Friday, January 31, 2014

Update on the Progress on VEA Initiated Legislation

As we complete day 24 of the 60 day session, let’s look at where we stand in regard to VEA initiated legislation.

State share of a 6% salary increase for public school employees

Budget amendments have been submitted, and we’ll have to see what the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees include in their respective budgets when they report on February 16th.

House   Del. Chafin         136 11h Salary Supplement for Instructional and Support Positions

Year 1 - $241,300,000      Year 2 - $242,300,000

Senate Sen. Puckett      136 24s                 Teacher Compensation – 6% Increase

Year 1 - $241,336,885      Year 2 - $242,332,445

Repeal of A to F school grading

It appears that although repeal is unlikely, there will be a delay.  In the House Delegate Landes’ HB 1229 delays implementation for one year to allow time for the formation and work of a committee “to study, review, and make recommendations on the Board of Education’s implementation of the system ….”  In the Senate, Senator Miller’s SB 324 delays implementation for three years.  Both bills appear to be on the fast track, and they set up a conflict between House and Senate.  Will the resulting compromise be a two year delay?

Implementation of statewide health insurance option

It appeared that Delegate Yost’s HB 463 was on the road to easy passage, but questions regarding the fiscal impact of the bill have arisen, and it was sent to the House Appropriations where the fate of the measure is unsure. 
VRS fiscal impact statements to include impact on employees and retirees

Senator Hanger’s SB 420 passes the Senate 38 to 0, and there is reason to believe we can get this bill through the House.

Adherence to the General Assembly’s proposed phase-in contribution rates for the teacher plan to the VRS board-certified rates (79.69% funding effective July 1 2014, 89.84% effective July 1, 2016, and full funding by July 1, 2018)

The introduced budget adheres to the schedule, and there seems to be a true bi-partisan commitment to move in the right direction and properly fund the VRS pension system.

Amend the teacher dismissal grievance timeline to allow 10 rather than 5 days to file a grievance contesting the dismissal

Senator Favola’s SB 43 has passed the Senate 38-0, and Delegate Rust’s HB 977 passes the House 99-0.

Require local school boards to provide lactation support programs

Delegate McClellan’s HB 720 reported form subcommittee on a unanimous vote.

Amend the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia to make the 45-day reporting deadline mandatory and to allow the school board to return an accused teacher to the classroom if the school division’s investigation reveals that the teacher is not a threat to the well-being of students.

It appears that our chances of making progress on this issue are slim.  The delegate we were working with to introduce the bill did not do so, and the House did not amend the only legislative vehicle suitable for our amendment.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lactation Support Bill Reports, A-F Delayed, Labor Day Bills Report, Digital Divide Action Postponed

Long day!  First subcommittee meeting started at 7:30, and the last one ended at 7.
Let me discuss the last meeting first.  A VEA Legislative Agenda item, Delegate McClellan’s HB 720, reported on a 7-0 vote from the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of House Education.  Meg Gruber testified on VEA’s behalf, and  Sarah Anzelmo who teaches in Richmond spoke in support of the bill as well.  Del. Morrisey amended the bill to include students.  Thanks to Delegate McClellan!

In the Senate SB 465, which I discussed yesterday, went by for the day again.  Please call your Senator urging opposition (see yesterday’s post).
The House Education Subcommittee on Education Reform met at 7:30 this morning and took action on the Labor Day bills and the A-F bills.

On A-F, all bills were tabled except Chairman Landes’ HB1229, which delays implementation for one year to allow time for the formation and work of a committee “to study, review, and make recommendations on the Board of Education’s implementation of the system ….”
This action sets the stage for a battle between the Senate, which is supporting a 3 year delay, and the House, which is supporting a 1 year delay.

On the Labor Day issue, all bills except three were tabled.
Delegate Stolle’s HB 577 is a narrow bill allowing schools that have not achieved full accreditation to start prior to Labor Day.

The committee substitute for Delegate Robinson’s HB 610 was reported, and it is an interesting bill.  It returns calendar control to localities, but it offers a concession to the tourism industry by requiring that the Labor Day weekend be a four day weekend to encourage tourism.
The third bill reported was Subcommittee Chairman Greason’s bill, HB 333, which would allow local control of the school calendar.

