Saturday, February 23, 2019

We Have A Budget Report and They Will Adjourn Sine Die TODAY

Word got out late Friday night that the conferees had reached an agreement on the budget amendments. It was announced that the documents would be available at 10am today. After refreshing the site about 3,000 times, the documents became available at about 10:40am. We are still going through the details, but there is good news for K-12. Please keep in mind that these are AMENDMENTS to the already adopted 2018-2020 biennial budget. There are no cuts to K-12; everything in the amendments are increases to the adopted budget. There are reductions to the budget amendments proposed by the Governor in December, but, as I have written about in this blog, those reductions are based on the tax policy differences assumed in the Governor's proposal and what actually passed the General Assembly.

Here are some top lines from the budget amendments the House and Senate will adopt today before they adjourn:

  • Increase of $72.7 million to add state support for an additional 2% salary increase effective Sept. 1, two months shy of a full year. A compromise, but closer to the the July 1 date the House proposed than the December 1 date proposed by the Senate. 
  • Funds increase to the at-risk add on. This is a really big win from the pressure The Commonwealth Institute put on legislators.
  • Funds an additional $29.5 million per-pupil allocation from the lottery fund to school divisions as proposed by the Governor. Senate has stripped it, House proposed increasing even higher than Governor proposed, so the compromise was the Governor’s proposal. 
  • Comes up short on school counselors. The legislation from the Governor’s proposal has passed, but the budget amendment overrides the new code by establishing and funding different ratios. This is a terrible precedent. It also makes it true that the General Assembly is NOT fully funding the SOQs (assuming the Governor signs the legislation that passed, which he will as they were HIS bills.). Budget amendments only include an additional $12 million for counselors. The new SOQ needs $36 million. Here is the language included in the budget: That notwithstanding the provisions of § 22.1-253.13:2 of the Code of Virginia, as amended by this act, the ratio of the number of school counselors to the number of students as required by law shall be proportionate to the amount of funding for such school counselors as is included in a general appropriation act passed in 2019 by the General Assembly that becomes law.
  • There is $35 million for school construction. That put a squeeze on all the other spending. The House included $0 and the Senate had $70, so they split the difference, but that limited what they could do in the other areas (mainly counselors).


School Safety- good news

  • Increases funding for School resource officer (SROs) training.
  • Increases funding for training of school based threat assessment teams.
  • Funding for a threat assessment case management tool so that cases aren’t lost in transition between schools 
  • Funding for school safety training for all school personnel. 


So good news given that these are all increases to the K-12 2018-2020 budget. Had there been different tax policy decisions made by the General Assembly, there could be far broader investments. This as a HUGE lost opportunity in my opinion. I am hopeful that the increases in K-12 we saw in the 2018-2020 budget and these new increases represent a change in course that will repair the damage still facing our public school budgets after the recession. There is a very long way to go and there must be a commitment to a sustained, long-term plan to return state investments to pre-recession levels. That will simply fill the hole from the cuts.

From there we need to fund the SOQs to the levels adopted by the Board of Education. Next, there must be a state study of the classroom staffing standards and they need to be revised and fully funded to reflect prevailing practice and student need. There must be an increase to the state funding standard on salaries. That will not come with small buckets of state support given 2-3% at a time over 10 years. It comes through yearly increases, offsets to local spending with state investments, and a change in the mathematical calculation the state uses to determine the cost of salary prevailing practice. The state needs to fund their share of the true cost of teacher salaries. These changes will only come about when pressure is applied and we elect members of the House and Senate who are committed to fixing all of the problems with K-12 funding in Virginia. That needs to be the number one issue of the 2019 elections in VA.

While this short session has felt very long, we did good work for our pubic schools and had really, really good policy outcomes. We were able to kill some really bad bills by building a coalition of legislators from both parties who supported our positions. We have substantial increases to the adopted K-12 budget. We lobbied, marched, and rallied to put pressure on our legislators. We have a long way to go, but this session showed how you make it happen. We cannot watch from the sidelines. We must engage and fight for what our schools and our students need.

Let's get ready for November!





Thursday, February 21, 2019

Long Day on the Floor, ERA, Where Are the Budget Amendments?

Today the Speaker warned House members that they would have along day. He warned that they would be in and out all day as he considered many of the bills where there are differences between the versions passed by the House and the Senate. He wasn't kidding.

