Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No Vote in the Senate Today

It looks like the deal you read about on the budget has fallen apart. The Senate will come back next week to look at any new amendments. So we continue to be on hold until May 29 at noon.

The games in the Senate continue. They had one job.

And They Have Recessed

So many different options are being played out on the floor of the Senate. They have recessed until 5pm. The Rules Committee is meeting during recess. We are hearing that they are determining when they can call for the Senate Finance Committee to meet. Is the budget compromise falling apart?

Keep in mind all of the details of the budget compromise are published on the House Appropriations web site. Would the Senate really back out of a compromise that includes teacher raises, state employee raises, investments in programs for at-risk students, investments in teacher education programs and programs to support teacher diversity? Maybe....

They Have Convened

In the last 45 minutes while we were waiting for the Senate there was all sorts of drama in the Capitol. The rumors are flying as to what might happen today. They are on the floor. What will they do?

Budget Watch Post #1

Spent the morning talking with members of the Virginia Senate trying to figure out the path to a Senate budget. There was some thought that the Senate Finance Committee would meet this morning, but that didn't happen. We are now waiting for the Senate to convene. They have nothing on the calendar since the Committee didn't meet to take up the budget, so they may immediately recess once they gavel in, and either have the Finance Committee meet or maybe, go to the nuclear option. That option is a discharge of the Senate Finance Committee. It is a procedure very rarely used in the Commonwealth, but it would allow the budget to come to the floor without having to go through the Finance Committee.

General consensus is there are enough votes in the floor to pass the compromise budget that expands Medicaid and invests in Virginia. There aren't, currently, enough votes to get a budget out of the Finance Committee. We have been running vote numbers all day and without a massive play, the votes really aren't there. Each party caucused this afternoon and worked on their strategies. We will, hopefully, see what they have decided.

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to take up the compromise budget tomorrow. They have already posted a presentation on the budget and all the details of all the amendments. Assuming the Senate does something today, they will be ready.

The compromise budget is good for K-12. You can see the details here.

I will post as the day goes on. Right now the Senate is almost 30 minutes past their announced convene time.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Budget Rumors and Games

It is now day 40 of the Special Session of the General Assembly. The Special Session was called for the sole purpose of completing work on a two-year state budget. Forty days and the Senate has yet to take action on any budget at all.

It is 34 days since the House of Delegates passed a bipartisan budget and sent it to the Senate for consideration. If it isn't clear where the roadblock is, let me paint it for you. It is the Republican Senate leadership. They continue to play games with our economy and play games with state, local, and school employees. Last week they played a game with us all when the Senate Finance Committee announced a meeting date and we all thought they might actually look at the House budget. They didn't. Instead they heard presentations on state revenues and on the differences between the House budget and the Senate budget (that doesn't really exist). Then they adjourned.

By the end of the week it was announced that the full Senate would come back on May 22 to continue working. In a hopeful sign, Speaker Kirk Cox has called the House back on May 23 just in case the Senate acts on something. Remember that in order to have a budget, it must be agreed to by both chambers. So each body must take up the other body's version of the budget before they come to an adopted budget.

Apparently even Speaker Cox and the Republican leadership in the House is not convinced the Senate isn't still playing games. In his press release Speaker Cox said, "The House of Delegates will reconvene on May 23rd at Noon to await action by the Senate of Virginia on House Bills 5001 and 5002. While it is still unclear exactly what action the Senate will take, we do expect to receive budget bills for the House to consider late Tuesday or early Wednesday. The House will act as quickly as possible as we look to finalize the state budget.”

So there is the reality of where we are, and the underground rumors that seem to be getting stronger.

Where we are: The fight is over Medicaid expansion in Virginia. That is the bottom line. The Governor and the House of Delegates both supported expanding Medicaid and investing the saved state revenues in public services, including schools and for teacher salaries.

The Senate has refused to budge on Medicaid and they continue to use state dollars for expenses that can be covered by Federal dollars. They also refuse to expand health care to the 400,000 Virginians who would become eligible under an expansion.

The Commonwealth's current fiscal year ends at midnight, June 30. If there is no budget by then, our state government will shut down. That won't happen, but the Senate Republicans know the closer to that date, the greater the pressure on everyone else to give up the fight. Keep in mind most local governments are required by law to have passed their budgets by April 1, and they have without real information on their level of state funding.

The rumors: There are meetings going on behind the scenes to get the Senate budget to a place where the House can easily agree to it. That would mean Medicaid expansion. There is no way the House Republicans, who have TWICE voted to expand, will back down now. They have risked far too much political capital. The Senate Finance Committee is meeting tomorrow, although no time has yet been set, to, one would hope, take up a budget. Senators Hanger and Wagner are now in the expansion corner with the 19 Senate Democrats, so once a budget gets to the floor, it will (should) pass.

If the budgets are similar, there won't be a conference to hammer out the differences, and we could have a biennial budget by Thursday or Friday. That's what I am hearing will happen, but, there have been too many games for me to completely buy this scenario. We must keep the pressure on our members of the Senate to expand Medicaid. The VEA has created an action alert urging the Senate to do what is right for Virginia. Click here to contact your Senator.

If the budgets are far enough apart that there isn't agreement, the bills will go to conference. That could drag all of this out for another week to ten days or more. Let's hope the latest rumors are true. Keep checking here for updates.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

And the Wait Continues

So far this week the Senate has come back to Richmond and the Senate Finance Committee has met. Yesterday, a series of Senate Finance Sub Committees even met. Sounds like progress? Don't fool yourself.

The Senate took no action on any budget. They are having "open dialogue" during subcommittee meetings and looking at member amendments (to a budget that doesn't yet exist). In a really "transparent" move yesterday, Senator Steve Newman, Chair of the K-12 Senate Finance Sub Committee asked that his committee meet to discuss "well intended items from members" that he "doubts we would do". After the they were gaveled in by the chair, they huddled around him, in private without the public able to hear anything, and killed amendments that some Senators wanted considered. Among the "well intended items" that he "doubts we will do" were two amendments to include teacher salary increases in the Senate budget. If you want to know what that "meeting" looked like, here it was.


Both Senator Dick Saslaw and Senator Janet Howell have submitted budget amendments to include state support for a 3% salary increase for teachers. Today the Washington Post is reporting Senator Saslaw's frustration with the entire process and his "nuclear option" for ending the stalemate. Washington Post subscribers can read the article here.

The Senate will come back n Monday, May 22. We will see what they do. Keep in mind the House adopted their budget on April 17. Also keep in mind that without a budget by midnight, June 30, Virginia's government will shut down. We won't have the House to blame. We won't have Senators like Dick Saslaw to blame. We will have a small handful of Republican members of the Senate to blame.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Will We Ever Have a Budget?

We are now closing in on the two month mark since the General Assembly adjourned without a budget. They reconvened nearly a month ago in a Special Session to take up the budget, and yet have only met a small handful of times. As of today, the House of Delegates has completed their part of the process and adopted a budget. Their budget had bipartisan support for expanding Medicaid in Virginia and using the saved state dollars to invest in vital public programs like our public schools and to give teachers a raise.

The House sent their budget to the VA Senate for consideration on April 17, but rather than meet to take up the House budget, Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and lead budget conferee, Senator Tommy Norment, joyfully sent the members of the Senate home to "go and enjoy a sarsaparilla." They have not come back to Richmond to take up any budget work and they have not yet proposed a budget of their own. These are all games being played by the Republican leadership in the Senate and these games put us all at risk.

The Senate will come back to Richmond on May 14 to look at the House budget... they say...but maybe not. The game goes on.

Virginia's current budget runs until midnight, June 30. If there is no budget before then, Virginia's government will shut down. The Senate Republicans will be the reason that happens if it does. Period. They have ignored the main function of their role as legislators- to take up and pass a budget.

When the Senate finally does take up a budget, it will go through the Committee process and have to proceed to the floor of the Senate. The Senate will, ultimately, pass a budget that does not match up to the House budget so it will have to go to conference. Keep in mind, the regular session ended when the budget conferees could not agree on Medicaid expansion.

Other than June 30, there is another big date to watch- May 22. If there is no budget by May 22, the Governor will not have an opportunity to amend the budget and call the General Assembly back to consider his amendments before our government will shut down. Senator Norment knows this. The word on the street is that he is marking time so that nothing passes before May 22. Games, my friends.