The other substantive discussion was in regard to Delegate Kory’s HB 742 and Delegate Surovell’s HB 936.  These two bills, along with Delegate Taylor’s HB 1255, address the “digital divide.”  As school divisions shift to electronic texts, students without computers and internet access at home are at a distinct disadvantage as they try to complete homework and study.  These bills were carried over.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pretty Tricky?

When Senator Newman introduced SB 465, the summary of the bill said it would increase the number of years, from four to five, that a school must fail to meet the requirements to be rated fully accredited before the supervision of such school is transferred to the Opportunity Educational Institution (state take-over).
This did not grab VEA’s attention, as it actually would have reduced the number of schools subject to state take-over.

However, when you read the introduced bill, it said “Supervision of any school that has been denied accreditation for the previous two school years shall be transferred to the Opportunity Educational Institution.”

The language now in code says, “three school years.”  That's current law.
So, the summary does not appear to match the bill.  What's with that?

On Monday the Senate Committee on Education and Health amended the bill to make it “any school that has been denied accreditation.”  That makes it so that schools would be taken over after failing to gain accreditation for just one year, rather than three.  That would speed the process and increase the number of schools to be taken over.  The amended bill reported on a straightparty-line vote.  This was on the last day that the Republicans controlled the committee.

Today when the bill came up for a final vote in the Senate, Senator Newman asked that the bill go by for the day, and made vague mention to a need for some changes to the bill.

I urge you to call or email your Senator urging them to resist any amendments to SB 465 which will increase the number of schools subject to state take-over, to vote against SB 465, and to support efforts to “zero out” funds for OEI in the Senate budget.

 Click here for Senate contact information.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dems Take Senate and SOL REform

This day is notable for me for two reasons, and I'll add another.  My eldest daughter, who has brought immeasurable joy to my life, was born on this date 38 years ago.  On this date in 1986 the door of an elevator in the General Assembly building opened, Delegate Purkey stepped on and told me the Challenger had crashed.  I knew the Christa McCauliffe, who I had gotten to know through NEA, was on board.  And today, control of the Virginia Senate changed.  All on January 28th.

VEA’s successful efforts in the elections of Senators Lynwood Lewis and Jennifer Wexton resulted in a 20-20 tie and the Senate, and the VEA recommended Lieutenant Governor Northam is the tie breaker.  The take-over was tedious and contentious, and it took hours.  However, the result is a reshuffling of all the Senate Committees.  The most important to VEA are Senate Education and Health.  Below are the new committees.  Those removed are struck through and new members are in bold:

Senate Education and Health

Senate Finance

Colgan (Chairman), Stosch (had been chair), Howell, Saslaw, Norment, Hanger, Watkins, Marsh, Lucas, Ruff, Wagner, Edwards, Puckett, Puller, Deeds, Locke, McEachin, McDougle, Vogel, Carrico, Newman

On the House side, let’s look at what happened in the House Subcommittee on Education REform (I think we should all pronounce the word as they do in the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, with the stress on the first syllable.  Delegate Greason convened a meeting of the subcommittee for the purpose of discussing the 11 SOL REform bills before the subcommittee.  The meeting was for the purpose of discussing the topic of SOL REform, and no action was to be taken on the bills.   These bills fit into four categories:  expedited retake, data revision and release, reducing the number of tests, and substituting industry certifications for SOL tests.

In his introductory remarks, Delegate Greason indicated his three priorities:

 1.     Reduction in the number of tests from 34 to 25 or 26 to "give teachers breathing room" and to increase the time for instruction.  Greason emphasized that if we drop a science test, we will not be deemphasizing science instruction.

2.    Improve - that we should improve the quality of the tests to shift to more critical thinking, problem solving and application of knowledge.

3.    Evolve by implementing authentic assessment to replace SOL testing.   

The meeting afforded all of the stake-holder groups, including VEA President Meg Gruber, to discuss the bills.

The best tweet of the day was from Ashley Bauman:  “Well the #VASenateShowdown is still going on despite the impending doom of #Polarvortexx3. #Snowpocalypse

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lobby Day

Several hundred VEA members came to the Capitol today, and we thank them for lobbying in support of public education.

