Monday, February 29, 2016

HB524 Heads for the Governor's Desk, Honor Your Oath or Play Politics?

Another VEA initiated bill, HB524, Delegate LeMunyon’s  bill to shield teacher performance data from FOIA requests, gained final passage in the Senate on a 38-Y 0-N vote.  Thanks to Delegate Jim LeMuyon.  This bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

The Senate Finance Committee will take up Delegate LeRock’s HB389 in the days ahead. 
The bill defines a “qualified school” as, “"a private, sectarian or nonsectarian elementary or secondary school…..”

The bill then says parents can use the funding from the state to, “for … tuition, fees, or required textbooks at a qualified school.”

Article VIII, § 10 of the Constitution of Virginia limits the appropriation of funds “for educational purposes which may be expended in furtherance of elementary, secondary … education of Virginia students in public and nonsectarian private schools.”

Both the Constitution of Virginia and the relevant case law clearly reveal that HB389 is unconstitutional.

We said the same thing years back about Governor McDonnell’s  Opportunity Educational Institution, OEI, and the courts struck it down following the waste of state dollars to set up and defend OEI.

Will the Senate Finance Committee ignore us again?  We have provided the office of each member of the committee a clear explanation of the unconstitutionality of the bill.

When the members of the General Assembly take office, they raise their right hands and say this oath office:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties incumbent upon me as ...................., according to the best of my ability (so help me God)."

In the days ahead, we’ll find out whether this oath is more important than politics.

There will be no post tomorrow, as I will be performing my duties as an election official in Richmond City.

Friday, February 26, 2016

If they can't get you one way ....


As we worked through the budget bills from the House (HB30) and Senate (SB30) we were pleased by the significant investment in public education.  The House provides a good bit more than the governor had proposed in the introduced budget, and the Senate just slightly less.  This won't bring us back to 2009 funding levels (factoring in inflation), but it is a significant step in the right direction.

But there are always some things hidden among in the phone-book like budget bills.  Often, and unfortunately, budgets do more than appropriate – they legislate.  I have heard members of both parties decry the practice, but both sides have been guilty of legislating in the budget.

HB30 includes a bill that we have been fighting all session, and which is yet to pass, HB389.  For those of you who have not been following closely this is the parental choice savings account bill, which funnels funds away from public schools for questionable educational purposes.

Interestingly, the budget also includes language for HB8, the virtual school bill, but the budget clearly states, “This funding is contingent on the passage of House Bill 8."  There is no such contingency language for HB389.

So, if HB389 passes, and the Governor chooses to veto the bill, he must also line item veto the budget provision, as well, to keep it from going into effect.

Below is the offending budget amendment:

Item 139 #15h

Education

Direct Aid to Public Education Language

Language:

Page 144, after line 6, insert:

"40. Parental Choice Education Savings Account Payments

A.1. The Department of Education is directed to transfer ninety percent of the total of the state's share of the per pupil amount of Standards of Quality, sales tax per pupil funding amount and any applicable special education funding to a school division from which a parent of an eligible kindergarten through grade eleven special education student who has an individual education plan for the purpose of receiving special education services and has applied and been approved for a Parental Choice Education Savings account, pursuant to the passage of House Bill 389.

2. The resident school division shall deposit the received eligible state funds defined in this item, 40.A.1., into such Parental Choice Education Savings Account and such deposit shall be contingent on approval of any prior submissions of required receipts and invoices from such parents for the eligible education expenses for the qualified eligible student.

3. Parents receiving such state funds will be allowed to use the funds deposited in the

Parental Choice Savings Account solely for one or more of the following expenses on behalf of the qualified student: (i) tuition, 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) fees for management of the Savings Account by firms selected by the Plan pursuant to subsection A of § 22.1-222.3; (ix) services that are offered on a fee-for-service basis by a public elementary or secondary school to the public, including classes and extracurricular activities; (x) such insurance or surety bond payments as may be required by the Virginia College Savings Plan Agency; or (xi) transportation, consumable educational supplies, or any other goods or services that are necessary for the provision of the qualified student's education pursuant to § 22.1-254, in exchange for solely educating the qualifying eligible student.

