Friday, January 29, 2016

Charter School Constitutional Amendment Heads for the House Floor

HJ1, Delegate Robert Bell’s Charter School Constitutional Amendment was reported from the House Committee on Privileges and Elections this morning.  The vote was 10-Y 9-N:

YEAS--Cole, Ingram, Jones, O'Bannon, Landes, Minchew, Rush, Fowler, Adams, Miyares--10.

NAYS--Albo, Miller, Sickles, Rasoul, Lindsey, Murphy, Torian, Price, Boysko--9.

The battle is on!  For information regarding the amendment see the January 18th posting on this blog.

Both House and Senate convened early today so that members could head home following a grueling week.

Quote of the Day:  “House Bill 389 would make education a private commodity, not a public good. It could induce parents to abandon public schools that need to be improved and supported, not hollowed out or shuttered.” – Editor, Free Lance-Star



VEA Lobby Day is Monday and the forecast is as follows:  68F and partly cloudy.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Progress on Student Debt Delayed, Tebow Bill Clears Senate Committee, VEA Hearing Officer Bill Advances

The Senate Committee Education and Health met this morning and acted on two bills of note.

First, Senator Janet Howell's SB52, a bill to establish a mechanism to facilitate refinancing of student debt, was carried over for a year.  Hopefully in the year ahead legislators will work together to come up with a plan to reduce the burden of student debt for college graduates who come into low paying jobs such as teaching.  Delegate Simon’s House bills on the same issue , HB400 and HB401, were carried over later in the afternoon in House Commerce and Labor Subcommittee #2.

Second, on a 8Y to 7Y vote the committee reported the Tebow bill, Senator Garrett's SB612.

VEA initiated SB660, sponsored by Senator Barbara Favola, reported from the Senate Committee on Education and Health Subcommittee on Public Education.  This bill is intended to ensure that the hearing officer in teacher dismissal cases is impartial. The vote is yet to be posted.  It was amended to remove all language relating to the appointment of the hearing officer and retaining the language guarding against nepotism.  A half a loaf is better than none.  This bill will be heard by the full committee on Thursday.

The Lobby Day weather forecast is improving – 68F and sunny.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Can't Unring That Bell, Labor Day Repeal, Tebow, Lobby Day

The effort to amend the Constitution of Virginia by transferring the charter granting authority from local school boards to the Board of Education, a nine-member board appointed by the Governor, is most misguided.  VEA has been clear in its opposition to this bill (see January 18th posting on this blog).

Now some members of the General Assembly are telling us that they are going to vote for the amendment so that they will have a seat at the table when the implementing legislation is crafted.  They claim to be helping us by making sure the applications to open a charter school come to the local school first.

This is not the help we need, and you have to question the wisdom of one who would change the Constitution to gain a seat at the table to craft a temporal and less significant piece of legislation.

As a friend quipped to me, when you change the Constitution, “You can’t unring that bell.”

Let us be very clear in demanding opposition to HJ1 and SJ6.

In the House Committee on Education, two bills to repeal the Labor Day school closing law, HB571 & HB753 advanced, both on 16-Y 6-N votes.

The Senate Finance Committee delayed action on Statewide Health Insurance (Vogel SB384/Chafin at SB675) went by for the day as the two senators need to work on perfecting and conforming this bills.
As was the case last year, the Tebow bill (HB131) passed the House on a 58-Y 41-N vote.  Last year this bill was vetoed by the Governor.

The Lobby Day weather report says 64F and sunny.  The Sunday night briefing is at 5:30 at the Holiday Inn Express at 2nd and Cary.  The Monday morning briefing is at 8 at the Hilton at 5th and Broad.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

School Calendar Bills Advance in the House and Redistricting Bills Advance in the Senate

Things began early at the GA today.  At the 7:30 AM meeting of the House Education - Education Innovation Subcommittee two schools calendar bills, HB571 and HB753, were reported.  These bills should go to full committee tomorrow.  Bills such as these, returning control of the school calendar to local school boards and repealing the Labor Day closing bill, passed out of the House last year only to face defeat in the Senate Committee on Education and Health.  However, the makeup of the senate committee has changed.  Will this be the year to repeal the Labor Day bill?