They came to Richmond when the weather was warmer and when VEA received a warmer reception from legislators.  Elections make a difference, and having a governor who sees teachers as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, makes a huge difference.  Republicans noticed that we backed 17 Republican House candidates, who are loyal supporters of public education, in November.  That proves what we have said all along, VEA is issue driven and party blind.  Stand up for public education and we will stand up for you.
Elections make a difference and we are reaping the benefit of your good work in the last election cycle.

Speaking of elections, VEA welcomed Senator Wexton to the Senate who recently won the election in the 33rd Senate District.  Her seat was vacated by Mark Herring when he was elected Attorney General.
One of VEA’s bills, Delegate Rust’s HB 977, which changes the time a teacher has to appeal dismissal from 5 to 10 business days, was reported from the House Education Committee on a 22-0 vote.
Rob Bell’s HB 63, which allows homeschooled students to participate in interscholastic programs (sports), was reported on a 13-8 vote.

Our chance on killing this bill on the Senate side improved when Lynwood Lewis prevailed in today’s recount.  As soon as he is seated, the Democrats will control the Senate, and it appears that the committees will be reconstituted.
For those folks who think their vote doesn’t matter, Lewis become a Senator because he had 11 move votes that Coleman.

The next days promise to be most interesting as we watch the senate and all its committees shift.  It is rumored that John Edwards will replace Steve Martin as chair of the Senate Education and Health Committee.  I don’t ever remember this happening mid-session.  This is going to be something to behold!

Friday, January 24, 2014

VEA Lobby Day

Monday is VEA Lobby Day.  It looks like the weather will be good – partly cloudy with a high of 48.  Plus it will be the first day in the Senate for the newly elected Jennifer Wexton of the 33rd Senate District, and the recount for the 6th Senate District should be completed.  We will know by day’s end whether the Republicans hold their majority, or the Democrats become the new majority party in the Senate.  Quite a day!
For those of you who are coming in for Lobby Day, you may wish to see in advance the message we will be asking you to take to the General Assembly as you meet with your legislators:

Lobby Day – Orders for the Day

                1.        Urge Support for the Salary Amendments
House   Del. Chafin         136 11h Salary Supplement for Instructional and Support Positions

Year 1 - $241,300,000      Year 2 - $242,300,000

Senate Sen. Puckett      136 24s                 Teacher Compensation – 6% Increase

Year 1 - $241,336,885      Year 2 - $242,332,445

                All Members

               2.       Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid Expansion will free up $1.3 billion dollars in General Fund dollars over the next 7 years, some of which can be used for funding our schools

·         33,000 additional Virginia jobs

·         Cover 191,000 uninsured Virginians

·         End the hidden tax – higher insurance premiums to pay for the uninsured

All Members

3.  Statewide Health Insurance

House Delegate Yost – HB 463 State health plan; participation by employees of local school divisions.

Moving to a statewide insurance option for local school divisions could save millions of dollars in the years ahead. These savings could be used to provide needed school funding. The Commonwealth would have much greater leverage in rate negotiations with insurance providers than any one of the 132 individual school divisions.  JLARC estimates savings of $44 to $66 million annually.

                All Members of the House

                4.       CPS Investigation Timeline (floor amendment required)

House Del. Gilbert – HB 709 Child abuse and neglect investigations; time for determination

Amend the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia to make the 45-day reporting deadline mandatory.  Non-compliance to the 45-day limit causes several problems:

·         Teachers are out of the classroom too long.

·         Local school divisions are paying both the teacher and the substitute.

·         Students are empowered to “take the teacher out.”

All Members of the House

5.  Lactation Support

House Del. McClellan – HB 720  School board policy, local; lactation support

In recognition of the well-documented health advantages of breastfeeding for infants and mothers, this bill requires local school divisions to provide a supportive environment to enable lactating employees "reasonable break times" and private, non-restroom locations to express their milk during the work day for the first year of the child's life.

           All Members of the House

            6.  Increase from 5 days to 10 days to request a dismissal hearing

House Del. Rust – HB 977 Teachers; extends deadline to request hearing after receiving notice of dismissal

Senate Sen. Favola – SB 43 Teachers; extends deadline to request hearing after receiving notice of dismissal

In passing revisions to the teacher dismissal policies, the General Assembly overreached by allowing only 5 days to file a dismissal grievance.  This brief window has the unintended consequence of causing teachers to file before having the opportunity for thoughtful reflection.  Previously, 15 days had been allowed.  VEA sees 10 days as a reasonable compromise.

