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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Statewide Health Insurance Bill Killed Without a Hearing

A cold and troubling day at the General Assembly began at the 7 AM meeting of the Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.  Delegate Mark Cole moved to table Senator John Watkins’ SB840, a bill to prohibit the use of political data in the redistricting process.  The motion carried on a 4-3 vote (NAY is a right vote).

YEAS--Ransone, Landes, Fowler, Cole--4.

NAYS--Minchew, Sickles, Futrell--3.

The last chance for passage of a redistricting bill this session will come tomorrow when the House Committee on Privileges and Elections takes up Senator Jill Vogel’s SJR284, a Constitutional amendment (first resolution) to establish a Redistricting Commission.

The last meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee followed at 7:45 AM.  The committee reported Delegate Peter Farrell’s HB1320, which prohibits requiring teachers to pay for college courses to satisfy license renewal requirements.
They also reported Delegate Tag Greason’s HB1672 which repeals A-F.

In a very disappointing party-line vote the committee reported and re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee, Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB2238, a public-money to private and home-school bill.  Actually, the money can even go to car dealers – read the bill.  If we are unsuccessful in killing this bill in the Finance Committee on Monday, you will be hearing much more about it as we head into the floor fight.
The major disappointment of the day, came when Senator Ben Chafin’s SB866, the bill to provide local school divisions with a statewide health insurance option, suddenly disappeared from the docket of the last meeting of the Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  When I asked why, I was told the House Appropriations Chair had made the decision.  After coming out of the Senate on a 38-0 vote, the bill was never heard in the House.  That is not the way government should work! 

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One Additional Step Closer to Repealing A-F, A Lot on the Line Tomorrow


We are one more step in the right direction towards the repeal of A-F grading for schools.  Senator Black’s SB727 was reported from the House Education Committee on a 21 to 1 vote.
YEAS--Landes, Lingamfelter, Rust, Pogge, Massie, Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon, Robinson, Yost, Yancey, Farrell, Davis, Leftwich, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Preston, Lindsey--21.

NAYS--Cole--1.

A committee substitute was adopted, which is an improvement over earlier versions.  Here is the critical portion of the bill:
No later than July 1, 2016, the Board of Education, in consultation with the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, shall 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. The Board, in redesigning the School Performance Report Card, may consider (i) the standards of accreditation, (ii) state and federal accountability requirements, (iii) state-mandated assessments, (iv) any alternative assessments developed or approved for use by the relevant local school board, (v) student growth indicators, (vi) student mobility, (vii) the experience and qualifications of school staff, (viii) total cost and funding per pupil, (ix) school safety, and (x) any other factors that the Board deems necessary to produce a full and accurate statement of performance for each public elementary and secondary school and local school division in the Commonwealth. No later than October 1, 2016, the Board shall provide notice and solicit public comment on the redesigned School Performance Report Card. No later than December 1, 2016, the Board shall make a summary of the redesigned School Performance Report Card available to the public and submit such summary to the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Health. No later than October 1, 2017, and each October 1 thereafter, the Board shall make available to the public a School Performance Report Card for each public elementary and secondary school and local school division in the Commonwealth.

The bill now goes to the full House.  Since there was one negative vote, it will be on the contested calendar.  Following probable House passage, we can hope the Senate will accept the House amendments, rather than sending the bill to conference.
We have a number of key bills up in committee tomorrow:

House Privileges and Elections (7 A.M.) will take up two redistricting bills, Senator Watkins’s SB840 , and Senator Vogel’s SJR284. 

The Senate Education and Health Committee (7:45 A.M.) is taking up numerous significant bills including one that will siphon off public school dollars to private schools, home-schooling parents, institutions of higher learning, and even auto dealers, HB2238 – Parental Choice Savings Accounts.

The Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee (4 P.M.) is taking up SB866, Senator Chafin’s bill to offer a statewide health insurance option to public school divisions.
So, please check in tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Despite the Snow, The Day Was Busy


The snow delayed the start of subcommittee meetings – 7:30 meetings were moved to 9.  But once they got started, the day was busy and eventful.
Senator Janet Howell’s SJ218, a study addressing exit surveys for teachers leaving the profession and the teacher turnover rate, was reported from the Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to House Rules.  This study is sorely needed.