In the House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Steve Staples provided an excellent presentation which should be required reading for all Virginians.  Click here to see it – it’s worth the time.

The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee reported a number of redistricting bills:  SB31, SB59, and SB191.  The chances for Senate passage are good.  The battle will be in the House.

Long and busy day at the GA.

It is going to be 64F and sunny in Richmond on Lobby Day!  Plan to join us on Monday.











Monday, January 25, 2016

Something Important to Do When Snowed In

Delegate LaRock’s HB389 is probably heading to the Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, and it may be taken up as soon as tomorrow at 10 AM.

Here are the Delegates on the subcommittee, their phone numbers, and email addresses:

Massie, (804) 698-1072, DelJMassie@house.virginia.gov
Cox, (804) 698-1066, DelKCox@house.virginia.gov
Landes, (804) 698-1025, DelSLandes@house.virginia.gov
Greason, (804) 698-1032, DelTGreason@house.virginia.gov
Knight, (804) 698-1081, DelBKnight@house.virginia.gov
McQuinn, (804) 698-1070, DelDMcQuinn@house.virginia.gov
Lindsey, (804) 698-1090, DelJLindsey@house.virginia.gov

A simple call or email urging them  to, “Please vote against HB389” Could make a difference.

Here are VEA’s concerns regarding the bill:

This year’s Parental Choice Education Savings Account bill, HB 389, is much broader than last year’s HB2238.  Last year’s bill was narrowly drawn to students with IEPs, foster children, and military dependents.  This year’s bill is open to all students and will have a much larger, though still indeterminable, fiscal impact.  This bill is detrimental to public education, will lead to inappropriate uses of state funding, and its passage will lead to unnecessary litigation.

Virginia currently ranks 41st in state support for public schools.  Our teacher salary is $6,759 below the national average, and we have an existing educational scholarship/tax credit program which is underutilized.  Now is not the time to use additional public dollars to fund private education.
Lines 82-89 outline broad allowances for usage of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding, but there are no accountability or quality control provisions in the bill.  The Constitution of Virginia states, “The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality….”  Public schools are required to satisfy accountability provisions – Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and accreditation standards.  This bill requires no accountability for private schools and home schooling accepting SOQ funding, and these schools cannot be construed to be part of an “educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality.”

The SOQ funds include lottery proceeds.  Article X, Section 7.A. states that the lottery proceeds are “to be expended for the purposes of public education.”  This raises a Constitutional question.
It is clear from Article VIII, Section 10, that public dollars cannot go to sectarian schools.  The provision allowing for funding of sectarian institutions, Article VIII, Section 11, clearly refers to higher education, and there are no Constitutional provisions or case law which support the use of SOQ funds for sectarian schools.

There are no stipulations regarding family income.  The wealthy have derived disproportionate benefit from similar programs in other states.

Allowing the funds to be deposited in Coverdell accounts opens the door to the parents using Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding to pay for college tuition, not to provide elementary and secondary education, the purpose of SOQ funds.  This is tuition assistance not available to public school students.

No protection is offered to parents should a “scholarship foundation” go bankrupt.

Localities bear the lion share of the responsibility for administering the disbursement, oversight and auditing of the accounts, but receive no funding.  This is an unfunded mandate.

The amount of funding available for students would vary widely between localities.  Students in Lee County would be eligible for $6,922, while an Arlington student would receive only $2,135.


Allowing the funding to be used for transportation seems a wide open door.  Could these funds be used for a car payment on a car used to transport a student to a private school?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Teacher Turnover Bill Advances/GA Wimps Out

Senator Janet Howell's SB360 reported from the Senate Committee on Education and Health this morning on a unanimous vote.  The bill requires "the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and implement a system to track teacher turnover and to annually report his findings to the General Assembly and the Governor."  The bill references exit questionnaires for departing teachers.

President Gruber testified in support of the bill noting that the report's findings will inform policy makers regarding the efficacy of Virginia's efforts to attract and retain teachers.  She pointed out that teacher turnover is costly to school divisions, with cost estimates ranging from 24 to 53 million dollars per year. 