All Members of the House                  Thank Senate – SB 43 passed 38-0

Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you Monday.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dead Peasant Insurance

If you asked me, “What has been your most riveting read of the session?” you might expect me to answer, “The McDonnell Indictment.”  However, you would be wrong.

There are companion bills before the General Assembly, Senator Reeves’ SB 385 and Delegate Morris’ HB 514, which we are calling the “Dead Peasant” bills.  The concept of these bills is bizarre, and the fiscal impact statement (FIS) for these bills is the most riveting read of the session.

The concept behind these bills is that an entity created by a Virginia locality or by the Virginia Retirement System would borrow money and use the money to purchase life insurance on employees.  The example provided to me by a lobbyist supporting the concept is that the employer would take out a $250,000 policy.  When the employee died, the entity would get $200,000 and the employee’s heirs would get $50,000.  The collective value of the policies held by the entities would offset the unfunded pension liability on the books of the state and localities.

I asked someone at NEA who works on pension issues on the national level for her reaction to the bill.  Her response was as follows:

 “HB 514 is an effort to sell what is referred to as ‘dead peasant insurance’ on the lives of state and local employees and retirees. Although the idea has been shopped around in many states, no state has taken advantage of this—everyone recognizes it's a bad idea except for the folks who stand to make a lot of money in commission, fees, or perhaps campaign contributions!  … I can't think of a worse vehicle to fund a state's pension fund obligations.”

The Virginia Retirement System is the state agency charged with writing the FIS on these bills, and they seem to concur with NEA.  VRS expressed, “Doubts as to whether profiting from the deaths of VRS members is good public policy.”  Ya think?

VRS pointed out that, “The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) adopted a policy statement opposing government owned life insurance intended to support state retirement funds.  The ACLI opposes these forms of investment as tantamount to ‘wagering on human life.’”

Coincidentally, I was recently reading about the history of the Mid-Lothian mines in Chesterfield County Virginia.  These were the first coal mines in North America.   The mine owners insured the lives of the slaves before sending into the mines.  Most of the mining fatalities were slaves, but fear not because their owners profited from their deaths.  I guess this fits in with that “Virginia way” folks around here keep talking about.  Could the actions of these slave owners have inspired these bills?

If this bill passes, we can probably anticipate an end to employee wellness programs, and be careful about drinking the coffee in the teacher’s lounge – poisoning the faculty could pay off big time.

For some reason, the VEA Legislative Committee decided to oppose these bills.  I guess they just don’t have a death wish.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nothing Stops the General Assembly

Despite the very cold morning and the lingering snow from last night, the General Assembly was running at full speed with the House Committee on Education Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education meeting at 8:30 this morning.

The House version of the Diabetes bill, Del. Cole’s HB 134, has been amended to remove its onerous impact on instructional personnel.  The bill, as reported today, allows diabetic students to carry a “appropriate short-term supply of carbohydrates and equipment for immediate treatment of high and low blood glucose levels, and to self-check blood glucose levels on a school bus, on school property, and at school sponsored activities.”
This bill went from being 9 pages down to 1 page.  We thank Delegate Cole for working with the education community on this legislation.

Delegate Rob Bell’s HB 63, which allows home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic programs was reported from the subcommittee on a 6-2 vote, with only Delegates Hester and  Brink voting against the bill.

Delegate Watt’s HB 1156, which would reduce average kindergarten class size from 24 to 21, require an aide at 21, and a cap at 26, and reduce the grade 1-3 average from 24 to 21 with a cap at 26, was reported and re-referred to House Appropriations.  We thank Delegate Watts for her continued focus on the class size issue.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One VEA Bill Advances, Fixing a Problematic Bill, and Budget Amendments

The House Committee on Education Subcommittee on Education Reform met this morning at 7:30, and the result for VEA was a good one.  Delegate Rust’s HB 977, which extends from 5 business days to 10 business days the deadline for a teacher to request a hearing after receiving a written notice of a recommendation for suspension, reported unanimously.  This bill will be heard by the full committee on Monday.
I have written in a prior posting regarding SB 532 and HB 134, the diabetes bills.  You may remember our objections from the prior posting.  I am most pleased to report that I joined the VSBA lobbyist and the Prince William School Board lobbyist in a most productive meeting with Senator Stuart, the Senate sponsor.  There is a very good chance that we can amend these bills in a manner that addresses VEA’s concerns.
One bill on VEA’s legislative agenda, Senator Hanger’s SB420, which requires VRS impact statements to detail the financial impact of a proposed bill on members and beneficiaries, gained final passage in the Senate on a 38-0 vote.  We thank Senator Hanger for his fine work on this bill.  