There are few people who work in this crazy environment that believe we won't get Medicaid expansion in Virginia this year. I believe legislators in the Senate will follow the lead of their colleagues in the House, but playing these games with Virginia's economy, that's unacceptable. Local governments are finalizing their budgets, as they are required to do by law, but with only "best guesses" about state funding. That is unacceptable. School divisions are holding off on teacher contracts for next school year because they don't know how much money will be allocated for K-12. That is unacceptable.

So while Senator Norment and his friends in the Virginia Senate sit back and sip a sarsaparilla and play games with Virginia's economy, lets remember that they are all up for election in 2019. Elections matter!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Veto Session and House Budget

Today is the reconvened session of the General Assembly where the House and the Senate meet to take up bills that have vetoed by the Governor and bills where the Governor made recommendations to the bills. This year the VEA had no veto requests. That is huge change. Last year we asked that the Governor veto six different pieces of legislation. Elections matter! We were able to kill all the really bad bills during session. That made today's veto session anti-climactic, but we will take that!

While today feels like a victory, not having to ask for vetoes is not the war we are trying to win. It is a battle for sure, but we have work to do. We need not only stop the bad stuff, but pass the really important bills and secure the funding necessary to meet our school's needs. So we celebrate today, but we get back to work tomorrow.

Here's why we need to work. Yesterday the House of Delegates passed biennial budget that expands Medicaid and invests in our public schools. They did this during the Special Session that is also going on- yes, two kinds of session at one time, fun.  The Senate has yet to take action on a any budget during Special Session. They are going to start that work this afternoon when the Senate Fiance Committee meets. The rumor is that we won't have a budget until mid-May. Of course, if the Governor makes any changes to that budget, they General Assembly would have to come back to take up those changes. The state government is funded through June 30, so they have "time" until we would have shut down the state government. A shut down won't happen at the state level. We will have a budget by then , but we will have to see if the bodies can agree on Medicaid. If they do, our public schools would receive an additional $169 million, so this is a big deal.

Time will tell.

Friday, April 13, 2018

House of Delegates Continues Pursuit of Medicaid Expansion

This morning the House of Delegates took the first steps in the new budget battle. The House Appropriations Committee took up HB5001 and HB5002 which are Governor Northam's proposed budget bills (HB5001 is the Caboose budget to wrap up FY2018, HB5002 is the Biennial Budget).

The House Appropriations Committee voted 16-5 to report the budget bill with amendments. The important thing here is that the House has reported a budget bill that includes Medicaid expansion. That means we will see a floor vote in the House next week on their budget with a likely outcome that they will forward the Senate a budget with Medicaid expansion. Interestingly three members of the House Appropriations Committee changed their vote from the Medicaid expansion budget bill they considered in Committee during regular session. None of these flips ended up voting in favor of the budget on the floor, so these aren't lost votes, but still interesting in an otherwise uninteresting committee meeting.

Delegates Landes, Robinson, and Rush voted IN FAVOR of the House budget during session but against the new budget. All three were no votes on the final vote on the floor, so they clearly do not support Medicaid expansion. In the land of wonder and intrigue where my brain, sadly, goes during session, I am guessing they got some heat from their constituents on their inconsistency of position on expansion. I also think that there may have been some effort by at least one of these members to try to fence sit and appeal to both sides of the Medicaid fight with their split vote last time. Who knows. Regardless the House will, once again, consider a budget that expands Medicaid and INVESTS in VA!

Here is the vote from today's House Appropriations Committee. A "YES" vote was to expand Medicaid:
YEAS--Jones, S.C., Ingram, Peace, Knight, Garrett, Stolle, Pillion, Torian, Sickles, James, Carr, McQuinn, Aird, Tyler, Krizek, Bell, John J.--16.
NAYS--Landes, Poindexter, Rush, Robinson, Head--5.
ABSTENTIONS--0.
NOT VOTING--Hayes--1.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

They're Back- 2018 Special Session

The General Assembly convened today for the Special Session called for by Governor Northam. They adjourned on March 10 without a budget, so the Governor has called them back to complete their work. If you follow this blog you know that the Governor's proposed budget (which is now Northam's) included an expansion of Medicaid. During the regular session the House also adopted a budget that included Medicaid expansion; the VA Senate did not.

The resulting chasm between the House and Senate budgets was over $600 million. The budget conferees could not come to a compromise on that budget, so they adjourned without one. Since the regular session adjourned without taking action on the budget, as if right now, neither the House nor the Senate has a budget. They have to start over. A few weeks ago Governor Northam introduced his budget and, today, the House will take up that budget.

For you wonky procedural folks, the interesting thing with the Governor's budget is that during the regular session, the General Assembly was actually considering Governor McAuliffe's budget that he announced in December 2017 before Governor Northam's inauguration. Since they adjourned without a budget during the regular session, all of the budget bills were dead and the process had to start over. That allowed Governor Northam to introduce a budget last month. His budget was almost identical to Governor McAuliffe's budget with some minor changes.

The House will start working on the budget on Friday when the House Appropriations Committee meets to take up members' amendments to Northam's budget. They will reconvene on Tuesday, April 17 to vote on their budget.

The rumor is that the Senate is not going to take up the Governor's budget, and they will wait to take up whatever budget the House sends to them. If that is the case, and it certainly appears to be, the earliest the Senate will get the budget is April 17 and then they will have to start their committee work and floor action. It seems that there is still no agreement on the budgets, so they Senate will take a few days to go through their budget process and then budget conferees will be named. With that timeline it seems unlikely there will be an adopted budget before May 1.There is a whole lot of gamemanship going on here at the Capitol.

As you may have seen, there does seem to be some breaks in the Senate Republican Caucus on Medicaid expansion. Senator Frank Wagner and Senator Emmett Hanger have both stated their willingness to move Virginia to some form of expansion. There only needs to be one who breaks from the caucus on this, but no one has yet seemed willing to step completely out on his own. We will see as the budget battle continues.




Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Special Session and Details on Teacher Licensure Bill

This afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam issued a proclamation calling for the members of the Virginia House of  Delegates and the Virginia Senate to return for a Special Session of the General Assembly on April 11. The purpose of the Special Session is to take up and adopt a 2018-2020 budget. Hopefully the budget conferees are, once again, working and we will have a budget that INVESTS in Virginia and gives educators a raise!! Keep checking here for updates!

I have been getting many questions on the Teacher Licensure bill and wanted to share some details. The bill passed and is on the Governor's desk. Any legislation he signs (and he will sign this one) becomes law effective July 1 of the year of passage. BUT... this bill requires that the Board of Education establish regulations on the license, so I would guess that the 10 year license will become effective in 2019, but we will keep you updated as we work with the BOE.

We do expect the fee on the 10 year license to go to $50 to reflect the doubling of the length of the license. The Department of Education indicated that they would need to do that to keep the bill fiscally neutral, but, again, the BOE will establish all of the regulations including fees.

The bill requires the BOE to establish the number of Professional Development points that will be required. For a 5 year license you are required to have 180 PD points. The bill that passed says that the Board will determine the number of points, not to exceed 360. Again, we will work closely with the BOE as they create the regulations on the new licenses.

Keep in mind that all the "add on" requirements that the General Assembly has thrown onto license renewal will only have to completed every 10 years. That is important.

Some other changes coming to teacher licensure:

Provisional licenses are still for 3 years, but they can be extended by the BOE for up to two years at the request of the local superintendent so long as the provisional license holder is making progress towards meeting full license requirements and is an effective teacher. Many of our provisionally licensed teachers are new to teaching and, often, teaching in hard to staff schools. That makes completing all of the license requirements difficult for some. When they couldn't complete the requirements in three years, they could no longer teach. The possibility of extension will help those teachers and many of those schools.

Teachers with valid out of state licenses will have full reciprocity in Virginia. They will need to establish a file with the Department of Education that contains a full application, official transcripts and license information, but will not have to meet any of the other service requirements to be hired in Virginia. They will have to renew their license as required in Virginia when they license expires. This will be especially helpful to our military-educator families as they move into Virginia. The educator will be able to obtain their VA credentials much more quickly and be hired much more quickly.