She informed the committee that the national teacher turnover, which negatively affects student achievement, has gone from 9% a year to 20% today.  Turnover is highest in high-poverty schools where students most need experienced teachers of high quality.

SB360 now heads to the full Senate on the uncontested calendar.

Historically, the General Assembly continues no matter what the weather, but neither chamber will conduct business tomorrow.  This last happened in 2010.  I look forward to not setting the alarm clock tonight.  Please check this blog for the next posting on Monday.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Brutal Day in House Education

Today's action was in the House Education Committee, and it was brutal.  I keep taking a deep breath, reminding myself that our best and only chance to kill the really bad bills in in the Senate.

Delegate LaRock's HB389, the Parental Choice Education Savings Account bill, was reported and re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee on a 13-Y 9-N vote.  Rumor is that it may encounter a rough road there.

Delegate "Dickie" Bell's Virtual School bill, HB8 was reported and re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee as well.  The vote was 14-Y 7-N.

The next stop for both HB389 and HB8 should be the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  Subcommittee members are Delegates Massie, Cox, Landes, Greason, Knight, McQuinn, and Lindsey.


The committee also reported the Tebow bill, Delegate Rob Bell's HB131, which allows home schooled students to participate in interscholastic programs.  The vote was 14-Y 8-N.  This bill now heads for the full house.  If your memory is good, you'll remember that this bill passed last year only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Parental Choice Savings Account Advances for Full House Committee

The day started early on this cold morning as the House Subcommittee on Education Innovation meeting started at 7:30.  They took up HB389, Delegate LaRock's bill to establish "Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts."  For an explanation of this bill, please see the January 14th posting on this blog.

Our best chance to stop this bill is in the Senate, but today's outcome was encouraging as opposition was bipartisan.  VSBA, VEA, and the Commonwealth Institute spoke against the bill; however, the bill advanced on a 5 to 4 vote: 

YEAS--Greason, Bell, Richard P., Robinson, Dudenhefer, Leftwich--5.

NAYS--Yancey, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova--4.

HB389 should go to full committee tomorrow.  Below is a listing of House Education Committee members:


Please call or email committee members urging opposition to. HB389.



The final vote on this bill will likely be in the Senate near the end of the session.  Last year it failed on a 18-18 vote.

Monday, January 18, 2016

No MLK Holiday at the GA

It was Martin Luther King day, and far too cold for sane people to be out and about, but the General Assembly goes on, never stopping for holidays.  Roger Gray, Cindy Kirby, and yours truly, Robley Jones, were joined by President Meg Gruber, and we were the only ones at VEA today.

It was also gun day at the GA.  “Guns Save Lives” stickers were everywhere.  I saw one man with a sawed-off shotgun in a holster.  It doesn’t seem right for gun day to be on the day honoring Dr. King!

I rose at 5, rushed to get ready, took the cold walk to the Capitol for the 8:00 meeting of the House Privileges and Elections Committee to testify against the charter school constitutional amendment, and as soon we arrived, the sponsor of the measure asked that it go by until next Monday.  Welcome to the GA!

This, however, gives us another week to lobby the bills, HJ1 and HB3.  The Senate companions are SJ6 and SB588.  Our best chance to kill these bills and resolutions is in the Senate.

Here is a slightly edited version of an article on these measures that I had published this past summer:

Charter School Constitutional Amendment:  Devolution in Reverse

Perhaps the most radical education proposal before the General Assembly in the upcoming session is Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain’s constitutional amendment, 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 a stone’s throw from my home.

The Bell/Obenshain 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 Bell/Obenshain proposal, the state could require Arlington’s taxpayers to foot 85% of the bill for establishing a charter school.

Research does not support the override of the authority of the local school board inherent in Obenshain’s amendment.  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.

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.” 