Delegate Ben Chafin did an excellent job of presenting VEA’s 6% salary amendment to the introduced budget.
Speaking of budget amendments, it is instructive to look at the budget amendments submitted by your delegate and senator.  It’s a way to see their priorities.  Let me take you through the steps.  First click on this link.
Then click on the blue words “Budget Amendment Items” on the left side of the screen.

You’ll see reference to the 2014-2016 Biennium (HB 30/SB 30).  These are the budget bills.
Click on House to see House amendments and Senate to see Senate amendments.

Then just click on the little aqua arrow beside the Senator or Delegate’s name – up will pop their amendments.  This is what they are asking for in the budget.  Amendments for public education are usually numbered 130, 135, 136, 137 or 138.  For example, Delegate Chafin’s amendment for educator’s salaries is 136 11h.  Poke around and you’ll learn about various legislators’ priorities.  For example, Delegate Peace wants to defund the Opportunity Education Institute (state take-over of underperforming schools).  Check out your delegate and senator’s amendments.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quite a Day at the Old GA

It was quite a day at the old General Assembly.  Although Martin Luther King was honored in both chambers, the GA does not take the holiday.  Today was the lobby day for a wide assortment of groups:  marijuana legalization advocates were present and fired up, gun rights advocates wore stickers saying “Guns Don’t Kill People, “ gun control advocates had stickers saying “Checks Save Lives,” and the motorcycle riders sported their colors.

Once more, you can’t make this stuff up.  As I was observing the Senate session in Senate Room Two, a gun rights advocate wearing a coonskin hat sat next to me.  As he left, his gun fell out of its holster on the floor beside me.  I feared my days were over, but the gun did not fire.  I guess if it had, the floor would have killed me and not the gun.

I have written earlier about the Chafin/Puckett salary amendments.  If adopted they will provide the state share of a 6% salary increase for school personnel.  The problem is that there is little money to work with in this legislative session.  It cost $39.1 million to provide the state share of a 1% salary increase.

What could change that?  The answer is Medicaid Expansion.  So how does all this affect funding for public education?  If we take the Federal dollars for the Medicaid Expansion, we can use those dollars to pay for programs now funded by the General Fund.  That would free up funds for public education and salaries. 

Federal dollars will replace General Fund dollars if coverage is expanded.  Over the next nine years this could free up $298.8 million for health care for inmates, $637.4 million for indigent care at teaching hospitals, $292 million for behavioral health services at community service boards, and $104 million for other.  This adds up to $1.3 billion!  Education now gets 30% of each General Fund dollar.  That could be $444 million more for our schools.

Plain and simple, one way to provide additional dollars for teacher salaries and other educational priorities is to expand Medicaid. 

Beyond the Federal dollars, it is estimated that expansion will create 33,000 additional jobs.  This increase on payroll will increase tax revenues providing more funds for our schools.  

Medicaid Expansion will provide medical insurance to 191,000 uncovered Virginians.  Many of the uninsured families include students we teach.  Medicaid Expansion will reduce the hidden tax you pay when you pay your health insurance premiums.  Paying medical customers, those with wealth or insurance, absorb the costs of the uninsured when they pay their premiums.   Not having to pay for the uninsured could decrease your insurance premiums by up to 10%.

So, the bottom line is that Medicaid Expansion will increase your bottom line and the bottom line for public education.

