instruction suffers when the teacher isn’t there.

I’d ask him to support Senator Janet Howell’s SB 905.  The tuition tax credit provisions in the Code of Virginia prescribe insufficient accountability requirements for the “eligible schools,” and don’t provide adequate information to facilitate an accurate comparison of these schools for interested parents.  Requiring these schools to compile the results of “any national norm referenced test” seems wholly inadequate if parents are to make informed choices of schools.  Passing SB 905 fixes this problem.
I’d ask my senator to support a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.   Four bills are before the Senate to advance this cause, and each one addresses a part of the problem.

I’d ask them to oppose two bills having to do with Charter Schools. 
Senator Obenshain’s SB 1063 allows school divisions to refuse to offer VRS retirement benefits to charter school teachers.  This is not only unfair to these teachers, it will offer an disincentive to teachers who may wish to teach in a charter schools.  This is going to weaken the ability of Charter Schools to attract good teachers.

Senator Obenshain’s SJ 256, a constitutional amendment, transfers the decision of whether or not to have a charter school in your school division from your local school board to the Virginia Board of Education, a board appointed by the Governor.  Let’s leave the charter granting authority closest to the people with local school boards.   The local board best knows the needs of the children in their locality.

 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day One of the 2015 General Assembly Session

Today was the first day of the 2015 General Assembly Session, and a messy, icy, and dangerous day it was in RVA. Each year our Lobby Cadre's work begins with a breakfast meeting where we review bills and strategize. The weather closed the restaurant, but every one of the UniServ Directors who serve on the Lobby Cadre was there. That speaks volumes to their dedication! We crossed the street to another breakfast nook, and began our work.
This first day saw an historic first. We have a delegate, Joe Morrisey, who is on work release, and who will return to his cell when the Governor finishes his speech tonight. Once again, I repeat my regular refrain, you can’t make this stuff up!
More in keeping with Virginia’s rich legislative history, both House and Senate gathered in the House Chamber this evening to hear from Virginia’s Governor.
When Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s 72nd Governor, focused on public education he proclaiming that, “My budget contains no program cuts to K-12 public education.” Stopping the cuts is step one.  We can only hope that next year his budget will begin repairing the damage that has been done by the extensive cuts we have endured since 2008.
I urge you to take the time to watch the Governor’s speech. To do so, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welcome Back to the Virginia General Assembly OR Wake Me When It's Over


The session’s starts tomorrow, but it felt like it started today as the Senate Finance Education Subcommittee met for the first time this session.  Jamie Bitz, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) Chief Legislative Analyst, presented an overview of the JLARC study, “Low Performing Schools in Urban High Poverty Communities.”
Incredibly, given all the information in the report, the reaction of the committee focused on “removing ineffective teachers.”  My welcome back to the General Assembly was hearing the Subcommittee Chairman, Senator Tommy Norment, asked if we could revisit Governor McDonnell’s efforts to “get the deadwood out.”
 
Yesterday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, and I assume other papers across Virginia, featured a most welcomed PolitiFact Virginia:  “Teachers’ group says Va.’s school funding16% below inflation since 2009.”  With the excellent assistance of Carol Donohue, we work very hard to make sure that the statistical information placed on this blog is accurate.  It is very good to know that the press reads this blog, and it is great to have the content validated.  I urge you to share this piece widely.

 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Double Trouble: A Virtual OEI Redux

Years back, when Legislative Services staff members viewed a bill as being at odds with Virginia’s Constitution, they would “gray jacket” the bill.  If a bill was placed in a gray jacket it was pretty much DOA.  Some legislators came to view this as staff-overreach, but it kept Virginia out of trouble.

This practice was eliminated some years back, and too often, in the past few years, unconstitutional bills have wasted public funds and embarrassed the legislative branch.  McDonnel’s Opportunity Education Institution and the Speaker’s transportation plan which passed in 2007 provide recent memorable examples.
In both of these cases, legislators and lobbyists rose to reveal the Constitutional conflicts inherent in the proposed legislation, but a majority of legislators, all of whom swore to uphold the Constitution, voted to pass the bills.  The state then spent taxpayer dollars to defend the bills, and the courts struck them down.

Well, here we go again!  Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell’s  HB324 was the only bill carried over from the 2014 session, and Bell introduced a virtually (pun intended) identical HB 1361 in the 2015 session.  These are virtual school bills.
If you look at lines 412-414 of the bill, it requires the Department of Education to forward the per-pupil Standards of Quality (SOQ) amount directly to the school.  But the Lottery Fund pays for part of the SOQ. 

