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