Friday, January 17, 2014

CPR Bill II? – This Time It Is Diabetes

There was no bill from last year’s session that I received more calls regarding than the CPR bills (Senator Stuart’s SB 986 and Delegate Dudenhefer’s HB 2028).  Although VEA tried unsuccessfully to amend these bills last session, and although I wrote about the bills on this blog last year, members were angry with me that the bills passed.   They were upset regarding the training requirements, the fact that many of them had to pay for the training, and the fact that every year more is put on the plate of the teacher.  One member told me, “It was EpiPens last year, now it’s defibrillators!  What will it be next?  Well, we have the answer.
The “next” is that you may be required by the parent of one of your students to be a “delegated care aide” to a diabetic student if Senator Stuart’s SB 532 and Delegate Cole’s HB 134 pass.  Even if you are not designated by a parent to be the aide, you will have to have training.
The bills are very similar, and here is the summary of SB 532 from Legislative Services:
Care of students who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Requires the parents of any public school student who has been diagnosed with diabetes to designate in a diabetes care plan a delegated care aide to provide diabetes care for the student, including the administration of insulin and glucagon, when a school nurse or physician is not present in the school or at a school-sponsored activity. The bill also requires the delegated care aide to receive training in diabetes care and every school employee to receive basic training in responses to emergency situations and changes from one to two the minimum number of employees in a school that must be trained with regard to a student with diabetes who attends the school. The bill further allows a student to perform certain tasks in the management of his diabetes. The bill requires schools at which a student diagnosed with diabetes is in attendance, to possess an emergency supply of glucagon in addition to any glucagon provided to the school by the parent of such a student. The bill provides that no school board shall prohibit a student who has been diagnosed with diabetes from attending a school or a school-sponsored activity on the basis of his diabetes. Finally, the bill prohibits a school nurse or delegated care aide from being disciplined for ordinary negligence in acts or omissions made during the care of a student who has been diagnosed with diabetes. The bill contains technical amendments.
Should the parent designate who the “delegated care aide” should be?  Who is going to pay for the training?  Isn’t this an unfunded mandate?  Suppose you don’t want to be designated?    
With great sympathy for diabetic children, it seems that there has got to be a better way to skin this cat.  Why shouldn’t the state help fund the health care professionals we need to provide these services?  We cannot keep adding to the list of expected areas of expertise for teachers.
If this bill is one you oppose, now is the time to act.  SB 532 will be heard by the Senate Committee on Education and Health:  Subcommittee on Public Education on Monday afternoon.  It is time to call and email members of this subcommittee, and they are:
Senator Charles Carrico                          804-698-7540
Senator Janet Howell                              804-698-7532
Senator Mamie Locke                             804-6987502
Senator Richard Black                              804-698-7513
Senator Steve Newman                          804-698-7523
Senator Steve Martin                              804-698-7511

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thanks Chairman Poindexter, Good Bill Goes to Senate Floor, Ba-a-a-d Bill is Likely to Slumber

I was very pleased and honored to be invited by Chairman Charles Poindexter to address the House Appropriations Committee’s Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee this afternoon.  I had all of five minutes, but I pled our case for increasing educator’s salaries and providing a statewide health insurance option.
I provided substantial documentation to subcommittee members, and here is what I said:
Chairman Poindexter and members of the subcommittee, I deeply appreciate this opportunity to address you this afternoon.
Mr. Chairman, I hope if this old teacher finishes talking before using my allotted 5 minutes that I can give your subcommittee a homework assignment.
Let me first commend Governor McDonnell for adhering to the phase-in contribution rate schedule for VRS in his introduced budget.  We urge you to stay the course and fully fund the Virginia Retirement Board of Trustees’ certified rate by 2018.
I thank each of you for the provision of the 2% salary increase for educators in the last session.  I thank you, too, for including all SOQ positions, and for making it a full year raise.
I have provided information regarding Virginia’s current status for teacher salaries including division-by-division information.
Delegate Chafin is carrying our teacher salary budget amendment, and we must make progress on salaries if we are to attract and retain the best teachers for Virginia’s students.  Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state, but we rank 31st in teacher salary.  We pay a rate which is 88.45% of the national average, and we are $6,514 below that average.
VEA’s Legislative Committee seeks a 6% salary increase.  Last year, we asked for 4% and got 2%, so we figured that if we asked for 6% this year, we’d get 6%.
We also asked you to look with favor on legislation carried by Delegates Yost and Kilgore to provide a statewide health insurance option to Virginia school divisions.
Mr. Chairman, I’m way short on my time, so here is the homework.  Please review the materials I have provide to you carefully.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and subcommittee members.
The Senate Committee on Education and Heath reported Senator Favola’s SB 43, which increases the time a teacher has to appeal dismissal from 5 days to 10 day, on a 12 to 0 vote.  Senator Garrett abstained.
Senator Obenshain’s SB 457, which would allow school boards to deny VRS participation to charter school teachers and to hire unlicensed teachers for charter schools, was reported and re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee.  This same bill died in Finance last year.  Interestingly, when Senator Saslaw asserted that the bill had a fiscal impact and should go to finance as it had the year before, Obenshain asserted that the bill had not gone to Finance last year.  The committee clerk stepped in to correct Obenshain.  Let’s hope this bill long “lingers in the bosom of the committee” as the late-great Hunter Andrews used to say.  That’s one way to kill a stinker!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