The Constitution (Article X, Section 7-A) says that lottery funds are to be distributed to the school divisions for public education.  Sending the per-pupil amount which includes lottery funds to the virtual school violates the Constitution of Virginia, which requires that this funding go to school divisions.
There are numerous other problems with the bill, but one can only ask if we really want to waste tax-payer money by passing yet another measure which is clearly unconstitutional?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nine Gubernatorial Appointees Would Dictate That Your Locality Must Open a Charter School

Perhaps the most radical education proposal before the General Assembly this year is Delegate Lingamfelter’s House Joint Resolution No. 526, which empowers the Board of Education to “establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth.”
Currently, this power rests with the local school boards.  For example, the Richmond City School Board established the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts just three miles from the VEA Headquarters.

Lingamfelter’s proposal dramatically shifts this decision away from a local school board which is directly accountable to the people, by virtue of election or by appointment by those who are elected, to a state level policy board appointed by the governor.

Think of the implications!  Nine members of the Virginia Board of Education, appointed by the Governor, could require your locality to build, staff, and administer a charter school regardless of local needs or desires.  

The fiscal implications are contrary to the lesson of the Pied Piper, “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”  Let’s look at the example of Arlington.  The state provides only 12% of the funds, on a per-pupil basis, to run Arlington’s schools, but under the Lingamfelter proposal, the state could require Arlington’s taxpayers to foot 85% of the bill for establishing a charter school.
Research does support the override of the authority of the local school board inherent in Lingamfelter’s bill.  The findings of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that:

Some charters do better; the majority do the same or worse. CREDO also moved beyond individual student performance to examine the overall performance of charter schools across multiple subject areas. They found that while some charter schools do better than the traditional public schools that fed them, the majority do the same or worse. Almost one-fifth of charters (17 percent) performed significantly better (at the 95 percent confidence level) than the traditional public school. However, an even larger group of charters (37 percent) performed significantly worse in terms of reading and math. The remainder (46 percent) did not do significantly better or worse. - See more at: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Charter-schools-Finding-out-the-facts-At-a-glance#sthash.V7UwaVGk.dpuf

The CREDO findings are consistent with other mainstream research on this topic.

Further, there is significant documentation of fraud and abuse within the charter school movement.  “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud And Abuse,” authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, echoes a warning from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General. The report draws upon news reports, criminal complaints and more to detail how, in just 15 of the 42 states that have charter schools, charter operators have used school funds illegally to buy personal luxuries for themselves, support their other businesses, and more.” – see more at:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/221993993/Charter-School-Vulnerabilities-to-Waste-Fraud-Abuse

Delegate Lingamfelter is a self-proclaimed fan of President Ronald Reagan; however, his proposal flies in the face of one of Reagan’s core principles – devolution. Let’s leave the charter granting authority closest to the people with local school boards.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

Let's Do Right By Veterans and Students


To many, Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 536, a constitutional amendment allowing lottery funds to be used for “education and employment training for veterans,” may seem most commendable.   However, to fully understand the issue it raises, some background information should be considered.
First, what does Virginia’s Constitution now say about the use of lottery proceeds?  Article X, Section 7-A reads, in part, as follows:  “Lottery proceeds shall be appropriated from the Fund to the Commonwealth's counties, cities and towns, and the school divisions thereof, to be expended for the purposes of public education.”

What is very important to understand is that these proceeds are not funds above and beyond funds required by the various formulae utilized to determine state funding for our schools. The lottery funds are like any other revenue source, and they are used to fund educational essentials such as textbooks, SOL Algebra readiness programs, and Early Reading Intervention.
As we judge whether or not to reallocate lottery proceeds from public education to veterans programs, perhaps, we should consider how Virginia is doing for the next generation of school children.  Virginia currently ranks 41st out of the states in “Per Pupil Elementary and Secondary School Revenue from State Sources.”  School funding per pupil is down 16 percent compared to 2009, after adjusting for inflation.  Virginia has already substantially reduced her investment in the education of her next generation of children.  Students now in our schools are experiencing larger class sizes, reduced course offerings, elimination of needed support positions, and elimination of electives and extracurricular activities, and their teachers are being offered salaries which are inadequate to attract and retain high-quality personnel.

I am among those who support education and training for veterans, but I don’t think the best way to fund such programs is by further reducing Virginia’s investment in the education of her children.  I urge opposition to HJ 536, and urge Delegate Lingamfelter and his fellow legislators to find a better way to honor our commitment to our veterans.