Those are the biggest changes. When this bill was originally filed it allowed for the waiver of any license for anyone with "content knowledge" in any area. The VEA worked very hard to gain bipartisan support to strike that section of the bill. Our message that teachers should be licensed and that they should have content knowledge and a solid foundation in pedagogy, the science of teaching, was heard. The original bill also disadvantaged teacher candidates going through a traditional teacher prep program by eliminating the test requirements for provisionally licensed teachers. The VEA fought that as well, and that language is not in the bill. The VEA shed a bright light on the cultural biases in the PRAXIS test and that we should, perhaps, look at alternative ways to measure a teacher's preparedness to enter the classroom. We were firm, however, that we shouldn't offer a short cut for some until we look at the whole picture. Sadly, language to study just that issue was deleted from the bill to help eliminate fiscal impact, but we have highlighted this issue for the Governor and the Secretary of Education, so we are hopeful there will be good work in this lane during off-session.

If you hold a teaching license in Virginia, make sure you connect with the VEA to stay informed. We will be working with the Board of Education and the Department as they develop the regulations and we will be sending out communications as we learn more. As the professional license holder, make sure you know what your plan is and what requirements you need to meet.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sine Die... For Now

The gavel went down on the Regular Session of the General Assembly right before 2pm this afternoon. They adjourned Sine Die, which means with no future date or times set for their next meeting. That is usually the signal that the session is really over, but they adjourned without having adopted a 2018-2020 budget as they are required to do.Governor Northam will call them back for a Special Session to take up the budget. That date is not yet known or set, and it will depend on when the House and Senate Budget Conferees make headway on a compromise budget. There is some talk that may take well into April. We shall see. The VEA continues to put pressure on the Senate Conferees to expand Medicaid and invest in Virginia. Our cyber lobby alert has been updated. Even if you have already sent a message, please do so again. You can click here to send an email to the six Senate Conferees.

Work on Legislation is finished and there are a couple of exciting updates:

  • We protected our school librarians by working to defeat  SB261.
  • We round up the votes to pass HB1044 that will require every school division in Virginia to have policies on workplace bullying and employee protections.
  • We returned the 4 year education degree as a possibility as defined in SB76.
  • We limited expansion of back door vouchers by defeating SB172 and HB1165.
  • We were the only education association that supported SB229 that will require the DOE to develop and make available training for school bus personnel in assisting special education students. 
  • We worked with other education groups and our community colleges and higher education to clean up the dual enrollment process and build consistency in how those college credits, earned in high school, are honored. HB 3 makes positive changes to how those credits are gained and honored. 
  • We helped add recess to the instructional hour count in the elementary grades so that schools will have the time to allocate to this important part of the day.  SB273 and HB1419 establish this possibility. 
  • We protected the professionalism of teaching in HB1125 and SB349 that make some changes to the licensing process in the Commonwealth. We worked endlessly on that bill to make sure those sections that would have disadvantaged prospective teachers who go through a traditional teacher prep program and that would have allowed a local school division to hire non-licensed teachers were not included in the final bill. 
  • We worked with the Virginia Superintendents Association and the Virginia School Boards Association to change teacher licenses from 5 years to 10 years to limit the burden placed on our teachers to be in an constant state of license renewal. 


There is much more to report, but those are some of the highlights as I reflect on the session today just a few hours after the gavel went down. The work we did was good, but there is so much to do.

We must address the teacher shortage and teacher salaries through a sustained, long-term effort.
We must address the other issues that are causing our teachers and school employees to leave.
We must address the rising cost of health care and the burden that places on school employees.
We must do real work on the student debt problem in Virginia.
We must revise how we evaluate teachers in Virginia and use real measures of effectiveness, not test scores, when we evaluate.
We must fund the SOQs as revised by the Board of Education in 2016.
We must stop allowing "rebenchmarking" to be called a new investment in public schools. It is a technical funding update that changes NOTHING on the ground, it only reflects updated costs to our current programs.

So we have much to do. Start today. Contact the Senate Budget Conferees. Engage in your local association. Make yourself a vital voice to your School Board and Board of Supervisors or City Councils. VOTE! Do not wait for someone else to act on your behalf. Be the pebble that creates that huge ripple in a quiet pond. We must all get to work. While this session was better than the last, there is much to do.

Sine die!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Over Time, Extra Innings...Name Your Sports Analogy, the Session Goes On

This 60 day session of the General Assembly will not end on Saturday. The money committees have announced that they have not reached agreement on the budget, and we must have a budget. Today the House and Senate are working on a plan on how to add time to session. 

Interestingly, there are two ways to do this. They can simply extend the session by a certain number of days to give them time to work out the budget and then vote on it. The other option is to adjourn, but not sine die, and ask the Governor to order a reconvened session. There are all sorts of nuances to both, but one of the issues is that they can't raise money while they are in session. So for some legislators who might be facing either a primary challenge or a tough race in 2019, they would like to build their reserves, and they prefer a reconvened session. Others want to stick it out until they finish, so extend the session. 

We should know by the morning what they decide to do, but there are rumors that the budget impasse is so bad, they might not be able to reach an agreement until April. That would make extending session suddenly seems ridiculous. 

As you all know, school divisions all over the Commonwealth are in budget development for the 2018-19 school year. Without knowing what the state appropriations to each division will be, this is tough work. School divisions will be left making best guesses over the next few weeks if the General Assembly can't figure this out. The two budgets are $169 million apart in funding for K-12, so there are very large implications to local budgets. I wouldn't be surprised to see some local school divisions have two different budgets ready to go depending on the outcome here in Richmond. Legislators take his very seriously and they know how much a delay in a budget impacts their constituents. 

So what can you do? Call the Senate budget conferees and let them know you want them to expand Medicaid and INVEST in Virginia. Here are the Senate budget conferees and their contact information: 
  • Senator Tommy Norment    (804) 698-7503
  • Senator Emmett Hanger      (804) 698-7525
  • Senator Janet Howell          (804) 698-7551
  • Senator Dick Saslaw           (804) 698-7535
  • Senator Frank Wagner        (804) 698-7507
  • Senator Frank Ruff             (804) 698-7515
You can also email them using our cyber lobbyist alert. Click here to email the conferees. 

More information on the Fat Lady and her song tomorrow. For now, I think she has plenty of time to rest her vocal chords. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Workplace Bully Bill Passes

Today the House accepted the Senate amendments on House Bill 1044. This bill requires every school division in the Commonwealth to adopt policies and procedures to educate school employees about bullying and to create a bully-free environment. The bill requires each school board to adopt policies that:

  1. Prohibit abusive work environments in the school division;
  2. Provide for the appropriate discipline of any school board employee who contributes to an abusive work environment; and 
  3. Prohibit retaliation or reprisal against a school board employee who alleges an abusive work environment or assists in the investigation of an allegation of an abusive work environment.

This bill was carried by Delegate Luke Torian from Prince William County. The VEA worked closely with the patron and the PWEA President, Riley O'Casey, traveled to Richmond to testify on the bill in the House Education Committee. A few session ago the VEA worked to pass legislation that added a definition of bullying to the Code and to require that school divisions implement policies to prohibit it. Unfortunately, the legislation did force school divisions to make changes to the Student Codes of  Conduct, but it did not translate into policies for school employee protection and healthy workplaces. This bill will now require school divisions to establish those policies.

I won't lie, when Delegate Torian send me a draft of his bill back in November, I loved it, but was worried about it getting very far. Delegate Torian carried this bill masterfully and, as he is known to do, worked with both sides of the aisle to get a bill that most could get behind. The VEA is grateful to Delegate Torian for patroning the bill and for working with us the whole way through.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously.

Here is the vote in the House to pass the bill:

YEAS--Adams, D.M., Aird, Austin, Ayala, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Carroll Foy, Carter, Convirs-Fowler, Delaney, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Gooditis, Guzman, Hayes, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hodges, Hope, Hurst, James, Jones, J.C., Jones, S.C., Keam, Knight, Krizek, Leftwich, Levine, Lopez, McQuinn, Miyares, Morefield, Mullin, Murphy, Peace, Plum, Price, Ransone, Rasoul, Reid, Rodman, Roem, Sickles, Simon, Stolle, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tran, Turpin, Tyler, VanValkenburg, Ward, Watts, Wilt, Yancey--62.

NAYS--Adams, L.R., Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Bloxom, Brewer, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Davis, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Hugo, Ingram, Kilgore, Landes, LaRock, Marshall, McGuire, O'Quinn, Orrock, Pillion, Pogge, Poindexter, Robinson, Rush, Thomas, Ware, Webert, Wright, Mr. Speaker--36.

ABSTENTIONS--0.
NOT VOTING--Kory, Lindsey--2.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

All Eyes on Budget

Committee work has wound down and all surviving bills are on the floor for debate. We are still following House Bill 1125 and Senate Bill 349 which are the teacher licensure bills. They will go to conference and we will see the compromise bill soon. Other than that, all eyes are on budget. As I have reported in this blog, the House and Senate budgets are over $650 million dollars apart. Below is an email that went out today from VEA President, Jim Livingston, about the budget. Please click on the links in his email to take action.