SOL Reform

When Governor McAuliffe was running for governor, he made SOL assessment reform a plank in his platform.  The notion was well received, and his opponent said, “Me too.”  Now every member of the General Assembly is on the bandwagon, and most of them have an SOL bill.  So, what is VEA’s position?  This is the message we will be conveying to legislators:

There is broad support for reforming the Standards of Learning assessments.  Numerous SOL reform bills are now before the 2014 General Assembly.

The Virginia Education Association supports SOL reform, and we urge that legislators consider the complexity of this issue.

The General Assembly should move forward by defining the broad goals that should be encompassed in SOL testing reform: 

·         reduction in the number of tests

·         assessment of higher order thinking skills

·         greater local flexibility in regard to timing and content.

Having established these goals, we believe the General Assembly should work with the administration to create a commission including legislators, Board of Education members, parents, and educational practitioners to devise a testing system that best serves Virginia's students.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another VEA Bill, VEA Bill Advances, and a STINKER

I listed some of VEA’s bills on Friday, but here is yet another – Delegate Todd Gilbert’s HB 709.  This bill will require Child Protective Services to complete child abuse investigations in a timely manner, reducing the time an innocent teacher who is being investigated is out of the classroom, reducing the time the schools system has to pay both the teacher and the substitute, and reducing the time the accused has to await a finding.
Senator Emmett Hanger’s SB 420, which requires the Fiscal Impact Statements provide to legislators to include the impact of the bill on current and future retirees, was reported by the Senate Finance Committee on a 14-0 vote today.  This bill will now go to the full Senate, and because there were no votes against it, it will be on the uncontested calendar and considered in a block.
The STINKER is Senator Steve Newman’s SB 89.  Let me give you some background.  In 2012 the General Assembly passed a bill which provided VRS members hired after January 1, 2014 a pension substantially inferior to what members hired before that date have.  The quick and dirty is that they will have to work 37 years to get a benefit equivalent to what their predecessors earned in 30 years.
In its original form, the hybrid plan offered no disability protection.  Senator Watkins and others worked with VEA to ensure that hybrid plan participants would have disability protection offered by VRS or equivalent protection offered by the local government or school board.
Senator Newman’s SB 89 lowers the income replacement from what exists in the current Virginia Local Disability Plan.  The current short-term plan reimburses between 60%- 100% for the first 125 days of disability, depending on how long you have been employed.  After 125 days, the disabled employee goes on long term disability at 60% income replacement. 

Senator Newman's bill would only ensure 60% replacement income.  This further degrades the employment benefits of hybrid plan participants.

SB 89 will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Two Items on VEA’s Legislative Agenda Advance to Full Committee

The Senate Committee on Education and Health’s Public Education Subcommittee met for the first time this session this afternoon, and two items on VEA’s legislative agenda advanced.
Senator Favola’s SB 43, which extends from five business days to 10 business days the deadline for a teacher to request a hearing after receiving written notice of a recommendation of dismissal, advanced on a unanimous vote (unofficial vote  – Senator Newman was absent).
Senator John Miller’s SB 324, which delays implementation of the A-F school grading bill until October 1, 2017 also reported on a 4-0 vote (Unofficial vote - Senator Newman was absent).
These two measures should go to the full Senate Education and Health Committee on Thursday morning.
Please contact members of the full committee urging them to vote for SB 43 and SB 324.

Martin, Chairman           804-698-7511

Saslaw                               804-698-7535                    

Lucas                                   804-698-7518

Howell                                804-698-7532

Newman                            804-698-7523

Locke                                  804-698-7502

Barker                                 804-698-7539

Miller                                  804-698-7501

Smith                                  804-698-7519

McWaters                         804-698-7508

Black                                   804-698-7513

Carrico                                804-698-7540

Garrett                               804-698-7522

Please make calls and send messages prior to Thursday morning.