Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 1 of the Special Session: McAuliffe Stands Up for Public Education

When neither the House nor the Senate included salary increases for teachers and support personnel, VEA went to work.  We let every elected official know how wrong-headed it is to ignore the fact that Virginias teacher salary is heading in the wrong direction (37th in the nation, and $7,456 behind the national average).  Many of our sent cyber-lobby messages to Delegates, Senators and the Governor.

 House Republicans showed the first positive reaction, proposing state funding for a 1% salary increase on July 1, 2015. The cost of this increase in the biennial budget is $40.4 million.

Today, Governor McAuliffe showed that he listened, by proposing the state share of the 2% increase beginning on April 1, 2015 school year.  This 2% increase will cover all SOQ funded position, including support positions.  The cost of this increase in the biennial budget is $100 million.

McAuliffe also is attempting to undo what the House did when it defeated the statewide health insurance option for school divisions (Yost HB 463 and Kilgore HB 1016 were both killed in House Appropriations despite the fact that they would have saved the state between $44 and $66 million dollars a year).  The McAullife amendment allows schools divisions to participate in the state plan beginning on July 1, 2015.

In additional to salary and health care provisions, the budgets amendments include the following provisions:

Increased funding for extended school year grants

It doubles funding for the JVG dropout prevention program

It increases pre-K funding

In all, above and beyond the salary funding the Governor's amendments provide an additional $30 million for public education.  We will be providing detailed analysis in the days ahead.  The Governor's proposal is clearly the superior to the proposals of the House and Senate, but it will be a fight to gain passage of the Governor's amendments.

It is imperative that you call and email your delegate and senator urging support for the Governors budget amendments.

If any of you want to know the legislative process, here is what I think will happen.  The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) took up the Governor's budget bill (HB 5003) this afternoon.  Delegate Dance moved to report.  Delegate Landes offered a substitute motion to pass the bill by indefinitely (PBI), and that motion carried.  HAC then reported HB 5002, the bill that reflects the House position when the regular session ended.  The committee votes were along party lines with the exception of Delegate Joannou, who voted with the Republicans.  Presumably the Senate will adopt the Governor's bill (HB 5003), and when the House communicates HB 5002 to the Senate, the Senate will substitute HB 5003.  The House will reject the Senate substitute and request a committee of conference.  The conference will then begin anew, the difference will be that the Senate position will provide $89.6 million dollars more for public education than was in the introduced budget - thanks to Governor McAuliffe.   Then the conferees will begin the work of trying to develop an acceptable compromise.

The Senate announced a 2 p.m. public hearing in Richmond on April 1.  The next regular meeting of the Senate will be on April 7th.

The House goes back into session at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow evening.