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 Spotsylvania 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 Spotsylvania 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 Spotsylvania 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



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Might This Be the Year King's Dominion Law Goes Down?

This afternoon Delegate Robinson's House Bill 1652 passed both bodies of the General Assembly. This is a school calendar bill. As you may know, Delegate Robinson has been trying for 8 years to pass a bill  that would repeal the King's Dominion law. This law requires school divisions to open after Labor Day unless they apply for and receive a waiver from the VA Board of Education to start earlier. Most school divisions in Virginia actually have a waiver, but basically the school divisions east of I-95 don't. Fairfax finally got a weather waiver last year, so most students in Virginia live in divisions that are able to set their own calendars and start before Labor Day. Today we finally got a bill to pass. I don't want to jinx it, as crazier things have happened, but as of today, all this bill needs is the Governor's signature, and the administration supports the bill.

This bill isn't perfect as it isn't a full repeal, but it does eliminate the need for any school division to get a waiver to start earlier. The hospitality and tourism lobby still have some control over this legislation, so a full repeal wasn't possible,

The bill is a bit complicated, but it protects every school division that currently has a waiver or is eligible for one and it allows all divisions to start before Labor Day. Here are the details:

  1. The first part of the bill covers any jurisdiction that has held a “legacy” Labor Day waiver  since 2011-2012. These jurisdictions would be able to open prior to Labor Day with no opening date restrictions or pre-Labor Day holiday requirements.
  2. The second part of the bill covers any jurisdiction holding a waiver this year.  These divisions would continue to be able to start prior to Labor Day with no opening date restriction, but would have to give a holiday on the Friday prior to Labor Day.
  3. The third part of the bill is the biggest change. It covers school divisions that don't have a waiver. They would be allowed to open no earlier than 14 days prior to Labor Day and have to give the pre-Labor Day Friday holiday.
So if your school division has started before Labor Day, you will see little or no changes. For those divisions that have been forced to start after Labor Day, they can now set their calendars to start school up to 14 days before Labor Day, no waiver needed, however they must give a 4 day Labor Day holiday.

Many school divisions have already set their calendars for next school year. This bill would become law on July 1, 2019, so some school divisions that now have the ability to start before Labor Day may decide to take another look at their calendars for the 2019-2020 school year. We need to be prepared for that. Some divisions that opened before Labor Day this year will need to adjust their calendars to include the Friday before Labor Day as a holiday. Again, we need to be prepared for that as well. 

The King's Dominion Law passed in 1985. We have been fighting it for years. Local school boards should be able to set their own calendars that work for their communities. This bill doesn't quite get us there, but it certainly puts the needs of our public schools and communities ahead of amusement parks. Thank you Delegate Robinson for your fight on this issue!


Delegate Helsel for the Win

Just to show you can never sit back and count your chickens at the General Assembly, I share the continuing saga of Senate Bill 1236. That is Senator DeSteph's bill that adds a definition of education employee association into law and directs local school boards how to interact with their employee associations. If you are keeping score, we have already killed the bill when Delegates Helsel and Collins voted with the Democrats to kill the bill on Monday. As we were preparing for the 8am House subcommittee meeting this morning we got a heads up that Senator DeSteph was planning to bring his bill back. In order to do that he would need to have a member of the committee who voted on the prevailing side ask for the bill to be heard again. The prevailing side were the folks who voted to kill the bill. We knew none of the Democrats would make that ask, so that left Helsel and Collins. Helsel was a solid no vote because he thought the bill was a mandate on local school boards and he, in general, opposes those bills. That left Delegate Collins.

Delegate Collins told me on Monday he hated the bill. I also let him know that the School Boards Association and the VEA tried to work with DeSteph on language we could support, and he rejected that effort. Collins told me, "You can't work with him." Delegate Collins actually wasn't present on the vote for the bill, but cast his no vote after the committee adjourned. Even with all that, he was the one that brought the bill back.

We knew that we had lost Collins as a NO vote so we knew we needed all 10 Democrats and Delegate Helsel present and voting when the bill came back. I actually had to chase down some members of the committee who got up to leave prior to the end of the meeting to tell them to stay in their seats. I even followed one member to the bathroom to hustle him back to his seat so no trickery could happen.