This message is sent to the VEA BOD, Local Presidents, All Virginia School Superintendents, the SVEA BOD, VEA HQ Staff, VEA UniServ Directors and the VEA-R Council.  Please share widely!

I know you have seen the news. The Virginia House of Delegates has expanded Medicaid in its proposed budget. This action lets Virginia draw down nearly $3.5 billion in Federal dollars to expand health care to thousands of Virginians and to cover the costs of other health care programs currently funded by the Commonwealth. That savings can be invested in vital programs like our public schools. The proposed House budget does exactly that. They invest in us!

The Senate, on the other hand, did not expand Medicaid, left the $3.5 billion on the table, and took a cuts approach to the Governor’s introduced budget. These cuts include significant cuts to K-12 including even the meager 2% salary increase at the very end of 2019 as proposed by Governor McAuliffe. 

We need to encourage the budget conferees to expand Medicaid and invest in Virginia. 

You can review the Commonwealth Institute's analysis of the House and Senate budgets here. I urge you to share it with your School Board, Board of Supervisors or City Council, and to everyone who cares about our public schools. This analysis includes a breakdown, by school division, of the state appropriation under each budget proposal. It is important to see what your local impact is with and without Medicaid expansion. 

I also urge you to take action as a cyber lobbyist. We have two different action alerts. One for the House Budget Conferees, and one for the Senate Budget Conferees. Please take action ON BOTH:

1. Click here to tell the Senate to expand Medicaid and invest in Virginia. 
2. Click here to tell the House conferees to stand strong and to fight for investments in our public schools. 

We are running out of time and we need to make our voices heard. Share this information with your local elected officials and contact the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate NOW! We must invest in Virginia and in our public schools!

Jim

Monday, March 5, 2018

Librarians Saved

In a 12-10 vote, the House Education Committee killed Senate Bill 261, the librarian bill. This bill would add flexibility to the staffing standards for school librarians in middle and high schools with more than 1,000 students.

The VEA has partnered with the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) to build opposition to the bill. Today, the bill came before the full House Education committee. As expected, the school boards and superintendents spoke in favor of the bill. VEA President, Jim Livingston, and the past president of the VAASL, Audrey Church, spoke eloquently in opposition to the bill. We had worked the members of the committee, so we thought we had the numbers, but until you see the final vote, you never know for sure. Here is the vote. The motion was to report (pass) the bill. A "nay" vote was to kill the bill.

YEAS--Landes, Bell, Richard P., Cole, Pogge, Robinson, Yancey, Davis, Leftwich, LaRock, McGuire--10.
NAYS--Helsel, Collins, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Bagby, Bourne, Boysko, Hurst, VanValkenburg, Turpin, Rodman--12.

We thank Delegates Helsel and Collins for breaking with the other Republicans to vote down the bill. This was a good fight, and legislators heard you all. Well done.

Here are President Livingston's statement to the House Education Committee:

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Jim Livingston, President of the Virginia Education Association. 
VEA opposes Senate Bill 261.

Librarians play a vital role in our middle and high schools. They do everything from serving as literacy coaches, to serving as student research coordinators, to supporting teachers in lesson development. No one will tell you that librarians aren’t vital to student success. We all agree on that, yet this bill and its proponents, will say that this bill will simply create “flexibility” for school divisions to hire other staff INSTEAD of librarians.

We believe that the staffing standards identified by the Board of Education in the Standards of Quality (SOQs) are important for consistency across all divisions and to maintain our high-quality system of public education. These standards help level the field for all the public-school students in the Commonwealth regardless of zip code, or the locality’s ability to pay.

School librarians play invaluable roles in our schools, and their skill sets are unique. Every middle and high school in Virginia deserves the benefit of having a fully staffed school library. When flexibility is offered to school divisions on staffing ratios identified in the SOQs, it begins (or magnifies) inequities in our divisions.

Those school divisions who financially can still pay for two school librarians will, because they see them as a vital resource to school literacy and higher standards. Those same school divisions will still find a way to hire resource teachers if they feel they need them to support other content areas. School divisions that can’t fill this gap, won’t, and those schools will be at a disadvantage.

We see this in other areas of the SOQ when schools are given flexibility on staffing levels. Currently school divisions have flexibility on a whole list of positions including technology resource teachers, elementary resource teachers, Prevention, intervention, and remediation teachers, English as a second language teachers, and gifted and talented teachers. This flexibility had lead to inequities in these resources to our students.

In their revisions of the SOQs in 2016, the Board of Education recommended reversing the staffing flexibility established during the depths of the recession. In their adopted revisions to the SOQs, they said,

“Because the SOQ was established to ensure a minimum level of quality among school divisions in the commonwealth, these flexibility provisions should be eliminated to ensure that these positions are provided.”

The VEA supports the staffing ratios and we are fearful that, like the other areas where school divisions have been granted flexibility, Virginia’s inequities will continue to grow.

The VEA asks that you vote NO on this bill.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Contact the Budget Conferees NOW

We are at the point in session where all eyes turn to the budget. This year the House and Senate budgets are further apart then they have been in recent memory. There must be a budget, so they will need to figure out a compromise. In the General Assembly, this process is called "Conference". Any bill, including the budget, on which there is disagreement is sent to a conference committee made up of an equal number of legislators from each body, and they figure it out. The budget conferees have been named.

Here they are:
Senate: Senator Norment, Senator Hanger, Senator Saslaw, Senator Howell (the only woman on either side, by the way), Senator Newman, Senator Ruff, and Senator Wagner.

House: Delegate Chris Jones, Delegate Peace, Delegate Knight, Delegate Garrett, Delegate Torian (the only member of color from either side, by the way), and Delegate Sickles

Because the two sides are so far apart, we have created two different cyber lobbyist alerts. Please take action on BOTH of them.

Click here to contact the SENATE budget conferees AND click here to contact the HOUSE conferees. You MUST do BOTH!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Save Our Librarians- SB261 Is Up On Monday Morning

Today I am sharing the email that VEA President Jim Livingston sent out yesterday. We need to action NOW to protect our school librarians. Please see below for Jim's message:

This message is sent to the VEA BOD, all Local Presidents, the SVEA BOD, SVEA Chapter Presidents, UniServ Directors, UniServ Support Staff, All Headquarters Staff and the VEA-R Council.  Please circulate widely.


VOTE NO on SENATE BILL 261!!


The General Assembly has been considering a bill that would allow school divisions to have fewer librarians in our middle and high schools. Senate Bill 261 by Senator Sutterlein would give flexibility on the staffing requirement for school librarians established by the Standards of Quality. Currently any middle or high school with 1,000 or more students must have 2 school librarians.

School superintendents and school boards are asking that they be allowed to ONLY HAVE ONE librarian and then use the additional state money to hire either a media specialist or a resource teacher. This is a bad bill. We need to fully staff every school in the Commonwealth with their full complement of school librarians. Librarians are vital to student achievement and they play critical roles in our schools.

The bill has PASSED the Senate but hasn’t, yet, passed the House of Delegates. The bill will be heard in the House Education Committee on Monday, March 5 at 8:30am. We have just a few days to KILL THIS BILL but we need to bombard the members of the House Education Committee with phone calls and emails. Tell them to VOTE NO on Senate Bill 261!!

Click here to find a list of House Education Committee members along with their email addresses and phone numbers. I have also included information on the area of the state they represent. Don’t worry of you are not a constituent. These are the people who will decide if this bill goes to the floor if the House for passage. DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN.

Call or email these Delegate, ask your friends to do the same, share this information with everyone you can. We can stop this, but we must act NOW!

Jim

James (Jim) Livingston
President, Virginia Education Association
116 South 3rd Street
Richmond, Va  23219



Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Elections Matter, But So Do All of Our Friends of Public Education

This session started with a Democratic pick up in the House of 15 seats. That election result led to a complete shake up in the Chamber. Suddenly the Democrats, who only held 34 seats last session, had 49. The make up of almost every committee in the body changed dramatically with a more balanced number of Ds and Rs. But, the Democrats are still the minority on every committee and in the House overall (51-49), so we needed to count on some of our Republican friends to break with their caucus and vote to kill some really bad bills. Breaking with your caucus is far more difficult when you have such a narrow majority, but our friends did. This session, Delegates Tim Hugo, Robert Bloxom, and Gordon Helsel stood with us on bills that we were fighting, and their votes made the difference we needed. So while we are certainly grateful to our friends on the left side of the aisle, without bold votes by these three Republican delegates, our outcomes on these bills would have been different.