Delegate Bell and Senator Obenshain are self-proclaimed fans of President Ronald Reagan; however, their 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 15, 2016

Do What's Best for Kids, Not What's Best for Corporations

HB8 is a very problematic virtual school bill which would open Virginia to corporate virtual providers.  It sets up a virtual school board, and a statewide virtual school for students across the state.  Such schools have resulted in low graduation rates, poor academic performance, and high dropout rates when in other states.   Though an identical bill passed last session, it was amended by adding a reenactment clause requiring the bill to be taken up again next session before it goes into effect.

The bill has been before the General Assembly for a several sessions, and it originated in a time of optimism regarding the promise of virtual education.  Indeed, with a view of the value of the stock of Herndon-based K-12, Inc., a major corporate provider of virtual education, “Mr. Market” is speaking loudly.  The high for the stock was $39.74 in April of 2011.  This month it reached a historic low at $7.18 per share.

Virtual education has not lived up to its promise, and research regarding student achievement of online schools is disappointing.  In October 2015, Mathematica Policy Research, Center on Reinventing Public Education, and the Center on Education Outcomes at Stanford University released a study showing that “students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.”

The September JLARC report on Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending asserted that, “Because there is limited research on the effectiveness and cost of online learning programs in Virginia, the state should use a data-driven, incremental approach to expanding access to fully online programs.”

This is just what we are doing now.  VDOE is piloting an online high school program.  Virtual Virginia enrollment continues to grow, and many local schools divisions, by virtue of individual and collective efforts, are expanding virtual offerings to students.  This “incremental approach” is happening in the absence of HB8, which begs the necessity of the bill.

From an educational perspective, virtual education is one tool in the teacher’s tool box.  The learning style of the student determines which tools you use.  Traditionally, the student, the teacher, and the guidance counselor work together to determine the courses students take.  We know that self-motivated students, students with strong time-management skills, and students with the ability to set personal goals are the most successful online students.  The parents, teacher and guidance counselor now serve as the gatekeepers to help students develop the best schedule of courses for the individual student.

The all-or-nothing approach to virtual schools ignores the importance of the jobs our public schools do to work with each student to determine the best course of educational progress.

A major flaw with HB8 is the funding mechanism.  The bill calls for “the average state share of the Standards of Quality per pupil” plus federal funds to be send to the virtual school by the Department of Education.  This figure in not related to any assessment of the cost of providing a virtual program; it is based the cost of providing the state share of support for a traditional “bricks-and-mortar” school.
The VEA Legislative Committee has taken a position in opposition to HB8.  Please contact your Delegate urging opposition to HB8.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Public Money to Private Schools: HB 389

Delegate Dave LaRock has filed another “voucher” bill (HB389) which will pay for private school tuition with public tax dollars.  The bill creates “Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts” into which 90% of the state funding for a student is deposited by the local school division where the student resides.  The parent then uses that funding to pay for “education related expenses.”  The student can attend private sectarian or non-sectarian schools, preschool, a private online learning program, or home school.  The remaining 10% stays with the DOE and the DOE shall contract with a scholarship foundation or financial institution to administer the accounts.

The amount of funding available for students would vary widely between localities.  Students in Lee County would be eligible for $6,922, while an Arlington student would receive only $2,135.

The funds can be used for:

tuition, deposits, fees, or required textbooks at a qualified school; (ii) educational therapies or services for the qualified student from a practitioner or provider, including paraprofessionals or educational aides; (iii) tutoring services; (iv) curriculum; (v) tuition or fees for a private online learning program; (vi) fees for a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test, an Advanced Placement examination, or any examination taken to gain admission to an institution of higher education; (vii) tuition, fees, or required textbooks at an eligible institution; (viii) contributions to a Coverdell education savings account established pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 530 for the benefit of the qualified student, except that funds used for elementary or secondary education expenses shall be for expenses otherwise allowed under this section; (ix) services that are offered on a fee-for-service basis by a public elementary or secondary school or preschool to the public, including classes and extracurricular activities; (x) such insurance, surety bond payments, or fees as may be required for the savings account; (xi) transportation; (xii) computer hardware and software, not to exceed 10 percent of the annual savings account disbursement; and (xiii) consumable educational supplies or any other education-related goods or services, such as Internet access, that are necessary for the provision of the qualified student's education pursuant to § 22.1-254

Allowing the funding to be used for transportation seems a wide open door.  Could these funds be used for a car payment on a car used to transport a student to a private school?