4. Each parent who expends any funds from a Parental Choice Savings Account shall submit all applicable receipts and invoices for such expenditures to the resident school division for review of appropriateness of each expense and possible audit. Each resident school division shall determine, based on the policies established by the Department of Education pursuant to subsection F of § 22.1.222.3, the appropriateness of the submitted receipts and invoices prior to considerations for a subsequent renewal request.

Amendments to House Bill 30, as Introduced

112

5. The Department of Education and the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan agencies shall be required to manage and audit each Parental Choice Education Savings Account that approved parents have established with an approved financial institution where accounts are maintained."

Explanation:

(This language amendment directs the resident school division to deposit the appropriate state's share of SOQ, sales tax and any applicable special education funding received from the Department of Education for a qualifying student into an approved and established Parental Choice Education Savings account. The amendment further direct the Department of Education and the Virginia College Savings Plan agencies to manage and audit such accounts.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

One VEA Bill Passes, One Progresses + 2 Setbacks

Before we get to the lowdown on GA action today, I dedicate this posting to three champions of public education who have recently passed:  Gary Waldo (former UniServ Director in Roanoke, former Senator Madison Mayre, and former VRTA Lobbyist Charlie Todd.  May they rest in peace?

The docket was full in the Senate Education and Health Committee this morning.  Senator Steve Newman is the most efficient committee chairman I have ever seen.  He knows how to move an agenda, and he is fair to all.  He should train committee chairs.

First two pieces of good news –

VEA initiated SB564 gained final passage on the House floor on a 93-Y 3-N vote.  This bill shield teacher licensure applications from Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) requests.  Thanks, Senator Norment!

VEA initiated HB524 reported unanimously and is headed to the Senate floor where it will be on the uncontested calendar.  This bill shields teacher performance data from FOIA requests. Thanks Delegate LeMunyon!

Now two pieces of bad news, HB389, Delegate LaRock’s parental choice savings account bill reported from the committee on a straight party-line vote.

Also, HB8, Delegate Dickie Bell’s virtual school bill was reported re-referred to SFC on a 10-Y 5-N vote.

And finally, here is an updated overview of HB389, which is heading to the Senate Finance Committee:

VEA Urges Opposition to HB389

VEA urges your opposition to House Bill 389.  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 14 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, the introduced HB389 embraced all students.  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 voted last year 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 56-57) bar them from returning to the public school:  “Not enroll the qualified student in a school division in the school year in which the parent receives the Savings Account or the immediately succeeding school year.”  The student is stranded and the local school division is left responsible the student’s education despite the absence of state funding.

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.”

The inclusion of sectarian schools (line 30) raises a serious constitutional question.  TAG grants are used to argue that the bill is constitutional, but the courts have drawn a line between higher education and elementary and secondary education in this regard.
In accordance with the passage of HB321 in 2012,”Virginia’s “Education Improvement Scholarships,” are now operational but under-utilized.  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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Which Virtual School Model Should Virginia Pursue

Two highly controversial public education bills, HB8 and HB329, appear to be headed for a floor vote in the Senate in the days ahead.  Here is an overview of HB8.

HB8:  the Virtual School Bill

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.  When established in other states, such schools have been plagued by low graduation rates, poor academic performance, and high dropout rates.  Though an identical bill passed last session, it was amended by adding a reenactment clause requiring the bill to be taken up again this session before it goes into effect.

The bill has been before the General Assembly for several sessions, and it originated in a time of optimism regarding the promise of virtual education.  Indeed, a view of the value of the stock of Herndon-based K-12, Inc., a major corporate provider of virtual education, shows what “Mr. Market” thinks of the concept.  The high for the stock was $39.74 in April of 2011.  It is currently trading at $10 a 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, the 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 school 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.  Parents, guidance counselors, and principals play this appropriate role in the Virtual Virginia model and VEA urges expansion of Virtual Virginia as a better option than HB8.

The all-or-nothing approach to virtual schools reflected in HB8 ignores the importance of the jobs our public schools do to work with each student to determine the best course of educational progress.

Another 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 sent 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.

If there ever was a bill that requires a careful examination of the Fiscal Impact Statement, this is it.  Here are key excerpts from the FSI:
·         
“    "The total potential cost implications of this legislation are uncertain….”

