Sunday, February 12, 2012

Senate Letter and Some Observations

I know things look bleak at this point in the 2012 General Assembly Session, but we are two days before half-time, and on Tuesday evening all of the Senate bills will go to the House and vice versa. Clint Eastwood would say, “It’s halftime.” Or, as Yogi would have said, “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.” We can still kill some of these bad bills if we work together.

On Friday, I asked you to write your delegate, now is the time to write your senator. Do so by clicking here. The letter appears at the bottom of this post.

During Friday’s debate on the teacher contract bill, Delegate Bobby Orrock (R) of Caroline County said, "I've had at least two instances where I had administrators that I got a little crossways with," said Orrock, who currently teaches at Spotsylvania High School. "But because I was doing my job, they couldn't get rid of me summarily. Although those two tried their best." Bobby offered insight into the real world of a teacher, and we thank him for that!

Click here to check out the article in the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star.

Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D) from Richmond wrote an op-ed piece on the same topic in this morning’s RTD. Check it out!

Interestingly, the RTD also came out against the Tebow bill in the lead editorial:

“A proposal to let home-schooled children compete on public-school sports teams — the so-called Tim Tebow bill — is gaining momentum. It shouldn't. Home-schooling parents deserve respect and admiration. But they should not get to pick and choose which aspects of public education their children will join. Rather, they should look to private-school athletic associations if their children want to participate in team sports.”

Here’s the letter to the Senate:

As we move into the press of the final days before Crossover, you will be considering a number of bills which will have a great impact on the ability of our Commonwealth to attract and retain high quality teaching personnel.

It is important that you consider some key facts regarding the teacher workforce as you make your decisions regarding these bills. According to the Virginia Department of Education in 2010-2011 we had 98,792 teachers. We have an 8.9% turnover rate. That means we need to hire 8,694 teachers per year. Virginia teacher preparation programs at our colleges and universities are producing 3,247 teachers per year. Clearly, we must position the Commonwealth to attract future teachers from out of state.

Three bills before you will diminish our ability to recruit the best and brightest young teachers to Virginia, and I urge you to oppose these bills:

SB 438 will deny future teachers and principals a fair dismissal policy. All other state and local government employees will retain fair dismissal procedures, and all of our neighboring states offer fair dismissal policies to teachers.

SB 498 proposes a hybrid DB/DC plan for new hires. This ill-advised plan makes it harder to recruit and retain quality teachers by not providing competitive benefits and does not allow educators to retire with sufficient retirement income, unless they work almost 40 years and save at a high rate in their personal accounts. The bill Increases administrative costs by over $1 million dollars and saves the state, in the best case scenario, less than $75 million over twenty years.

SB 241, a tuition tax credit proposal, will reduce future funding increases, according to the Fiscal Impact Statement. The FIS says, “To the extent that this legislation is successful, it will result in future funding increases being less for public education than would otherwise be the case.” This is not the time to create the new entitlement of paying private school tuitions at taxpayer expense. Our efforts should be devoted to improving the public schools attended by 94.8% of Virginia’s children.

I wish you wisdom, patience, and endurance in these grueling days prior to Crossover.