Some Bad Bills We Killed:
HB1286- This is Delegate Dave LaRock's annual attempt to create a voucher system in Virginia that would drain resources from our public schools and shift money to private and religious schools. This bill has passed the last three sessions only to be vetoed by Governor McAuliffe. This year was different. His bill came to the House Education Subcommittee where Delegate Helsel broke with the Republicans, and his vote killed the bill on a 4-4 vote. A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill:
YEAS--Bell, Richard P., Cole, Davis, Collins--4.
NAYS--Helsel, Tyler, Bulova, Bagby--4.
It was stunning! A bill that has passed the House and the Senate went down in subcommittee. Thank you Delegate Helsel!

HB1165 and SB172- These bills would have expanded eligibility of the families who could participate in Virginia's back door voucher system known as Educational Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The patrons championed these bills as a way to extend pre-school education to our under-served 4 year olds. That is not what these bills did. The bills would allow corporations or individuals to receive huge state tax credits for donations they make to scholarship programs at private and religious schools. These individuals can also claim a charitable donation in state income taxes and on their Federal income taxes- so a triple dip. These scholarships can be claimed by families with an income of no more than $74,300 to pay for pre-school. Lots of issues inside this bill, but ultimately the lost state revenue, in the form of tax credits, would have impacts on the state's ability to fund vital programs, including public education. Also the largest scholarship that could be claimed would in no means, pay the full costs of a high quality pre-school. The Washington Post recently called this program welfare for the middle class and a bailout for religious and private schools. We can always count on Delegates Hugo and Bloxom to vote against these bills, but his bill was tricky because of the focus on pre-school students. The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate, but the House Finance Committee killed it and the House version as well. Here are the votes of the Finance Committees on both bills:
SB172- A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Ware, Pogge, Orrock, Byron, Cole, Cline, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Brewer, Heretick--11.
NAYS--Hugo, Bloxom, Watts, Keam, Filler-Corn, Kory, Sullivan, Lindsey, Ayala, Jones, J.C., Carter--11.

HB1165- A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Ware, Pogge, Orrock, Byron, Cole, Cline, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Brewer, Heretick--11.
NAYS--Hugo, Bloxom, Watts, Keam, Filler-Corn, Kory, Sullivan, Lindsey, Ayala, Jones, J.C., Carter--11.
Thank you Delegate Hugo! Thank you Delegate Bloxom.

SB516- This bill is Senator Obenshain's annual attempt to expand charter schools in Virginia by taking the granting authority away from the local school board and giving it to a newly formed "Charter School Board". This bill passed last year and Governor McAuliffe vetoed the bill. This year there was writing on the wall, and the Senate Finance Committee actually carried the bill in to next year. So while it isn't dead, this committee passed the identical bill last year, so they realized the bill had no chance in the House.

HB496- This is Delegate Rob Bell's annual attempt to allow home schooled children to participate in the Virginia High School League activities. This bill has passed the House for years and, for a while, we could count on the Senate to kill the bill. For the last two sessions the bill has passed the General Assembly and was vetoed by Governor McAluliffe. This session, the bill came before the full House Education Committee where Delegate Helsel broke with his caucus as the only R to vote with all the Ds and the bill died. Everyone was shocked as this bill has passed the House for years. There was no Senate version of this bill, so we killed it early and didn't have to deal with it his session. A "Nay" vote was to kill the bill. The motion was to pass the bill, and, in a tie, the motion fails so the bill died.

YEAS--Landes, Bell, Richard P., Cole, Pogge, Robinson, Yancey, Davis, Leftwich, LaRock, Collins, McGuire--11.
NAYS--Helsel, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Bagby, Bourne, Boysko, Hurst, VanValkenburg, Turpin, Rodman--11.
Thank you, again, Delegate Helsel.

We must always remember that a true friend of public education can be from any political party. If we don't build our coalition with members in both parties, we get no where. This session proves that. We are very grateful to Delegate Hugo, Delegate Bloxom, and Delegate Helsel for being with us.

While we are talking about friends of public education I wanted to share the vote on the the House budget that expands Medicaid, which we know is good for Virginia, and allows for real investments in our public schools. Here is the vote to pass the House budget, a "Yay" vote was to expand Medicaid and adopt the budget.
YEAS--Adams, D.M., Aird, Austin, Ayala, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bloxom, Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Carroll Foy, Carter, Convirs-Fowler, Davis, Delaney, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Garrett, Gooditis, Guzman, Hayes, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hodges, Hope, Hurst, Ingram, James, Jones, J.C., Jones, S.C., Keam, Kilgore, Knight, Kory, Krizek, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, Marshall, McQuinn, Morefield, Mullin, Murphy, Peace, Pillion, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Reid, Rodman, Roem, Sickles, Simon, Stolle, Sullivan, Thomas, Torian, Toscano, Tran, Turpin, Tyler, VanValkenburg, Ward, Watts, Yancey, Mr. Speaker--68.
NAYS--Adams, L.R., Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Brewer, Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Fariss, Fowler, Freitas, Gilbert, Habeeb, Head, Hugo, Landes, LaRock, Leftwich, McGuire, Miyares, O'Quinn, Orrock, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright--32.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Bills We Followed- Where Are They Now?

Session is sprinting towards a finish, but with the House and Senate budgets over $650 million part, we are hearing rumors that the budget battle may extend session beyond the March 10 adjournment date. All work on bills other than budget is wrapping up, so this is a good time to go over some important bills we have followed.

VEA Initiated Bills:
SB456 and HB1119- These identical bills would require the Department of Education (DOE) to implement a school personnel climate survey. The estimated cost of implementing this survey was $300,000 over the biennium. Overall, members of the House ans Senate liked these bills a whole lot, but the House version was killed in Appropriations because they weren't prepared to fund it. The Senate passed the bill 39-0 (in fact it received not a single NO vote in the Senate at all), but the House has sent the bill to Appropriations to die. The bill has not yet been put on the docket, but it should be up on later this week. In good news, the Senate did include language in their budget to require the DOE to implement the survey with the resources they already have. If that language stays in the Conference budget, the DOE will have to implement the survey regardless of the bills passing.
Where are we: We have to wait for the budget.

HB624- A bill to allow state tax credits for educators of up to $250 on non-reimbursed classroom supplies they purchased. The bill had a $23 million fiscal impact.
Where are we: HB624 died in House Finance. A 'Yea" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Hugo, Pogge, Fariss, Bloxom, Ayala, Ware--6.
NAYS--Watts, Sullivan--2.
ABSTENTIONS--0.
NOT VOTING--Cline--1.

HB1501- This bill would have restored the original voting procedure to the SOL Innovation Committee and remove the current language that allows 4 legislators to override any vote of the 28 citizen-members on recommendations to make changes to SOL testing in VA.
Where are we: That bill died a painful death in the Speakers Rule's Committee. A "Yea" vote was to kill the bill.
YEAS--Cox, Gilbert, Landes, Kilgore, Ware, Jones, S.C., Orrock, Knight, Ingram, Habeeb, Hugo--11.
NAYS--Plum, Toscano, Carr, Ward, Torian, Bagby--6.

Teacher Evaluation Bill- This bill would have required the DOE to convene a work group to review and update Virginia's Teacher Evaluation Model to reflect the changes allowed by the passage of ESSA.
Where we are: The patron of the bill failed to file the necessary budget amendment by the due date, so the bill could not proceed. In fact, the bill never filed (although it was written) so it was never assigned a bill number.

Other Bills of Interest:
HB1125 and SB349- These bills became each chamber's omnibus bill on changes to teacher licensure. Both bills had very serious issues when they started and had very concerning language that would have allowed anyone to teach by making it very easy to get a teaching license or to allow waivers from even holding a license.
Where we are: The VEA worked very closely with the patron of the bills to get them to a place where they will do no harm. All of the really bad language was removed, including the "let anyone teach" section of the bills. The bills have conformed and, hopefully will not need to go to Conference. Basically the bill allows for full reciprocity for someone with an out of state, valid teaching license, allows for a 3-year provisional license to be extended by up to two years (one year at a time) by the Board of Ed upon the recommendation of the local superintendent and evidence of progress towards full licensure, and a change from a 5-year teaching license to a 10-year teaching license. The bill needs to pass the House and then go back to the Senate for adoption.