“The bill is unclear where students enrolled in VVS will take the Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments. Since the students will not be enrolled in the school division of residence, there may be complications in determining suitable testing locations. Addressing this issue may result in additional costs.” 

There are several Constitutional  questions.  Lines 294-296 read, “The Board and the School shall be designated as a local educational agency (LEA), but the School shall not constitute a school division.”

Article XIII, Section 2 of the Constitution reads, “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, and shall provide for the apportionment of the cost of such program between the Commonwealth and the local units of government comprising such school divisions.”

Article X, Section 7-A of the Constitution reads “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.”

The Board of the Virginia Virtual School is neither a local unit or government nor a county, city, town or school division.

Virtual Virginia provides a superior and more cost effective option for expanding virtual learning opportunities for Virginia’s students.


The VEA urges opposition to HB8.  This bill next goes to the Senate Committee on Education and Health where it will be heard tomorrow morning.  If your Senator is on the committee, please call urging opposition.  Click here to see committee members and here for Senator's contact information. .

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Did You Hear Her? The Charter School Constitutional Amendment Is Dead!


The sweet sound of Der Ring des Nibelungen engulfed the Capital, and Brünnhilde sang!  It is over!

A curious aspect of this session is that early in the session the media reported that the charter school constitutional amendment was sure to pass.  Perhaps, the pro-public education lobby was underestimated.  Subsequently, the press has continued to report that the amendment was dead when only the Senate's amendment bill had failed.  In fact, the General Assembly made the final decision today when the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee failed to report HB3 and HJ1.

The vote on both measures was to table and the vote went as follows (unofficial):

YEAS:  Howell, Deeds, Edwards, McEachin, Miller, Ebbin, Chafin

NAYS:  Reeves, Garrett, DeSteph, Chase, Sturtevant

ABSTENTION:  Vogel

Thanks to our coalition partners on this bill, VASS and VSBA!

Senator Obenshain's SB734, the bill to implement the changes in the Code of Virginia allowed if the Virginia Constitution is amended as a consequence of passage of the ballot question in November, went by for the day in the Innovation Subcommittee of the House Education Committee this morning.  I doubt that the bill will be considered on Tuesday - what's the point now that the constitutional amendment will not be on the ballot.


VEA initiated SB564 sponsored by Senator Norment reported from the House Committee on General Laws on a unanimous vote this afternoon.  This is the bill to Sheila teacher licensure applications from FOIA requests. This bill now heads to the House floor on the uncontested calendar.  Thanks, Senator Norment!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Three Bills and the Budget

SB660

VEA initiated SB660, sponsored by Senator Favola, failed to report from the House Education Committee this morning on a voice vote.  This was a bill to ensure that nepotism and cronyism are not factors in the school board selection of hearing officers for dismissal hearings.  The motion was to table (NAY is a right vote).  Hands were raised, and here is how they voted:

NAYS-- LeMunyon, Yost, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Lindsey, Bagby--9.

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

SB360

A VEA supported bill carried by Senator Janet Howell, SB360, calls for the development of a model exit survey for teachers leaving the profession.  Survey data is needed to developed an informed approach to reducing teacher turnover in this era of teacher shortages.  The bill reported from House Education on a 21-Y 1-N vote and re-referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

HB131

Delegate Rob Bell’s HB131, the Tebow bill, passed the Senate today on a 23Y 17N vote.  The Governor vetoed this bill last session.  Will it await a similar fate?

More thoughts on the Budget

Bottom Line

If we look at direct aid to localities for our schools, the House comes in first ($39.7 million more than the Governor’s introduced budget), and the Senate comes in second ($27.6 million less that the Governor’s introduced budget.  There are $67.3 million reasons to prefer the House Bottom Line!

We prefer the House appropriation for public education.

Salary


When the Governor presented his budget with no salary increase for teachers in the first year of the budget (2016-17), we knew we would be in for an uphill battle.  We also know that 2% is not adequate to make Virginia’s teacher salary competitive in this time of teacher shortages.  However, the 2% offered in the Senate budget is far better than 0%.

Remember, the funds from the state go to your locality and provide funds to help your local school board as they make their decisions regarding teacher compensation in the coming year.