In Senate Finance, HB324, a very problematic virtual school bill which would have opened Virginia to corporate virtual providers, was amended by adding a reenactment clause requiring the bill to be taken up again next session before it goes into effect.  We can thank Senator Norment for making this motion.  This gives us a year to work the bill.

Senator Vogel’s SB1386, which would have required dyslexia training for initial licensure or licensure renewal, was tabled on a voice vote of the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on the Senate Education and Health Committee.

A-F School Grading is one step closer to being repealed, as the Education Reform Committee of House Education amended and reported SB727.
Speaking of dumb education policy ideas, OEI (state takeover entity) is one step close to being repealed, as the same subcommittee voted to report Senator Miller’s SB821.

In regard to these last two, slowly but surely Governor McDonnell’s misguided education agenda is being dismantled, even as his party controls both chambers.

The final Senate vote on the Tebow Bill (HB1626) was disappointing.  Senator Garrett offered a floor amendment, which was adopted, which made the bill local option.  The final vote was 22-13.

YEAS--Alexander, Black, Carrico, Chafin, Colgan, Cosgrove, Dance, Garrett, Hanger, Lewis, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--22.

NAYS--Barker, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--13.

RULE 36--0.

NOT VOTING--Lucas, Norment, Puller, Stosch, Watkins--5.

 Senator Dance stated that she voted yea on the question of the passage of  H.B. 1626, whereas she intended to vote nay.

 

Monday, February 16, 2015

CPS Bill Passes, Tebow Bill Vote May Be Tomorrow


With the able leadership of Senator Norment, VEA initiated SB1117 gained final passage in the House (99-0) and is heading to the Governor's desk.  This bill amends the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia to make the reporting deadlines mandatory.

Non-compliance to the 45-day limit causes several problems:

·         Teacher are out of the classroom too long.

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

·         Students are empowered to “take the teacher out.”

Delegate Farrell's HB1320, which prohibits requiring teachers to pay for coursework to satisfy licensure renewal requirements, was reported from the Senate Health and Education Subcommittee on Public Education with no opposition.  This bill now heads to full committee.

This same subcommittee reported Delegate Greason's HB1675, which has the possibility of profoundly changing the way schools operate.  First, it will allow locally developed tests for verified credits.  Second, it removes the 140 hour seat-time requirement to earn a verified unit of credit.  The latter may profoundly change school scheduling and the professional lives of school personnel.

In the House Education Committee, Senator Vogel's SB1386, which requires dyslexia training for teachers seeking initial or renewal of license, was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  Appropriations killed a similar measure from Delegate Cline before crossover, so a similar fate should befall SB1386.

 The Tebow (HB1626) bill came up for a vote in the Senate today, but went by for the day.  The vote may be as soon as tomorrow.
 
The snow is coming down, but the General Assembly won't stop their work.  Please look for a posting tomorrow.

 

 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Time Has Come for a Statewide Health Insurance Plan for Public School Employees


For years VEA has been fighting for a statewide insurance option for public school employees.  The Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on this issue (SB866 Chafin/Vogel) on Thursday afternoon.  The bill came out of the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote, but in years past it has been killed by this committee.

Why do we need this bill?

Moving to a statewide insurance option for local school divisions and local governments could save millions of dollars for the state, localities and employees in the years ahead.  In addition, it would provide a high quality insurance option to small divisions that endure volatile rates and little bargaining leverage with insurance companies.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission estimated that implementing such a plan for the school divisions alone would save $44 to $66 million annually. 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.  Smaller localities would benefit the most – benefiting from the increased bargaining leverage (market power) and rate stability of a larger pool of employees.  In addition, savings are achieved as administrative and procurement costs are eliminated.

SB866 provides an option to local governments and school boards.  Participation is not required under the provisions of the bill.

