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!