We offer special thanks to Senators Norment, Newman, Howell, Saslaw, Hanger and Ruff for making this happen.

Another welcome aspect of the Senate bill is that it treats all employee groups equally.  State employees and higher education faculty deserve raises, but fair is fair.
Unlike the House, the Senate provides funding for the 2% increase in the first year.  If revenues improve, we can seek to amend the budget next year to provide increases in the second year of the biennium.

We prefer the Senate Approach on Teacher Salaries.

The budget is complex, and we will continue our analysis with an eye to VRS, At-Risk Add-on funding,  and distribution methods.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Quick and Dirty on the House and Senate Budgets Presented Today

As we look at the budget bills we need to acknowledge what the House Appropriations Committee’s Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee Chairman Jimmie Massie said as he presented his subcommittee report, “JLARC reports that when we factor in inflation that we are 13% behind 2009 levels in per-pupil funding for our schools.  While we are making great strides to restore the funds, we are not there yet.”

The good news today is that neither chamber significantly decreases the level of public education funding provided in the Governor's introduced budget.  Let me offer a very high level view of the House and Senate proposals.

Please remember that state funding for teacher salaries helps localities give raises.

SALARY

House
State workers             3% first year, 1% second year
College Faculty           3% first year
Teachers                     2% second year beginning 7/10/17, but school boards can get credit for the matching state funds if they give a raise in the first year
Senate
State Workers             2% in the first year beginning 12/16
College Faculty           2% in the first year beginning 12/16
Teachers                     2% in the first year beginning 12/16

The Senate plan is advantageous to teachers as they are treated in an equitable manner, and as VEA can seek a budget amendment in the next session to provide a salary increase in the second year of the biennium.

PER PUPIL FUNDING

House
FY16-17                     $5299             FY17-18         $5499
Senate
FY16-17                     $5284             FY17-18         $5461

Total Direct Aid to Localities

House
FY16-17         $6,600,838,697                    FY17-18         $6,888,926,634
Senate
FY16-17        $6,581,841,743                     FY17-18         $6,840,596,023


Carol Donohue will be providing detailed budget analysis in the days ahead.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Fat Lady Has Not Sung, But Is She Warming Up?



There are three remaining pieces of legislation regarding the transfer the power to approve charter schools from local school boards to the State Board of Education:

HB3 (Del. Robert B. Bell) provides for a referendum on the November 8, 2016, ballot to approve or reject an amendment to grant the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools.

HJ1 (Del. Robert B. Bell) Grants the Board of Education authority to establish charter schools.  This provides the wording of the Constitutional Amendment.

SB734 Subject to the results of a voter referendum on a related constitutional amendment, the bill permits the Board of Education to grant a charter application previously denied by the local school board.

HB3 and HJ1 should both be heard in the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections Tuesday.  The committee meets at 4 PM.  Should HB3 and HJ1 fail to report, SB734 is rendered meaningless, as it contains an enactment clause requiring that the Constitutional Amendment  called for in HB3 and HJ1 is approved by the voters.  If HB3 and HJ1 fail, that question will not be on the ballot.

The House Education Committee’s  Education Innovation Subcommittee will take up SB734 at 7:30 on Monday morning.  A very similar bill, Del. Lingamfelter’s HB565, made it all the way to the House floor where he re-referred the bill back to the House Education Committee which he knew would not meet again before Crossover.  I suspect that either Lingamfelter sensed that he did not have the votes for passage, or he was disappointed that the bill was amended by Delegate Albo to require that either the state or the entity seeking the charter pay for the construction of the school if the state Board of Education approved the charter.  Delegate Albo plans to seek the same amendment to SB734 should it reach the House floor.


HB3 and HJ1 should both be heard in the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections Tuesday (P&E).  The committee meets at 4 PM.  The Senate already rejected the Senate Companions to these measures, SB588 and SJ6.  You will remember that SB588 failed on a tie vote.  SJ6 failed on a 19-Y 21-N vote.



