Today is Cross Over Day! Each body has until midnight to complete action on all legislation that originated in that body. In the House that is 1,561 bills or resolutions; the Senate a slightly lighter load of 1,013. Let’s hope neither takes until Midnight!
The Senate passed their version of the long-term suspension bills this morning. Senator Stanley has been working with education groups to strike a compromise that will cut down on long-term suspensions in VA, but will also allow school divisions to keep other students and the school staff safe from the most egregious violations. SB995 passed the Senate 32-8 and SB997 passed 34-6. We are hopeful that Delegate Bell will feel the pressure to reach a good compromise on his similar bills that barely passed the House yesterday. That was always our goal. As I have said in previous posts, the VEA recognizes the need to bring down long-term suspension rates, and we look forward to continuing the work to bring the resources to our schools to support the student behaviors that, often times, lead to suspensions.
The Senate also took up the Virtual School Bill this morning. There was a floor substitute and the VEA was hopeful there would be a bill we could get behind. That is just not the case. Senator Petersen, who is still going to work with Senator Dunnavant on the bill, acknowledges that there are still issues with the bill. VEA believes that one of the biggest issues is the establishment of a separate Virtual School Board that is completely independent of the Board of Education. This Board would establish a virtual state-wide “school” that would receive all state and federal funding for each student enrolled. That funding and oversight system is flawed, and, unless that is changed, VEA will continue to oppose the bill. The VEA also has concerns about the quality and completion rates for full-time virtual schools. When state money is used, there should be a requirement of both indicators. A good report on the graduation rates of Virtual Schools can be found here:
The House passed two troubling bills, HB1605 and HB2342. HB1605 which is Delegate LaRock’s Educational Savings Account bill, is his annually-submitted voucher bill. This year the bill is very broadly written. The bill narrowly passed 49-47 with some good friends of public education voting with us by opposing the bill. The vote count is below. The Senate killed a more narrowly drawn version of this bill yesterday when Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam cast a tie-breaking NO vote. We will see what happens to LaRock’s bill as it makes its way through the Senate. Please thank your member of the House of Delegates for a NAY vote on HB1605.
HB 1605 Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts established. House: VOTE: PASSAGE (49-Y 47-N)
YEAS--Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Holcomb, Ingram, Jones, Landes, LaRock, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, Minchew, Miyares, Morris, O'Bannon, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Stolle, Villanueva, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Mr. Speaker--49.
NAYS--Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bloxom, Boysko, Bulova, Campbell, Carr, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, Hugo, James, Keam, Knight, Kory, Krizek, Leftwich, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, Loupassi, McQuinn, Miller, Mullin, Murphy, O'Quinn, Pillion, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Rush, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, Watts, Yancey, Yost--47.
NOT VOTING--Fariss, Kilgore, Morefield--3.
HB2342 is Delegate Landes’ Regional Charter School bill. He does try to thread a Constitutional needle with this bill, but he missed the mark. The VA Constitution grants the authority to establish and maintain public schools to the local governments, and this bill undermines that authority. The bill passed 55-42. The vote count for this bill is below. Please thank your member of the House of Delegates for a NAY vote on HB2342.
HB 2342 Public schools; Board of Education to establish regional charter school divisions.: House: VOTE: PASSAGE (55-Y 42-N)
YEAS--Adams, Albo, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Hodges, Holcomb, Ingram, Jones, Kilgore, Knight, Landes, LaRock, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Massie, Minchew, Miyares, Morris, O'Bannon, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Mr. Speaker--55.
NAYS--Aird, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bloxom, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, Hugo, James, Keam, Kory, Krizek, Leftwich, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, Marshall, R.G., McQuinn, Miller, Mullin, Murphy, O'Quinn, Pillion, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Watts, Yost--42.
NOT VOTING--Fariss, Morefield--2.
The very last bill the Senate considered before adjourning on crossover day was Senator Obenshain's Regional Charter School Bill, SB1283. This bill is identical to the bill that passed the House earlier in the day with the vote count above. The Senate is not as friendly to this type of bill. All day Senator Obenshain kept taking the bill by temporarily in an effort to get his 21 votes lined up. The VEA had conversations with Senator Hanger and Senator Chafin leading into the vote and we knew neither of them liked the bill. Ultimately, Senator Obenshain did a splendid job presenting his bill, and Senator Hanger voted against the bill. That should have been a 20-20 tie, but Senator Chap Petersen voted in favor and the bill passed 21-19.
Tomorrow morning each body will start debate on the bills that survived cross over. Many of the bills the VEA is following aren’t crossing over, but the bills we have left are important and we look forward to advocating for the good ones, and against the bad.