In the end, all the Democrats were in their seats and Delegate Helsel broke with his caucus to vote to kill the bill. The bill died, AGAIN, on an 11-11 vote. In the House, there is no tie breaker and that kills the bill. Last year Delegate Gordon Helsel was our Legislator of the Year for votes just like this. Today he continued to be a champion on public school issues. Last year he told me, "If School Boards, Superintendents, and teachers oppose a bill, how can I support it?" Today the School Boards, the Superintendents and the VEA opposed the bill, so Helsel held firm. 

This time the bill really is dead as the Chair of the House Education Committee said the committee has completed its work this session and there is no one left to bring the bill back. The fun never ends here. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review of the Proposed Budget Amendments to the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget

Hopefully you read the previous post so you know that during this session the General Assembly is only considering amendments to the adopted 2018-202 Biennial Budget. In order to understand the budget amendment proposals, you need to understand what is in the ADOPTED biennial budget. Here are some of the K-12 highlights from the biennial budget:

Salary Increase- State support for a 3% salary increase for all school employees that are funded through the Standards of Quality ($131 million). This increase is effective on July 1, 2019 and is for the full fiscal year. To offer flexibility to school divisions, they are eligible for the state funding if they give an average of a 3% salary increase over the course of the biennium. The current biennium covers the 2018-19 and the 2019-2020 school years. If your school division gives an average of a 3% salary increase between this school year and next school year, they will receive their share of state dollars for the increase.

Rebenchmarking to update the costs of the current SOQs ($477 million)- This appropriation is simply the updated costs of maintaining all the current programs funded by the state. This adds NO NEW PROGRAMS, it simply is an increase in state support to reflect the increase in costs. These dollars are "baked into" the amount of money each division receives in Direct Aid.

Increasing the At-Risk Add On ($7.1 million)- This is state funding is for programs to support students who meet the Federal definition of living in poverty. It is state money that is "added onto" the per pupil amount each school division receives. Every single division in the Commonwealth receives some At-Risk Add On money, but school divisions with high concentrations of poverty are the most positively impacted by this additional state funding.

***Again, everything above is in the adopted budget and there are no proposals on the table to decrease any of this funding. ***

Back to this session and the budget amendments that are being considered. Here is an overview of the key components adopted by the House and Senate. As you will see, they have real differences to work out in conference. If you don't know what that means, make sure you check out the first post of the day on the budget process:

The House of Delegates adopted key budget amendments to do the following:
Additional Salary Increase ($43.8 million)- This amendment is to fund an additional 2% increase (on top of the already adopted 3%) for 1/2 of FY2020. They added some flexibility language so that school divisions that can't afford the full 5% increase would still be eligible for state dollars so long as they gave increases over the course of the biennium. The VEA Budget Report explains all of this in detail and it is linked at the bottom of today's blog.

At-Risk Add On Funding ($0)- The House did not add any additional state funding to increase the at-risk add on over what is included in the biennial budget.

Increases the number of school counselors funded by the state ($35 million)- This proposal matches the Governor's proposal on permanent increases in state funding so that school divisions can hire more school counselors.

The Senate took some different approaches in their key budget amendments:
Additional Salary Increase ($87.6 million)- The Senate matches the Governor's proposal for an additional 2% (over the 3% in the adopted budget) in salary. This proposal is for a full year.

At-Risk Add On Funding (about $19 million)- This funding is to increase the amount of funding provided to school divisions for students who meet the Federal definition to levels ABOVE the adopted budget.

Changes to School Counselors  ($12.1 million )- This proposal decreases the counselor to student ratios somewhat, but not nearly to the extent the House version would. The Senate did include language to require school counselors spend 80% of their time on counseling duties (current requirement is 60%) but provided no funding mechanism to hire additional staff such as testing coordinators.

Want to know all the details and see where the VEA stands on the budget amendment  proposals being considered, please read the VEA's full report here.

As soon as the budget conferees are named, we will be putting out a cyberlobby action alert asking you to contact the conferees. Keep watching the VEA web site, facbook page, and twitter for that. A link to the action alert will also be included in this blog.