Also facing the House this morning was the Resolution submitted by Delegate Hala Ayala to force the House to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment. As you may know, the Senate passed the ERA back on January 15. For most of the session the House Committee that needed to hear the legislation before it could go to the floor, refused to put the bill on the docket. Finally the committee caved to the tremendous public pressure and heard the bill only to kill it on a 4-2 party line vote.

The Democratic House Caucus decided to force the vote by introducing a Resolution to change the rules of House and bring the ERA to the floor for a vote. If you have been following along, the rules change resolution needed to be read five times over five days. That happened and today the vote to change the rules and hear the ERA came to the floor for a vote. The Resolution to hear the ERA failed 50-50, in the House there is no tie break, motions fail. All of the Democrats and Delegate Yancey (who only won his last election when his name was pulled from a bowl) voted to take the ERA to the floor. All of the other Republicans voted to kill the resolution and end the ERA fight this session. The VEA supports the ERA as do 81% of Virginians. The advocates this session did an outstanding job, but the House is still the roadblock. Elections are in November.

We are still waiting to see the final budget amendments. We expect to see them 48 hours before legislators vote, so we expect them at some point tonight as the General Assembly is expected to adjourn on Saturday. As soon as we see them, we will get information out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Do Your Part- take Action on the Budget

All committee work is complete for this session so we turn all of our attention to the budget. There is no time to waste. Make your voice heard and take action on the VEA requests for the budget amendments and the VEA has an email action alert that makes it easy. Click here to send an email to all 14 budget conferees.

The VEA is asking for the following to be included in the final budget:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

If you are ready to call the conferees  please ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
· Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
· Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
· Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
· Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
· Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
· Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052


· Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043

Monday, February 18, 2019

VEA Initiated Teacher Reprimand Bill Passes! It's Headed to the Governor's Desk

This afternoon, House Bill 2325, patroned by Delegate Bob Thomas, crossed the final hurdle to passage. It passed the Senate 40-0 and will go to the Governor's desk for his signature. This is the bill that originated on the floor of VEA Convention last session from the Stafford Education Association. The bill will broaden the authority of the VA Board of Education when they are dealing with a licensed educator who is facing disciplinary procedures. Right now, the Board only has the authority to revoke or suspend a license regardless of the severity of the offense. Last year, the Board asked if they had something less punitive when they were dealing with one specific case. They didn't, so the local education association in Stafford started the process to change the law.

The New Business Item from Convention went to the VEA Legislative Committee where they directed the GR Director to find a patron and work to submit a bill. The SEA had already talked with Delegate Bob Thomas about the bill, and he was ready to go. A bill was drafted and the VEA worked closely with the patron all session to amend the bill to address some legislator's concerns and to keep all of the key voting members up to date with the contents of the bill and to answer any questions. We wanted to be sure we had the votes in every subcommittee and full committee meeting where the bill was headed. We made sure there were no surprises and no voting member of the committees had any questions. That was key to this bill's success. The biggest hurdle was in the House Education Subcommittee meeting back on January 25 where we had to take the bill by for a while to clean it up and amend it to get it through the sub. It was a tense afternoon. In the end, that single "no" vote we had in sub was the only "no" vote the bill received in the House or Senate. Delegate Thomas worked hard on this bill and the VEA  spoke with the key leadership in the Senate to make sure they were good with the bill. So while the vote looked easy, there was nothing easy about this bill. It took lots of work, many conversations, some amending, and then sitting down so it could quickly go through its final full committee last week. Sometimes when a bill is on a roll, it is important to recognize when you don't need to get up again and speak to it. Just let it go on its own merits and on all of the background work we had done.

This is a good bill. Congratulations to Delegate Thomas and to the Stafford Education Association for this one! Well done!

Conferees Start Work on Budget and Final Bills in Committee

The is the last week of session. All bills must be through the committee process by midnight tonight. The final bills the VEA is following were up in committee meeting today, and, since most of them were legislation tied to the budget, they passed out of the money committees. We will have to wait for the conference budget to see what is funded.

The conferees started their work this weekend on the budget. the VEA has an active call to action on the budget. Click here to send an email to all 14 budget conferees. The VEA is asking for the following to be included in the final budget:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

If you are ready to call the conferees  please ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052
·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043

Friday, February 15, 2019

Have You Taken Action on the Budget?

We are inching closer to all work on legislation being complete. The VEA only has a few bills left out there that are simply waiting to get to the floor. There is really only one that we are still working with the patron on. All of the others have had their final hearings. The last week of session (next week) is always dedicated to these final bills, but really only to budget.

