Next week is the last full week before crossover. There is a lot of maneuvering and behind the scenes activity to get all of the bills ready to head over to the other body. We anticipate a very long week of committee meetings and floor sessions next week. Your VEA lobby team will be here fighting the good fight.
We will see the House and Senate budgets on February 5th. There is a lot of talk and activity on teacher and support staff salaries. We are being pulled into meetings with both sides of the aisle trying to figure out what the state can do for SOQ funded positions. Some of the rumors are not great. Throwing spare cash into a bucket and saying, “Here you go!” when the spare cash won’t cover the full cost of a salary increase, and without any requirement that school divisions actually get the cash to our school staff, doesn’t get us where we need to be. We need to keep the pressure on for state support for at least a 2% salary increase for all SOQ positions. Contact your legislators, tell your stories. Take action as a cyber lobbyist.
There are some updates on some concerning bills. Senator Stanley’s school discipline bills (SB995, 996, and 997) would put strict limits on a school’s ability to suspend. The bills all were all sent back for a second visit to subcommittee in an effort to gain compromise on the bill so that school divisions would have some flexibility to keep classrooms and schools safe. The bills were amended to limit long term suspensions to 90 days (current language is 364 days) and to allow suspensions to go beyond a grading period. The subcommittee also rethought the prohibition on suspensions in grades K-5 in SB997 and amended that bill to limit the suspensions to 5 days in those grades.
Schools need resources to help support the student behaviors that lead to suspensions. We need social workers, psychologists, Assistant Principals, In School Suspension monitors, additional instructional aides, more counselors, and more funding for alternative education programs and family support programs. Without the proper resources in the buildings and in the community, we do not serve all of our students well. The state should have an obligation to support our schools in this important work. Ignoring the lack of resources limits the fixes that should be available to change course on suspension rates in Virginia.
The House versions of the same bills are all up this afternoon. Delegate Bell’s HB1534, 1535, and 1536 are identical to the Senate bills and we anticipate the bills will look the same after sub today.
Happy Friday everyone. We will be very busy next week.