This plan offers a substantial “cooperative procurement” opportunity to school divisions.  When JLARC last examined this issue in 2010, school divisions in Virginia were spending $0.9 billion on health insurance.  JLARC identified health insurance as the “area of greatest potential savings” for school divisions.  As health insurance is funded in part by the Standards of Quality, any savings are to the benefit of the localities and the state.

In 2010, JLARC reported that, “At least 25 states allow or require public school divisions to purchase health insurance through a statewide pool. Some states pool public school employees with all state employees and share the same experience ratings and premiums between groups. Other states create separate pools with unique experience ratings and premiums for school employees and state employees.

Please call the offices of this subcommittee’s members and leave this simple message:  “Please vote for SB866.”

Delegate Charles Poindexter      (804) 698-1009  DelCPoindexter@house.virginia.gov 

Delegate Riley Ingram                    (804) 698-1062  DelRIngram@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter        (804) 698-1031  DelSLingamfelter@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Tag Greason                   (804) 698-1032  DelTGreason@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Scott Garrett                  (804) 698-1023  DelSGarrett@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Johnny Joannou            (804) 698-1079  DelJJoannou@house.virginia.gov

Delgate Daun Hester                      (804) 698-1089  DelDHester@house.virginia.gov

I have also included their email addresses in the event that you would prefer to send an email message.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Redistircting and Calendar Bills Killed, Tebow Passed, and We're Still Below 2009 Funding Level


The Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections continues to be very hostile territory to those trying to bring Virginia to adopt a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.  Senator Miller’s SB824 and Senator Lewis’ SB1000 were tabled at a 7 a.m. meeting this morning.  Both bills were tabled on a voice vote, making it impossible to make delegates accountable for their votes.  No fingerprints!
School calendar bills, ending the post-Labor day opening requirement, met a similar fate in the Senate Education and Health Committee, only the votes were recorded.  Delegate Greason’s HB1550 and Delegate Robinson’s HB1838 both failed to report on a 5-9 votes.  Later Stolle’s  HB1585 met a similar fate on a 8-6 vote to pass by indefinitely.  Delegate Stolle's bill was much more narrow, allowing calendar flexibility only for low-performing schools.  When debating the Stolle bill, Senator Howell lamented that, “We do a lot of hand-wringing about under-performing schools, but we do very little to help them.”  Truer words were never spoken

The “Tebo Bill,” Delegate Rob Bell’s HB1626, a bill to allow home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic programs, reported on an 8-6 vote.
An oddity of the current session is that there is little gap between what is proposed by the House and by the Senate in terms of per-pupil funding.  Usually the Senate is higher, sometime substantially, than the House.  As you can see from the chart below, the gap this year is $3. 

 
All three proposals (Governor, Senate, and House) still fall below where we were in 2009, and this does not factor in inflation.  This is one more reason to come to Richmond on April 18th.
 
 

 
 
The Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections continues to be very hostile territory to those trying to bring Virginia to adopt a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.  Senator Miller’s SB824 and Senator Lewis’ SB1000 were tabled at a 7 a.m. meeting this morning.  Both bills were tabled on a voice vote, making it impossible to make delegates accountable for their votes.  No fingerprints!

The resurrected school calendar bills, ending the post-Labor day opening requirement, met a similar fate in the Senate Education and Health Committee, only the votes were recorded.  Greason’s HB1550 and Robinson’s HB1538 both failed to report on a 5-9 votes.  Later Stolle’s  HB1585 met a similar fate on a 8-6 vote to pass by indefinitely.  The Stolle bill was much more narrow, allowing calendar flexibility only for low-performing schools.  When debating the Stolle bill, Senator Howell lamented that, “We do a lot of hand-wringing about under-performing schools, but we do very little to help them.”  Truer words were never spoken.  For those of you who have been following the fate of these bills, you know they were killed, revived, and know they have been killed again.  I'm thinking that if something can be refried, something can be redied. 
The “Tebo Bill,” Rob Bell’s HB1636, a bill to allow home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic programs, reported on an 8-6 vote.  Elections have consequences.