Today the Governor signed the tax conformity bill. That was an important step towards completing the budget amendments, since this year tax policy changes really dictate the amount of future revenues the budget conferees have to work with. As I have described in this blog, the Governor assumed passage of certain tax policies in order to make the investment in K-12 he announced in December. The actual bill that passed doesn't go nearly as far in using the revenues for state investments. As we knew would happen in this circumstance, the budget conferees must make reductions to the Governor's INTRODUCED budget amendments. This is important. There are NO proposed reductions to the 2018-2020 biennial budget that passed last May. Items you are reading in your facebook feeds or in the news that talk about cuts to K-12 are comparing what the House and Senate budget amendments proposed compared to what the Governor budget amendments proposed. Don't get me wrong, the state still has the revenues to make significant increased investments over the adopted budget. They don't have the types of revenues the Governor assumed in his proposals, but they can certainly make the investments the VEA are calling on them to make. They are:

1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed to those students most in need and to school divisions with high concentrations of poverty.

Are you ready to take action? Click here to quickly send an email to the 14 members of the Budget Conference. If you are ready to call them all, ask for exactly what we list above. Here are there numbers in Richmond:

Senate Budget Conferees
· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503
·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524
·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532
·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535
·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523
·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515
·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507

House Budget Conferees
·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076
·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025
·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097
·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081
·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023
·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052
·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043






Thursday, February 14, 2019

Our Last Two Bills Move Forward, It's Budget Time

This morning the Senate Education and Health Committee unanimously reported (passed) the last two VEA initiated bills still making their way through the process. I have written extensively about these bills, so I won't go into a lot of detail here, but they are both important.

House Bill 2037,  from Delegate Jennifer Carroll-Foy, is our teacher Diversity bill that is a direct result of the recommendations from the first VEA Teachers of Color Summit. You can read about the details of the bill in my previous posts. It is a good and important bill. It will go to the floor of the Senate tomorrow and be up for final passage on Tuesday. Since it came out of the committee unanimously, it is considered an uncontested bill and should pass quickly. If you happen to be going to the VEA's Teachers of Color Summit this weekend, Delegate Carroll-Foy will be on site on Friday to talk about her bill and to be recognized for her work. I look forward to reporting soon that this bill has passed both the House and the Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk.

In the same committee this morning, House Bill 2325, from Delegate Bob Thomas, also passed unanimously and it headed to the uncontested calendar tomorrow on its road to final passage on Tuesday. This is the bill that came from last year's VEA Convention. This bill will broaden the authority of the VA Board of Education on license action. This bill gives the Board the ability to reprimand rather than just suspend or revoke a license. This is another important bill and we appreciate the hard work of our patron. He has done an outstanding job. Like HB2037, I look forward to reporting this bill's final passage on Tuesday.

As action on bills wraps up, all eyes turn to the budget. Both the House and Senate have named their members of the Budget Conference (called budget conferees) and it is time to let them know what we want to see included in the final version of the budget. We are demanding three things:

  1. $87.6 million to increase state support for salaries to a total of 5%. There must be funding for a full year, not for half a year as proposed in the House budget.
  2. $35.9 million to increase the number of school counselors funded by the state. This change would structurally change the funding formulas for school counselors and send more state dollars to every locality in Virginia.
  3. $35.6 million to increase the At-Risk Add On funding that is directed, on a per-pupil basis, to those students most in need.
We need to fill the budget conferee's email in boxes and their voicemail with messages. Sending an email is easy. Click here to quickly send an email to the budget conferees.

You can also call their Richmond offices. That takes a little more time, but it is very effective. Just ask for the three items above to be included in the final budget. Here are their phone numbers here at the General Assembly:

Senate Budget Conferees

· Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (804) 698-7503

·  Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.,  (804) 698-7524

·  Janet D. Howell  (804) 698-7532

·  Dick L. Saslaw  (804) 698-7535

·  Steve D. Newman  (804) 698-7523

·  Frank M. Ruff, Jr.  (804) 698-7515

·  Frank W. Wagner  (804) 698-7507



House Budget Conferees

·         Chris Jones (804) 698- 1076

·         Steve Landes (804) 698-1025

·         Chris Peace (804) 698-1097

·         Barry D. Knight (804) 698-1081

·         Scott Garrett  (804) 698-1023

·         Luke E. Torian (804) 698-1052

·         Mark D.Sickles (804) 698-1043