HB1600 and SB170- These bills change the definition of a long-term suspension (HB1600) and also limit any suspension in PK-3 to 3 days and prohibits expulsion in PK-3 (SB172).
Where are we: The VEA worked with the patrons and other groups to add flexibility to both bills so that local school boards have the ability to suspend beyond the days stipulated in the bills. These were important changes that we needed to see to get fully behind these bills. HB1600 passed the House 84-15 and the Senate 34-6. It will go the Governor's desk. SB170 passed the Senate 34-6 and just yesterday reported out of House Education Subcommittee 7-0. It will be heard tomorrow morning in the full House Ed Committee where we expect it to pass and head to the floor of the House for passage.

SB261- This bills adds permissive language in the staffing standards for middle and high school librarians that would allow local school divisions to hire fewer librarians. This has been a messy bill that has gained more and more heat the longer it lives. The bill barely passed the Senate after the patron was forced to make significant amendments just to get the floor votes it needed for passage.
Here is the Senate vote on passage, a "Yea" vote is to pass the bill:
YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Petersen, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner--22.
NAYS--Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton--17.
RULE 36--0.
NOT VOTING--Locke--1.

Where we are: The bill has picked up lots of push back and was assigned to the House Appropriations committee even though it has no fiscal impact. The bill has not yet been placed on the docket, but I expect it to show up later this week. It may never be put on a docket, which is another way to kill it. We will see. This one is very much still alive.

SB969- This bill sets into law how a student may earn a verified credit in Social Studies in order to graduate from high school in VA. The BOE recently made sweeping changes to how we teach (and test) our high school students so that they are better prepared for college or the workforce. The patron of this bill disagreed with what the BOE did and decided to write a bill to overrule them. The bill passed the Senate where the patron has a very high level of influence on education bills. In the House, they saw the light. The VEA lobbied hard against this bill and we had the votes to kill it in subcommittee. In fact, had the bill gotten out of subcommittee we had the votes to kill it in full committee, and had it gotten to the floor, we could have easily killed it there, too.
Where we are: The patron realized his bill was going to die a very quick death in subcommittee and he amended his bill to the point where he doesn't really like it anymore (he said that during testimony on the bill). The very amended bill passed the subcommittee 7-0 and will go to the full committee in the morning. The VEA still opposes the bill based on the over reach of the General Assembly over the Board of Education. We also learned yesterday the amended bill will cost almost one million dollars to implement and we feel that money could be far better utilized. The bill will have to go to Appropriations after it goes to the full Education Committee in the morning. We are working with Appropriations members to have them not fund (and kill) the bill.

Tomorrow I will walk you through the bad bills we were able to kill this session. Some of these bills have passed the General Assembly in years past and we've had to count on the Governor to veto them. Not this year since we are taking them down before they get very far. In fact, Governor Northam is starting to wonder if he will need his veto pen for any Education bills this session.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Voucher Expansion Dies

Today in House Finance, Senator Stanley's bill that would expand Virginia's back-door voucher program died when two Republicans broke with their caucus to kill the bill. Delegates Hugo and Bloxom, both of whom have consistently voted 100% with the VEA, voted against reporting the bill and the bill died. The same committee killed the House version of this bill earlier in session.

This bill would expand Virginia's Education Improvement Tuition Tax Credit program to include pre-school students who are not enrolled in pre-school or who are enrolled in private pre-school. This program allows individuals or corporations to make a donation to a scholarship program that provides money to students to attend private or religious schools. These donations come with huge tax breaks and credits. The bill  is a back door voucher bill. It offers a triple dip into our tax code by 1. allowing individuals or corporations to receive a very substantial state tax credit for the donation, 2. to claim the charitable donation on their state taxable income, and 3. to claim the charitable donation on their Federal income tax return as well. No matter how you try to slice it, when you give away tax credits, you loose revenue. So these credits will result in fewer dollars to invest in our public schools.

Also interesting in this bill is the position of the proponents who argue that these scholarships are designed to help families who live in poverty and to lift these students out of their circumstances and offer up money to pay for high-quality preschool. This bill, however, is designed for families who live at 300% of the poverty line, or $74,000. The scholarships also do not cover the costs of any high-quality preschool program, and most of the scholarships go to religious schools. So state money for "poor" families to send their child to religious schools. As The Washington Post reported last year, these types of programs are welfare for the middle class and a bail out for religious schools.

So we could lose up to $25 million of state money that would find it's way to private and religious schools via families that make $74,000 a year. How about we take that $25 million and make real investments in programs to expand real opportunities for our most at-risk students. Localities would love to expand their Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) slots, but can't because of the requirement of the local match to every state dollar. How about Virginia sends state money to the localities, without the required local match, to expand VPI. How about we use that $25 million to develop grants for our local school divisions that are implementing innovative programs to really target school readiness programs for our 4 year olds? There are so many more things we could do then offer tax credits to send kids to religious schools. Virginia can and must do better. 

I am wrapping up today with a report from the Senate floor. Sometimes you hear things from our elected officials that you have to make sure you heard correctly. It's important for me to share with you what some of our elected officials actually think about education. Today's floor debate was around a bill on dual language teachers. Senator Black asked to be recognized from the floor. His floor speeches are usually quite something and often lead you to scratch your head. So today Senator Black told the story of when he was in school and his story really shows how little he believes in the need for good instruction.

He told the story of the "Cubans" who were flocking to his neighborhood when he was in school. They would come to school and not get any instruction in English language; they would just sit silently in class and they were fine.  Day in day out, just sitting and sitting. And then, like magic, he described what would happen at the 6 month mark, "We'd come in one day and they could just speak English, they just picked it up." Pouf!! No instruction and they could speak English. It was that simple. Call it magic, call it a miracle, but that's honestly how Senator Black feels about teaching our English Language Learners.

So while Senator Black believes in magic when it comes to language acquisition, the bill that will support our dual language teachers with their ability to implement real instruction, passed. No magic needed!

And, yes, Senator Black voted against he bill.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Suspension Bills- Updates on Amendments and Substitutes

Once again this session we saw legislative efforts to reduce the numbers of suspensions and expulsions in our public schools. We can all agree that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Those of us who work in our public schools can also agree that resources (effective programs, professional development, and personnel) are needed to support the student behaviors that can lead to suspensions and expulsions.

Ten years ago this session, and in response to the Great Recession, the General Assembly placed an arbitrary cap on state funding for school support personnel that has not been reversed. These positions are vital to providing classroom support for students struggling with behavior issues. In 2016, the VA Board of Education adopted sweeping changes to the Standards of Quality to reflect the increasing demands on our schools by the ever-increasing challenges of our students. These recommendations included more guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, and psychologists, again, all vital to supporting our students' needs. And yet, the General Assembly has not yet taken up the recommendations or developed a plan to implement and fund them. Our schools and our students need these resources.

The education community had asked year after year for state funding for alternative education programs in the elementary grades. Currently the state provides NO FUNDING for these types of programs. Only about 30% of our school divisions are able to provide an alternative education program for our youngest students, and they do so entirely with local funding. This is another place where we have larger school divisions that are able to provide these types of programs, and smaller divisions that can't.  We have also asked for the state to increase funding for programs that have worked in VA. There is evidence that the Virginia Tiered System of Supports (VTSS), offered through the DOE is effective at reducing behavior issues at schools where it is fully implemented, yet the Senate budget cuts increases to VTSS funding. Professional development and school implementation of the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) model is also effective. And, yet state funding for that program has not expanded. We need resources, but they aren't coming, so the General Assembly is, instead, looking at legislative "fixes" to the problem.

Just like last year, there are  bills that would prohibit suspensions and expulsions in PK-3. No additional resources for our schools or classrooms; just stop their ability to suspend or expel. No question that would reduce the numbers, but schools need support, so we have, in past sessions, opposed these bills. This session, Senator Stanley carried the Senate version of the bill. He was very willing to work with all the stakeholders to get his bill to a place where we could all get behind it. He amended his bill to add 3 days, so that allows a student in PK-3 to be suspended for up to three day. The bill no longer prohibits suspensions. The other amendment he added was to give flexibility to the local school divisions to extend beyond the three days if there are extenuating circumstances. Here is the language in the amendment:

No student in preschool through grade three shall be suspended for more than three school days or expelled from attendance at school, unless (i) the offense involves physical harm or credible threat of physical harm to others or (ii) the local school board or the division superintendent or his designee finds that aggravating circumstances exist, as defined by the Department of Education. 