An oddity of the current session is that there is little gap between what is proposed by the House and by the Senate in terms of per-pupil funding.  Usually the Senate is higher, sometime substantially, than the House.  As you can see from the chart below, the gap this year is $3.   


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

House Kills Accountability Measure for Private School Receiveing Public Dollars


Having passed the Senate 24-15 with good bipartisan support, Senator Janet Howell’s SB 905, a VEA initiative, was defeated on a voice vote in House Finance Committee Subcommittee #2 on a voice vote.  No fingerprints! 
You may remember 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.

It is incredible that the General Assembly, which is so intent in holding our public schools accountable has no interest in holding the private schools receiving public dollars accountable.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Abolishing A-F, Three Disppointments

One Step Closer to Abolishing A-F

With the passage of HB1672 it appears that VEA will likely succeed in our effort to "Abolish A-F grading of schools."  Ironically, the bill's sponsor, Delegate Tag Greason, carried the bill to create "A-F" in 2013 (HB1999).

Senator Black carried the Senate bill to repeal "A-F" (SB727), but the language that has passed out of the Senate is flawed, as it allows "A-F" enactment for one year.

The House language is an outright repeal.

Do you believe the dead shall walk again?  Well that is certainly the case with the House bills to eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirement, Greason's HB1550 and Robinson's HB1838.  These two bills were pronounced dead on 2/4, but rose again on 2/5.  Again, the House in on record in support of ending the post Labor-day opening requirement.

Three Disappointments

A public money to private schools bill, HB2238, passed the House today on a very interesting vote.  One Democrat, Johnny Joannou voted wrong, and ten Republicans sided with us (Bloxom, Campbell, Helsel, Kilgore, O'Quinn, Pillion, Rush, Rust, Yancey and Yost).  I'll be providing much more information about this bill in the future.

Delegate Dickie Bell's HB1361, which opens the door to corporate virtual education providers, passed the House 62-38.  K-12, the corporate provider thrown out of Carroll County when the academic performance of student in their K-12 virtual school proved to be disappointing, was deeply involved in writing this legislation.  All Democrats and six Republicans (Edmunds, Helsel, O'Quinn, Rust, Ware, and Yost) voted right.

Delegate Rob Bell’s Constitutional Amendment (HJ577) to transfer the authority to grant a charter for a charter school from local school boards to the Board of Education passed on a 58-41 vote.  Two Democrats voted wrong (Filler-Corn and Joannou) while 12 Republicans voted right (Albo, Bloxom, Campbell, Edmunds, Helsel, Hugo, Kilgore, Miller, O’Quinn, Pillion, Rust and Yost).  An identical measure, Obenshain’s SJ256, already passed the Senate.  We will have one more chance to defeat this amendment in the 2016 session.  It must pass in two sessions with an intervening election if it is to go on the ballot.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Flying Blind


It appears that both the House and the Senate will pass resolutions regarding a topic of great significance for our schools and for the teaching profession. 

Senator Janet Howell's SJR218 "Requesting 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" passed in the Senate and heads for the House.

Delegate Bobby Orrock's HJR558 "Requiring the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to analyze the teacher shortage and critical teaching endorsement areas in the Commonwealth" passed to third reading in the House today and appears to be headed for passage tomorrow.

As usual, the two chambers have taken very different approaches to the same topic.  One can only hope that the two chambers can come to an agreement as to how to do this important analysis of teacher supply and turnover.  Some years back the Department of Education stopped keeping track of teacher demographics when budget cuts eliminated positions.

Virginia is flying blind in this regard when a huge cohort of baby-boom teachers are readying for retirement.  Finding the answers regarding teacher demographics, turnover, and supply will enable the Commonwealth to make appropriate decisions regarding attracting and retaining a high quality teacher workforce.  Best case scenario is that both pass.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

First Blush (My Face is Red!)


This first report out on the House and Senate budget bills, which were reported from the money committees today, is cursory in nature, and we will follow with a much more thorough analysis in the days ahead.  I will address only the salary issue from the high level.