We have reason to believe that the  valkyrie Brünnhilde may do her best rendition of Götterdämmerung on some time after 4 on Tuesday.  Your calls and emails to subcommittee and committee members may encourage the good Valkyrie to continue warming up.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

VEA FOIA Bill Advances/Budget Bills to be Presented on Sunday

House General Laws Subcommittee #2 took up VEA initiated SB564 sponsored by Senator Norment.  This is the bill to exclude school personnel licensure applications from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  Delegate Yost made the motion to report, and the bill reported unanimously.  We offer thanks to all subcommittee members who voted yes:  LeMunyon (Chairman), Anderson, Robinson, Yost, Minchew, Carr.  

Focus, rumors and speculation surround the developing House and Senate budget bills which will be presented on Sunday.  Please check this site on Sunday evening for a quick-and-dirty overview of the budget committee reports.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

SB660 Reports/Calls Needed

Senator Favola's SB660, which will protect teachers from nepotism and cronyism in the school board appointment of hearing officers for dismissal hearings, was reported from the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee this morning.  The vote was 5-Y 4-N.

YEAS--LeMunyon, LaRock, McClellan, Hester, Bagby--5.
NAYS--Bell, Richard P., Lingamfelter, Cole, Pogge--4.

 Delegate McClellan led the debate on our behalf, and Delegate Lingamfelter led the opposition.

This bill now goes to full committee where it should be taken up on Monday.


Calls to the full House Education Committee in support of SB660 would be most helpful at this time.  Click here to see contact information for the committee.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Two Wins/Two Loses/Two Heroes

In the final day for the House and Senate to act on their own bills, we lost two battles and won two.

The House passed HB8, Delegate Dickie Bell's Virtual School Bill, on a 58-Y 40-N vote. 

Delegate LaRock's HB389, the Parental Choice Savings Account Bill, also passed on a 53-Y 46-N vote.

We will be working to kill these two bills in the Senate after Crossover, midnight tonight.

Our wins were a bit anticlimactic, as both bills were pulled by their sponsors.  Delegate Lingamfelter, apparently aware that he did not have the votes, re-referred his Charter School bill, HB565, to the House Education Committee which will not meet again before Crossover.  This bill had been defeated yesterday, but was back before the House for reconsideration.  I imagine that Lingamfelter will seek to conform Senator Obenshains SB734 to his bill.  SB734 passed the Senate yesterday on a  21-Y 19-N party-line vote.  SB734 is the last chance to rewrite the charter sections of the Code in this session.

Finally, in the Senate, where the Republicans were without their majority for a day due to the absence of Senator Newman, Senator Obenshain pulled SB737, his bill to deny teachers, police and firefighters their ability to take leave for lobbying, conferences, conventions and other reasons.

The last chance to give the Virginia Board of Education the power to override local school boards by approving charter schools is the passage of H.J.R. 1 in the Senate after Crossover.  This resolution will next be considered in the Senate Privileges and Elections  Committee.  Our goal will be to kill the bill in Committee.


Regular readers will understand when I say that for the first half of the 2016 session, Senators Chafin and Hanger are the Profiles in Courage Award nominees.  Not the first time for Hanger.  VEA is very lucky to have friends on both sides of the aisle.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Charter School Constitutional Amendment Defeated in Senate, But It's Not Over

The floor calendars for both chambers, especially for the House, were thick today as we approach the legislative deadline for acting on legislation in the chamber of origin.

From an education perspective, charter schools dominated the debate.  The Senate took up the following two bills and one resolution required to amend the Constitution and to change the code to allow the state Board of Education to approve charter schools:

S.J.R. 6, the Constitutional amendment resolution failed on a 19-Y 21-N vote with Republican Senators Chafin and Hanger joining the 19 Democrats voting NO.

SB 588, the bill submitting the ballot question to the voters failed on a 20-Y 20-N vote.

SB 734, the implementation bill, went by for the day.

Here is the status of the companion bills in the House:

H.J.R. 1, the Constitutional amendment resolution passed Friday on a 52-Y 47-N on Friday.

HB 3, the bill submitting the ballot question to the voters passed on a 50-Y 48-N vote today.

HB 565 initially failed to pass the House 46-Y 53-N, but the House voted to reconsider, and the bill went by for the day.

So, H.J.R. 1, must pass the Senate for the Constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot in November.  I expect the final Senate vote to be late in the session.  The fat lady sings when the Senate rejects H.J.R. 1.


