Friday, March 29, 2013

Veto Session: Act Now to Protect VEA Member's Jobs

Governor McDonnell has offered an amendment in the form of a substitute for SB 1324, the school takeover bill.  I’m sure you remember from the session, that this bill creates an Opportunity Educational Institution Board (OEIB) which takes over schools denied accreditation. 

According to the Governor’s plan, “The Board shall have the authority to directly operate schools supervised by the Board or contract with one or more individuals, governmental entities, or nonprofit entities to manage the day-to-day operations of any or all schools supervised by the Board, including providing direct services to students.” And this is most significant: the schools are not required to hire licensed teachers or include teachers in the Virginia Retirement System. You have to wonder why the Governor would hold lower standards for teachers serving Virginia students most in need.

What does the Governor’s substitute say about the teachers in the schools taken over by the OEIB?  “Any person employed in a school under the supervision of the Board may, at the time of transfer, choose to remain in the employ of the local school division of residence, and the school division shall retain, reassign, or dismiss such person ….”

So the teachers in the schools which are taken over may or may not be hired, may or may not be transferred, may or may not be retained, reassigned, or dismissed. AND if they are lucky enough to get a job, they may be employed by entities that are not required to offer VRS and other benefits.  There is no requirement that teachers receive the same pay.  If the Board contracts with another entity to provide services, it does not appear that the employees of that entity will have to be licensed.  (Incidentally, the Governor’s plan ensures that “Personnel of the Board shall be eligible for membership in the Virginia Retirement System and participation in all of the health and related insurance and other benefits, including premium conversion and flexible benefits, available to state employees as provided by law.”  These are the folks working in the new bureaucracy.)

Even if the teachers are employed by the OEI school, those teachers will have no grievance rights because they will be exempt from the Virginia Personnel Act.  In addition, there is no provision for what happens to those teachers once the school is returned to the local school board.  Teachers who are rehired by the school board would have to start their probationary periods all over again.

Teachers in other schools will lose their jobs as well.  The school takeover likely will trigger a reduction in force for the system.  The teachers in the school which is taken over have a contract with the school division and no place to go.  So teachers in other schools will likely fall victim.  The support personnel in these schools would likely lose their jobs as well.

There are many exemplary teachers who choose to teach in impoverished neighborhoods because they are so desperately needed.  With this in place, teachers are going to avoid underperforming schools like the plague.  These schools already have a hard time attracting and retaining teachers – this will exacerbate this problem to the disadvantage of poor children.

You’d think this idea came from some place like New Orleans, not from Virginia.  We’ll it did.

Governor McDonnell’s Opportunity Educational Institution (OEI) is based on the Recovery School District (RSD) plan implemented in Post Katrina Louisiana.  The plan was a reaction to the total destruction of many of the state’s schools and was funded in large part by the influx of federal funding that followed the disastrous hurricane.

The Commonwealth of Virginia, which as the fourth best schools in the nations, seems a most unlikely place to replicate a plan designed for a school system that was not one of our nation’s best performers before Katrina.

What is the track record of the RSD?  This entity was created in 2003 for the purpose of turning around underperforming schools.  There are currently 60 schools in Louisiana’s Recovery School District.  They give letter grades to schools in Louisiana.  The turnaround effort was a total failure in seven of the schools, so they are putting them under new governance.  Twenty-nine of the schools are still failing.  Sixteen of them were graded D, four C, four B and none received an A.

There are a host of reasons to oppose the Governor’s substitute for SB 1324, and his budget amendment number twelve, which funds this plan.   The main one being that this scheme did not improve the quality of education in Louisiana, and it won’t in Virginia.  There are no accountability provisions for the OEIB.  What happens if the OEIB does not help these schools, as has been the case in Louisiana?  The bill is silent in that regard.

Please click here, to send a message to your Senator urging him/her to vote against SB 1324S and budget amendment #12.

Click here to see Coalition Statement.