VEA requested the state share of a 6% salary increase for SOQ funded teachers and support personnel.  Senator Chafin, Delegate Plum, and Delegate Torian carried the amendments.

The Governor included no salary increases in his budget amendments, but vowed to work with both chambers to address the issue.

The Senate reported its budget first, so I’ll start there.  Here is the breakdown of salary increases:

  • 3% for state employees, with a 2% base adjustment for targeted state positions with high turnover
  • 3% for state supported local employees
  • 2% for college faculty
  • 1.5% for teachers and support personnel (10 months)

The disparity in the raises offered certainly raises questions regarding the priority that the Senate affords public school teachers – school employees got the short end of the stick.  This is one more reason to come to Richmond on April 18th.

The House salary increase breakdown is as follows:

  • 1.5% for state employees, plus funding to address salary compression
  • 2% for state supported local employees
  • 2% for college faculty
  • 1.5% for teachers and support personnel (11 months)

Certainly the House is more equitable in its approach.

It would take a 15.1% increase to raise Virginia’s teacher salary to the national average.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Calendar Bills Revived, Three Person Panel Dead, Sometimes They Listen, A Bad Choice, Check in Sunday

Yesterday the House school calendar bills came back to life when they were reconsidered and reported by the House Education Committee.  Delegate Greason's HB1550 and Delegate Robinson's HB1838 both eliminate the post-Labor Day opening requirement.

This morning, Delegate Hugo's HB1744, the bill to give local school boards the option of employing a three person panel rather than a hearing officer for teacher dismissals, was heard in the House Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns.  They re-referred the bill to House Education on a voice vote.  The problem is that House Education will not meet again before crossover - OUCH!  We requested another meeting of House Education to no avail.  That’s one way they kill bills – no fingerprints.  Every vote on this bill was procedural in nature.  This bill is dead, but no one can be held accountable for its death by the voters.  Welcome to the Virginia General Assembly.

It is very good news that the House Appropriations Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education tabled Delegate Cline's HB2374, a bill to require dyslexia training for initial licensure and license renewal.  VEA's message that training for teachers should be provided by our employers - not required of the teacher for licensure, often at the teacher's expense.  Delegates Cox, Landes and Greason offered very helpful remarks.

This same committee reported Delegate LaRock's HB2238, which creates Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts, transferring public dollars to private schools and home schoolers at a time when insufficient funds are provided to our public schools.

The House and Senate will report their budget bills on Sunday, so please check this blog on Sunday evening for VEA's first take.  Carol Donohue will offer an in-depth analysis during next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

CRAZY!

As we close in on the Friday deadline for committee action on bills in the chamber of origin the legislative pace is rushed. 

The Senate Committee on Education and Health killed Senator Obenshain's SB1063 on a 14-0 vote to PBI (Pass by Indefinitely), which would have allowed charter school teachers to be denied VRS coverage, and allowed unlicensed teachers to teach in charter schools.

YEAS--Martin, Saslaw, Howell, Newman, Locke, Barker, Smith, McWaters, Black, Carrico, Garrett, Petersen, Cosgrove, Lewis--14.

NAYS--0.

Senator Obenshain brings this bill back every year.  What is the definition of insanity?

The committee reported SB 1386, which requires training on dyslexia prior to initial licensure or re-licensure.  VEA contends that this training should be provided as in-service paid for by the employer, rather than required as a condition of licensure.  The General Assembly just keeps adding to the list of licensure requirements.

The Civil Laws Subcommittee of House Courts and Justice reported HB1328, which will require school personnel to determine and report the immigration status of school children (As if we don't have enough to do!)  The unintended consequence of such legislation would be to make immigrant children stay out of school. 

Delegate Hugo's HB1744, which give local school boards the option of utilizing a three person panel rather than a hearing officer for teacher dismissal cases, is before the House Committee on Counties, Cities, and Towns tomorrow morning.  When introduced this bill included local government employees, not it only address the teacher grievance procedure.