The education groups all believe that this amendment provides improvements to current practice while also offering enough flexibility to the local school divisions to make the best decisions to maintain safe learning environments for all students.

In the House, Delegate Bourne has HB1600 that would reduce long-tern suspensions from 364 days to 45 days. For all the reasons mentioned above, the education groups all opposed this bill. Delegate Bourne worked with all the stakeholders to amend his bill. In fact, his amendment language is similar to the amendment in Senator Stanley's bill. So HB1600 limits long-term suspensions to 45 days, but adds this amendment:

A long-term suspension may extend beyond a 45-school-day period but shall not exceed 364 calendar days if (i) the school board or division superintendent or his designee finds that aggravating circumstances exist, as defined by the local school board in a written policy, or (ii) the long-term suspension is preceded by another long-term suspension in the same school year.

We were grateful that the patrons and all the stakeholders could come to compromise language on this bill. We still need to fight for resources to support these behaviors, as nothing in these bills do that, but this is a good step and shows what we can accomplish when we all work together.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Contact Your Legislators NOW on Budget- Two Alerts

We have two active action alerts on budget. As you may know, both the Governor and the House of Delegates have expanded Medicaid in Virginia. By pulling down the $3.2 billion in Federal dollars, Virginia can expand health care coverage for thousands of Virginians. As if that wasn't enough, the expansion will allow us to use these Federal dollars to cover some of the Medicaid programs we are currently paying for with state revenues. That action frees up nearly $400 million in state money over the biennium. That money can be reallocated to vital state programs including our public schools. The Senate budget does not expand Medicaid and that decision forced them to make significant cuts to the Governor's budget and to vital public services.

Clearly, expanding Medicaid is good for Virginia and is just good business.

There are very distinct differences between the two budgets, but the House invests those Medicaid savings by adding more than $92 million in K-12 public education than the Governors proposed budget. The Senate, who failed to expand Medicaid, had to cut from the Governor's budget by more than $65 million in our public schools. That is a difference of more than $157 million between the two chambers' spending on K-12.

The biggest cut in the Senate budget was to the already meager 2% salary increase for teachers and support staff that was included at then very end of the biennial budget by the Governor. The Senate eliminated all salary action, period. Virginia's teacher salaries are already among the lowest in the country. Every legislator in the General Assembly admits we have a teacher shortage crisis in Virginia, yet they decided to cut even the smallest raise from their budget. That is unacceptable.

Click here to contact your member of the Virginia Senate and urge them to invest in Virginia by expanding medicaid. We can't afford not to .

The House of Delegates uses the state revenues freed up by the Federal Medicaid dollars to invest in our public schools. They EXPAND the raise for teachers and support staff for a whole year. They increase the Lottery fund by more than $91 million. These dollars go to school divisions on a per pupil basis and there is no local match required. School divisions can use this money as it best suits their students and schools.

The House of Delegates did the right thing. They made real investments in our schools, our teachers, and our support staff. We still have a long way to go, and we would like to see salary action in BOTH years of the biennium as we requested, but at least the House invests in us.

Click here to contact your member of the House of Delegates and tell thank thank you for making real investing in Virginia. Let them know that we stand strong with them. Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for Virginia and for our public schools.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Budget Details Are Coming

The details of the proposed House and Senate budgets are just coming out today.  Budgets are filled with money and language. Sometimes the committees will add language and no money. Both are important. These details always come out after Budget Sunday. The budget amendments adopted by the committees are called "half sheets" as each budget item (money and/or language) is on a 1/2 sheet of paper. They just came out an noon today and we are analyzing all the details and will have a full report later today or tomorrow. For now we know the budgets are $650 million apart. That is enormous.

The two budgets will go to conference which is a committee made up members of both the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. This conference is charged with developing a compromise budget. It has been a very long time since the budgets have been this far apart.

The VEA will be launching a campaign to encourage the conferees to expand Medicaid and to invest the state savings in public education. Be on the look out for a new cyber alert this week and push for phone calls next week. We are going to be strategic and targeted in our approach and will need your help. In the next couple of days there will be messages from VEA President, Jim Livingston, email alerts, and links in this blog. We need to spread the word and load up the email inboxes of our legislators on this issue.

Without expanding Medicaid there will be no choice but to maintain the drastic cuts included in the Senate budget. We cannot allow that to happen. So stay tuned... budget details and call to action are coming. Get ready!!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Senate CUTS, House INVESTS- Medicaid Battle Lines Drawn

Today the Money Committees (House Appropriations and Senate Finance) revealed their amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget. A Medicaid battle is now going to define the last few weeks of session. 

For context, thirty-two states and Washington, DC have expanded Medicaid. Virginia has not. While expanding Medicaid obviously requires us to cover more Virginians (which is a good thing) it comes with nearly $3.2 BILLION of Federal dollars to cover the costs and frees up $400 million in state dollars that we currently spend on programs that would be covered by the Federal government if we expand Medicaid.

The House, after a resounding election result in November with the pick up of 15 seats by Democrats, has agreed with Governor McAuliffe (in his budget) to expand Medicaid. The Republicans in the House have long argued that the Federal funding available to states under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not sustainable. Each year that Virginia does not expand Medicaid they leave nearly $3.2 billion of Federal money on the table. With Congress not repealing the ACA and the big pick up of Democrats on Election Day, the House Appropriations Committee finally decided to accept the expansion. Keep in mind the expansion will free up just over $400 million of state funding that we currently use to fund many Medicaid programs using state dollars. So the House had $400 million more to spend than the Senate. 

So what was the House able to do for our public schools with some of that additional revenue? 

The House EXTENDS the 2% salary increase for all SOQ funded positions from December 2019 as proposed by McAuliffe, to July 1. 

The House INCREASES the At-risk add on funding and add language that would allow that money to be used to hire more school counselors. 

The House INCREASES the amount of supplemental lottery fund. That money goes directly to the school divisions on a per pupil basis. There is no local match required, so school divisions really have the opportunity to spend it on the programs they need. Now, the House always plays a little Tom Foolery on this budget line by adding things to this "money with no strings" like the At-Risk Add on increase and changes to the SOQ on elementary school principals as recommended by the Board of Ed, but they did increase this money. Without Medicaid expansion, that doesn't happen. 

The House also INVESTS and targets money to the Virginia Pre-School Initiative, a platform issue for Governor Northam. 

The Senate Finance Committee did NOT include medicaid expansion in their budget, so they are looking at cutting Governor McAuliffe's introduced budget by at least the $400 million the expansion brings to Virginia. The VA Senate was not up for election in 2017, so, while they are aware of the results in the House, they are still separated from it, so they feel shielded by the public on this issue. 

So without Medicaid expansion, what does the Senate offer our public schools? They are required to provide technical updates to the cost of the Standards of Quality. This is rebenchmarking. Please remember rebenchmarking simply updates the cost to continue the programs we currently have in the Commonwealth. It does not change anything. No new programs or positions are funded through this money. It is NOT NEW MONEY. While it is an investment in K-12, it is required by law and does not show a new commitment to our public schools. Don't be fooled by the messaging of some of our legislators. 

The Senate REMOVES the 2% salary increase at the end of year two as proposed by Governor McAuliffe. No raises AT ALL  for two years.

The Senate CUTS $7.1 million to make sure every elementary school in the Commonwealth has a principal.

The Senate DOES NOT add guidance counselors. 

The Senate increases the At-Risk Add on ONLY IN THE SECOND YEAR.

Ultimately the two budgets will go to Conference and we will see if the House, shaken up by the 2017 elections, or the Senate, still a brick wall against expansion, will win. There is very limited middle ground on this front. These last few weeks of session will be eventful and those of us who voted in 2017 with the goal of expanding medicaid will need to take our fight to the VA Senate and stand with the House. 

Expand Medicaid and have an additional $400 million in Federal dollars to invest in Virginia as the House proposes, or stand with the Senate, stay the course, and leave the $3.2 billion in Federal dollars on the table forcing Virginia to take a cuts only approach? What will our legislators do? As Ralph Northam said on the campaign trail, "If someone told me they'd vote to leave $3.2 BILLION dollars on the table, I'd tell them they should have their head examined!" 

The doctor has spoken!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Final Push On Budget

The House and Senate will revel their budgets on Sunday. The VEA and our partners at The Commonwealth Institute both have action alerts on the At-Risk Add On. NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!!