VEA initiated HB 524, Delegate LeMunyon's bill to protect professional growth indicators from FOIA requests, passed the House on a 98-Y 0-N  block vote.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Statewide Health Insurance Clears Senate/First Last Chance to Stop Charter School Constitutional Amendment

The Statewide Health Insurance bill, SB364, passed the Senate on a 39-Y 0-N vote.  Unlike other years, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Delegate Chris Jones, not only looks favorably on the bill – he has worked with Senators Chafin and Vogel, Delegate Kilgore and with Director of the Virginia Department of Human Resources  Sarah Wilson to craft the acceptable compromise.  This bill will provide the platform to build a plan for a statewide option for local school boards, local governments, and retired employees.  Optimism prevails regarding the prospects for this bill in the House.  VEA has been working for decades to make this happen.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The focus in the House was on the Charter School bills.  Most of the debate centered on HB565, the bill to implement the Constitutional Amendment, Delegate Rob Bell’s HJ1.  There is also HB3, the bill spelling out the actual question that will be on the ballot.  The question is as follows:
"Question: Shall Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to grant the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth, subject to criteria and conditions that may be prescribed by the General Assembly?"
Here is what the question should say if they wanted people to understand what's going down:
"Question:  Shall Section 5 of Article VIII of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to give the State Board of Education the authority to create charter school without the approval of local school boards?" 
The final votes on HB3 and HB565 have to occur by Tuesday, but the House voted on HJ1 today, and it narrowly passed on a 52-47 vote.  Thirteen Republicans joined all of the Democrats in opposition.

VEA thanks Delegates Sickles, McQuinn, McClellan and Albo for their contributions to the debate.  Delegate Albo was successful in amending the bill to require that if a new school must be built for a charter school approved by the state Board of Education, that the Board must designate that either the state or the entity seeking the charter school must pay for it.

At the point we must stop the identical constitutional amendment resolutions HJ1 and SJ6 in the Senate.  The Senate vote on SJ6 is pending, and the Senate vote on HJ1 will be after crossover.  Please contact your senator urging opposition to SJ6.

Click here for Senate contact information.  


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Busy Day at the GA

In a very disappointing, but not wholly unexpected development, the Senate Education and Health Committee reported SB734 on a straight party-linevote.  We had some indication that one or more Republicans would break from the fold, but that did not happen.

SB734 is the bill delineating how charter school applications will be handled if the constitutional amendment, SJR6, passes.

A final vote on the amendment is expected in the House of Friday, and the Senate vote could come at any time.

On the upside, VEA initiated SB564, Senator Norment’s bill to exclude records of an application for licensure or renewal of a license for teachers and other school personnel, including transcripts or other documents submitted in support of an application, from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act gained final passage in the Senate.  The vote was 40-Y 0-N.  Thanks, Tommy!

The House Appropriation Committee Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education reported both the LaRock voucher bill, HB389 and the Dickie Bell virtual school bill, HB8.  Both votes were 3-Y 2-N party line votes.

Long day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

VEA Bills Advance!

At this point a number of VEA bills are advancing, and we are having a positive impact on others. 

Yesterday, Senator Favola's SB660, the bill to ensure that nepotism is forbidden when grievance hearing officers are selected, passed the Senate on a 38-Y 2-N vote.

On yesterday as well, and with the help of Delegate Bulova and other members of the Innovation Subcommittee of the House Committee of Education, HB565 was amended at VEA's request to require that charter school teacher be employees of the school division rather than employees of the charter school.  VEA remains opposed to this bill, and the Charter School Constitutional Amendment.  HB565 was reported from the Committee on Education this morning on a 13-Y 9-N vote.

HB524, Delegate LeMunyon's VEA initiated bill to shield teacher professional growth indicators from FOIA requests, was reported on a unanimousvote, and now heads to the House floor.


This morning, VEA initiated bills to provide Statewide a statewide health insurance option to local school divisions, reported from the Senate Finance Committee on a unanimous vote.  Senator Vogel's SB384 was rolled into Senator Chafin's SB364, a substitute was adopted, and the bill is headed for the Senate floor on the uncontested calendar.  There will be a story to tell later regarding all the work that went into coming up with a compromise that has a chance of passing in the House.