Allowing the funds to be deposited in a Coverdell account opens the door to the parents using Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding to pay for college tuition, not to provide elementary and secondary education, the purpose of SOQ funds. 

In regard to the Standards of Quality (SOQ), the Constitution of Virginia states, “The General Assembly shall determine the manner in which funds are to be provided for the cost of maintaining an educational program meeting the prescribed standards of quality….”  Public schools are required to satisfy accountability provisions – Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and accreditation standards.  This bill requires no accountability for private schools accepting SOQ funding.

Last year’s bill (HB2238) was much narrower.  It was for disabled students only.

The fiscal impact statement for last year’s bill stated:

This legislation will create increased administrative cost to local school divisions. Local divisions are required to accept and process applications, hear appeals, issue renewals, disburse funds, report participation to DOE, collect receipts from parents and analyze the receipts to ensure the expenditures meet program policies, conduct audits, and investigate possible inappropriate uses of funds. School divisions are required to cover any audit costs with existing local funds. The 10 percent retained savings would not be available to offset local administrative expenses related to these tasks. However, school divisions would not transfer the local per pupil SOQ share to the Savings Account and would retain that funding, which could offset any additional administrative costs. The net fiscal impact of the provisions of the bill to school divisions cannot be determined at this time and will vary by school division.

As the affected population increases with this year’s bill (HB389) this local impact will be much larger, but still indeterminable. 

This bill has no provisions regarding the family income.  Poor tax-payers will be subsidizing the private school tuition of millionaires.

Virginia currently ranks 41st in state support for our schools.  Our teacher salary is $6,759 below the national average, and we have an existing educational scholarship/tax credit program which is underutilized.  Now is not the time to use more public dollars to fund private education.

Please contact your Delegate urging opposition to HB389.



Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Here We Go Again!

The 2016 General Assembly session is under way, and this 60 day budget session could prove to be a significant one for our schools.  As the budget will be front and center in this session, let’s take a look at the good and the bad in the Governor’s budget.

There is much to applaud in the budget Governor McAuliffe presented on December 17th.  For the first time in years, our Governor had some money to work with, and 57% of the new funding available is allocated for public education.  This is an increase of $855 million for our public schools in the biennium, and an overall increase of $411 per pupil.

This funding includes:
  • $429.8 million for rebenchmarking the Standards of Quality (SOQ)
  • Adding 2,500 instructional positions, representing less than half of the K-12 positions lost since 2008.  This funds 1 new position in each elementary school starting in FY17.  It includes two new positions at every middle and high school in FY18.  Cost is $139 million.
  • $50 million in additional funding for at-risk students
  • Funding of 90 percent of teacher retirement contribution rates in FY17 and 100 percent in FY18
  • $7 million for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation for pilot programs for public-private partnerships and training of childcare workforce
There is much to like in the McAulliffe budget.

There has been much discussion regarding the Governor’s claim that he restores all the funding lost in the last recession, bringing per-pupil funding level above the 2008-2009 school year level.  If you don’t factor in inflation, what he says is true.  If you consider inflation, it is not.  Regardless, he has taken a significant step in the right direction.

There has also been controversy regarding the 2,500 additional positions funded in our schools.  Some have contended that as the Governor does not change the underlying SOQ formula, the funding for these positions is temporary.  However, Deputy Superintendent for Finance and Operations Kent Dickey asserts that, “our interpretation is that this funding would be considered like other categorical or incentive aid, such as the K-3 Class Size Reduction funding, and would be folded into the base K-12 funding continuing into the 2018-2020 biennium; DOE would continue the funding as part of the 2018-2020 Rebenchmarking process.  The proposed language for the program does not specify that it’s one-time funding for the 16-18 biennium only.”  If Dickey’s interpretation holds, the funding is not temporary. 

Finally, VEA’s major disappointments with the Governor’s budget are his failure to adequately address Virginia’s absolute failure to offer a competitive teacher salary and the failure to begin repairing the badly damaged SOQ funding formula.   

The Education Law Center at Rutgers University ranks Virginia’s teacher salary the least competitive in the nation, and our teacher salary is $6,800 below the national average.  The Governor’s budget provides $83.2 million for a two percent salary increase for all state-supported SOQ positions in the second year, effective July 10, 2018.  School divisions must provide an average 2% raise for at least half a year (January 1, 2018) to qualify for the state share.

VEA will be working this session to increase state funding for a more significant salary increase, but the fact that these funds are not in the proposed budget will make this an uphill battle.


There is not a superintendent in Virginia who deems the amount of funding provided by Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding sufficient to meet the state’s accreditation standards.  That is just not right, and the low level of state funding hurts Virginia’s poorest divisions the most.

As the late, great Senator Hunter Andrews used to say, "The Governor proposes, but the General Assembly disposes."  It will be interesting too see what this budget will look like in 60 days.  

Thursday, January 7, 2016

VEA Speaks Out: President Gruber's Remarks at Today's State Budget Hearing

VEA President Meg Gruber will address the General Assembly regarding Governor McAuliffe's proposed 2016-2018 proposed state budget this afternoon at the Richmond budget hearing.  Her remarks are as follows:

Good day.  I am Meg Gruber a HS science teacher and the President of the 50,000 member Virginia Education Association.

We support Governor’s McAuliffe’s 2016-2018 budget and to implore you to do more.

For the first time in a very long time there is substantial new money for K-12 but you know as well as I that it is not enough. I would first urge you to restore the Standards of Quality to truly reflect the actual cost of providing a quality education across the Commonwealth.  Not only has the state been shirking its obligation, the state has pushed the burden on to the localities.  You must restore the SOQ formula to reflect actual costs of our schools.   It’s what our students need and deserve.

You know that these cuts impact poor school divisions more than more affluent ones, endangering the achievement of some of the most disadvantaged children. Economically disadvantaged children are falling farther behind as classes get larger, teacher aides are eliminated, and technology is both inadequate and outdated. Lack of funds compromises the educational opportunity of all our children, especially those who struggle in school.  How does this ensure the future of Virginia’s schools, workforce and the economy?  You know it does not!

The Governor’s proposed budget must be viewed in the context of the significant decline in state commitment to our public schools over the past decade. To our detriment of our children, the state’s contribution to our students, on a per-pupil basis, is down nearly 15 percent since 2009. We now rank a lowly 41st in the nation on that measure.

On another measure of our priorities, we are even worse. The competitiveness of Virginia teacher pay is ranked worst in the nation by the Education Law Center at Rutgers University. Virginia teacher salaries are almost $6,800 under the national average.

The state must be a vital partner in raising teacher pay, but the state’s share of a pay increase for teachers since 2009 is as follows:

•           2009: 0%
•           2010: 0%
•           2011: 0%
•           2012: 0%
•           2013: 0%
•           2014: 2%, but only for 11 months
•           2015: 0%
•           2016: 1.5% but only for 10.5 months

And this is only applies on the SOQ funded positions that you deliberately cut by placing arbitrary caps on needed support personnel pushing the burden on to the localities.

And over this time health insurance costs have risen, the state deleted inflationary costs of health insurance for school employees but not for state workers. This has ensured that many teachers and staff’s take-home pay DECREASES every year. 

The competitiveness of Virginia teacher pay is ranked worst in the nation by the Education Law Center at Rutgers University. Virginia teacher salaries are almost $6,800 under the national average.
All this occurred while the number of students in Virginia public schools has increased along with more children of poverty, and more children with special needs.
It’s time for the members of the General Assembly take an honest look over the last 8 years and acknowledge the tremendous negative impact this has had upon our students and to right this injustice to our children and fulfill the promise of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia which states the state must “seek to ensure that an educational program of high quality is established and continually maintained.”  The state has not maintained an educational program of high quality.  The only reason that Virginia has high quality public schools is from the PERSONAL sacrifices of teachers and staff. 

Virginia should not be 41st in the Nation in per-pupil funding and last in the competitiveness of teacher salary.  We can and we must do better for our children!