The VEA Cyberlobby Action Alert is a direct ask to leadership on the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees (the Money Committees) to include an increase to the At-Risk Add On to their budget. You can click here to send a message directly to the leaders of the Money Committees through this alert.

The Commonwealth Institute and the Alliance for Virginia's Students/Legal Aid Justice Center is asking folks to directly call or email their member of the House and Senate to demand action on the At-Risk Add On. You can click here to do that.

Take the time to DO BOTH now!! Every single school division in the Commonwealth would see an increase in state funding if we increase the at-risk add on. This funding is directed to the schools and students that need additional resources and support. They need us to speak up for them.

There will be a Daily Report from the Money Committee meetings on Sunday with breaking news on the budget. Folks at the General Assembly have been keeping their budget plans close to the vest, so we aren't getting many clues on what to expect. Normally we do. Keep the pressure on.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Day After Tragedy

Yesterday was yet another school shooting.

It was the 18th school shooting this year.

The 18th.

This year is only 46 days old.

Eighteen school shootings in 46 days.

We cannot accept this as normal. Something must be done.

Today VEA member and 25-year teaching veteran, Delegate Cheryl Turpin spoke eloquently on the floor of the House about the events in Florida and about the lives lost. Click below to watch. Thank you Delegate Turpin for summing up how we all feel.








Wednesday, February 14, 2018

We Have Passed the Half-Way Mark


We have passed the half way point of the 2018 General Assembly session. It has been an interesting month to say the least. I am sad to report that that the VEA initiated bill on Tax Credits (HB624) and changes to the SOL Innovation Committee Voting (HB1501) both died before crossover. Sadly our House bill requiring a school climate survey (HB1119) died in the House Appropriations Committee unexpectedly on Friday. It was looking like it was going to pass and we were going to get the funding in the budget to make it happen, but the K-12 Appropriations Sub took it down. We do still have the Senate version of that bill (SB456) that passed 38-0, but it has been assigned to the Appropriations Committee in the House, so I fear it is being sent there to die. All is not lost, as there may still be an appropriation in the Senate budget for the survey and we can fight for that in budget conference.

The House and Senate will announce their budgets on Sunday, so we will know soon. We will also see what the House and Senate will do for teacher salaries. We expect something in the first year, but we will have to wait and see what they do and how they do it (I believe the House will look at using lottery revenues again, which is a terrible idea). We do have a cyber lobby alert out on increasing the At-Risk Add On Funding in the budget. You can click this link to take action.

There are 4 main bills we are watching closely. Two are the teacher licensure bills (HB1125/SB349). The VEA worked closely with the House patron (with Delegate Bulova doing our work) to make that a good bill. The Senate patron was not as willing to listen, but the bill isn’t terrible. Our main worry of allowing a local superintendent to waive license requirements if someone has “content knowledge” is no longer in either bill. That was our focus, frankly. Below you can see a side-by-side of the two bills so you can see the differences. The House bill puts a study component onto ABTEL (the BOE’s Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure) which is great. In case you didn’t know, the VEA has about 8-10 members on ABTEL and I serve as the VA PTA representative, so we have ABTEL stacked!!! These two bills will go to conference and I believe the House version will be the vehicle, but I will keep you updated.

The next bill that has gotten a lot of action and attention is SB261, the librarian bill. There is a whole lot of confusion about this bill and, from my perspective, it is getting more attention than any other bill right now. In its original form, SB261 would add permissive language to the SOQ staffing standard for school librarians. The current staffing standard requires two librarians for each 1,000 students in a middle or high school. The original bill would allow a school divisions to employ one librarian and one media specialist, resource teacher, instructional coach, personalized learning, lab facilitator, or content coordinator to satisfy the 2 for every 1,000 staffing requirement. The VEA opposed this bill. The patron, Senator Sutterlein, didn’t have the votes to get the bill off of the Senate floor, so he amended it to move it along. The amended bill still offers permissive flexibility on the 2 librarian for each 1,000 students in middle and high schools, but only allows for one librarian and either one media specialist or one resource teacher. The VEA still opposes this bill. The VEA supports the staffing standards in the SOQs and we know that when we offer flexibility to those standards, inequities develop for our students. For some reason there is a rumor that the VEA supports this bill. Please help me by sharing that we OPPOSE the bill. I have written about it at length in the Daily Reports, but that doesn’t seem to be getting the message out. This bill is on the Governor’s radar. His office is getting bombarded with calls from folks who oppose this bill.

The other troubling bill is SB969. This bill puts into law that every public school student must earn a verified credit in Social Studies to graduate. This verified credit is earned ONLY by passing an end-of-course SOL test. No division my use a performance based assessment (which is what the Board of Education established in their revised Standards of Accreditation on graduation requirements). The patron, Senator Steve Newman, did add some flexibility for students who can’t pass an SOL (special education and ELL) after he realized the issues with requiring the SOL as the only means to earn a verified credit and to graduate from high school for these student populations. What is very troubling in this bill is the overreach of the General Assembly to 1. Set graduation requirements and testing standards into law and 2. To undermine the Board of Education’s authority to set the Standards of Accreditation. Our concern isn’t about Social Studies, it is about the General Assembly using their authority to write laws to override the BOE. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly which really shows the power of Senator Newman in the K-12 world. We are hoping to kill it in the House. This one is going to take some work and some Republican friends to support our position. BTW all of the education groups oppose this bill. It is also on the Governor’s radar.

Teacher Licensure Comprehensive Bills - Comparison


HB 1125 (Landes)


SB 349 (Peake)
Regulations Governing Licensure:

·         Eliminates initial license technology proficiency requirement and for those seeking initial license or for any renewal eliminates PD in instructional methods to support SOL achievement

·         Local Superintendent may waive any applicable requirements in C or D new 2, 4, or 6 for person they seek to hire as a CTE teacher.

·         Increases the on-line teacher license from 5 years to 10 years
·         Provisional license grace period of one year to meet requirements in D new 1 (child abuse recognition), new 3 (CPR), new 6 (dyslexia)

Regulations Governing Licensure:

·         Eliminates initial license technology proficiency requirement and for those seeking initial license or for any renewal eliminates PD in instructional methods to support SOL achievement


·         Local Superintendent may waive any applicable requirements in C or D new 2, 4, or 6 for person they seek to hire as a CTE teacher.









·         Allows local superintendent to waive any requirements in C and D for a provisionally licensed teacher and they are eligible for renewable 5-year license so long as other requirements are met (no timeframes)

Reciprocity:

·         Full Reciprocity - individuals must establish a file at VA DOE; no testing requirements, no service requirements

Reciprocity:

·         Full Reciprocity - individuals must establish a file at VA DOE; no testing requirements, no service requirements

Alternative Routes to Licensure:

·         Board to establish alternative route for PK-6 and special ed general K-12. Must complete all assessments, and alternative program certification as established by the BOE

Alternative Routes to Licensure:

·         Board to establish alternative route for PK-6 and special ed general K-12. Must complete all assessments, and alternative program certification as established by the BOE



Licenses of teachers; provisional licenses; exceptions:

·         Provisional license extended for military deployed
·         Extension of provisional license by the BOE for at least one year, but up to two so long as certain requirements are met

Licenses of teachers; provisional licenses; exceptions:

·         Provisional license extended for military deployed
·         Extension of provisional license by the BOE for at least one year, but up to two so long as certain requirements are met

Waiver of Licensure CTE:


Waiver of Licensure CTE:

·         Increases local superintendent waiver from 1 to 3 years

Regulations governing education programs:

·         Establishes a 4-year Bachelor’s degree teacher education program

Regulations governing education programs:


Career and technical education; three-year licenses:

·         Issue 3-year license to those qualified to teach- increases from part-time to full-time
·         Mentor assigned increased from one year to two



Career and technical education; three-year licenses:






·         Moves hours of experience to a separate section, but maintains 4,000 hours of recent or relevant work experience, but lowers the years from 4 to 2
·         Virginia Communications and Literacy Assessment (VCLA) is optional

Renewable License Duration:

·         Increases current 5-year renewable license to 10 years with a requirement of 360 Professional Development (PD) points (which simply doubles the number to match the doubling of length of license).
Renewable License Duration:

ABTEL Study/Report:

·         Adds language tasking the Advisory Board on Teacher Education and Licensure (ABTEL) to study multiple components of the relationship between teacher licensure and teacher shortages and report to all by June 1, 2019.

ABTEL Study/Report: