Thursday, December 17, 2015

First Look at McAuliffe's Biennial Budget

The late, great Senator Hunter Andrews used to say, “The Governor proposes, but the General Assembly disposes.”   And today the first step of that two-step dance took place at the General Assembly Building before the joint money committees.

Virginia Department of Budget and Planning Director Dan Timberlake offered the following synopsis of the increased investment in our public schools:

Public Education – Invests an additional $864 million from the general fund over the biennium. Highlights include:  

  • $429.8 million to rebenchmark the Standards of Quality (SOQ).  
  • $139.1 million for 2,500 additional teachers.
  • $83.2 million for a two percent salary increase for all state-supported SOQ positions.
  • $55.1 million to increase VRS retirement rates to 100 percent of the actuarially required rates in FY 2018.
  • $49.7 million to increase the at-risk add-on program aiding school divisions with high concentrations of at-risk students.  
  • $40.6 million to restore the Cost of Competing adjustment for support positions in FY 2018.
  • $30.0 million to reduce the transfer of Literary Fund for teacher retirement.  
  • $5.6 million for a new funding formula for Academic-Year Governor’s Schools.  
  • $5.0 million to increase funding for career and technical education credentialing and equipment.  
  • Other funding: increases support for the school breakfast program, provides for automating more Standards of Learning tests, increases the availability of online education, and establishes pilots to encourage public-private service delivery of services to high risk children and communities participating in the Virginia Preschool Initiative. 20

This is a major infusion of needed funding for our schools.  Public education receives 57% of the new funding!  The following items on VEA’s legislative agenda are addressed in this budget:


This is the biggest disappointment in this budget.  The state share of a 2% increase is provided for the second year of the biennium.  No state support for an increase in the first year is provided.  This just does not align with the need for the state to attract and retain teachers at a time when many of our teachers are reaching retirement age.  Virginia’s average teacher salary is $6,800 below the national average, and our salary is judged to be the least competitive in the nation when our teachers are compared to “other professionals in the same labor market who are of similar age, degree level, and hours worked”  (  pp. 28-29).  We have the least competitive teacher salary in the nation.
VEA will continue to work with General Assembly members to provide a salary increase in each year of the next biennium.

Support for challenged schools

A major flaw in Virginia’s funding formula is the failure to address the higher cost of meeting the educational needs of children living in poverty.  The additional $49.7 million will provide needed support for the education of poor students.

Restoring School Funding

The infusion of funds provided in the budget take us above the pre-recessionary per-pupil funding level if inflation is not considered; however, when inflation is factored in we still fall far short.  It is worth noting that when funding was cut in reaction to the Great Recession, the SOQ funding formula was permanently changed to reduce required state spending.  This budget restores funding by providing categorical/discretionary funding.

VRS Funding

The McAulliffe budget exceeds our expectations in regard to VRS funding, moving to 100% funding of the VRS Board Certified Rate one year sooner that the target previously agreed to by the General Assembly.

Education vs. Incarceration

The Governor and VEA are clearly on the same page on this issue.  Today, McAuliffe said, “Our juvenile justice system is supposed to help young men and women get on the right path, but research shows that the longer young people spend in our juvenile correctional centers, the more likely they are to commit another crime. Our system is built for failure.
We must have a 21st century solution that gives our young people the support they need to turn their lives around.
We’ve already reduced the population in our juvenile correctional centers from 600 to 350.
The next step is to reinvest savings from reduced incarcerations to build smaller, secure, state-of-the-art centers and community-based treatment alternatives.”

Medicaid Expansion
The VEA supports closing the health insurance coverage gap to free up funds for public education, and this is exactly what McAuliffe’s budget does.  The resulting savings in this biennial budget are $157 million.

This is a very preliminary overview of the budget in relation to the VEA Legislative Agenda.  We will be providing much more information in the days and weeks ahead.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

JLARC Report Exposes Disinvestment in Virginia's Schools

Yesterday’s  JLARC report, Efficiency and Effectiveness of K-12 Spending, which provides substantive ammunition for the budget battle ahead all began with a meeting President Gruber and I had with Senator Dick Saslaw on November 26, 2012.  Meg and I were following up on an item on the 2013 VEA Legislative Agenda adopted by the VEA Board in August of 2012.  The item read:

JLARC Study of the SOQ - Substantial revisions to the SOQ are needed as a consequence of a number of factors not limited to the following:

v  The continued failure of the General Assembly to fund revisions proposed by the Board of education,

v  The revised graduation requirements,

v  The more vigorous Standards of Learning tests, and

v  The many arbitrary, budget-driven cuts to SOQ funding made in the 2009 through 2012 legislative sessions.

It is time for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct a study of how the SOQ may be revised and adequately funded to meet the Standards of Learning and Standards of Accreditation. 

Senator Saslaw agreed to be our champion, and the General Assembly passed SJ328 in 2013.

Despite the fact that the House weakened the language of the VEA drafted resolution considerably, yesterday’s report clearly delineates the fact that Virginia is disinvesting in the education of her children.  While I urge you to read the report, or at least the summary, here are some highlights:

    The average Virginia school division spends nine percent less per student to provide instruction than it did in FY 2005.
     Divisions reduced per-student spending on instruction through a combination of employing fewer teachers per student, limiting teacher salary growth, and requiring teachers to pay a higher percentage of health insurance and retirement benefit costs. Divisions report that these spending reductions are hindering instructional effectiveness.

·     Divisions have more students per teacher, and report that larger class sizes hinder instructional effectiveness.

·    Teacher salaries have remained level, but teachers pay more for their benefits …. Take-home pay likely decreased for many teachers.

·    More than 80% of divisions report challenges to recruitment and retention of teachers.
Recommendations of the report include:

RECOMMENDATION 1 The General Assembly may wish to consider amending § 22.1-23 of the Code of Virginia to require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to track teacher turnover and report annually to the General Assembly and governor the numbers of and most common reasons for teacher turnover (Chapter 3, page 25).

OPTION 1 The General Assembly could amend § 2.2-1204 of the Code of Virginia to allow school division employees to participate in the state employee health plan (Chapter 2, page 11).

This JLARC report is also remarkable for what it doesn’t say.  For example, it says that the “Local share of K-12 funds” ranks 11th in the nation.  It does not say that the state share ranks 41stIs there some reason they left out that statistic?  Could it be politics and cowardice?

Because the House watered down the wording of the VEA/Saslaw resolution, this report has no bold recommendations, but even with the weaker language imposed by the House, the report could not paper over a marked disinvestment in the education of the next generation.  The underlying truth survives, and now we must use the information in this report to fight for more funding for public education in the session ahead.

Let’s make the idea VEA hatched in 2012 pay off in the session ahead!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Veto Session: Tebow Bill Veto Sustained/Common Core Silliness Over

The General Assembly returned to the Capitol today for the reconvened session to consider the Governor's vetoes and amendments. 

HB1626, the Tebow Bill, was vetoed by the Governor, and the House, the chamber of origin, failed to override the veto on a 60-39 vote.  It takes two thirds of the votes to override so this bill is dead.

Two of the silliest bills of the session, HB1752 and SB724 would have prohibited the Board of Education to replacing the Standards of Learning with Common Core State Standards without approval of the General Assembly.  The Board rejected the Common Core in 2010, and there is no indication that anyone in Virginia wants to adopt the Common Core.  Beyond that, the Board of Education should not me micromanaged by the General Assembly in regard to standards.   The Senate sustained the Governor's veto of SB724 on a 22-18 vote.  The House overrode the Governor's veto of HB1752 on a 70-28 vote; however, the Senate sustained the veto ob HB1752 on a 22-18 vote, killing the bill.

Monday, March 2, 2015

VEA Legislative Committee Awards 2015


The Legislative Champion Awards

 Del. Plum and Sen. Chafin for Salary Budget Amendment for Public School Employees

 Delegate Jackson Miller, for Sponsoring A-F Repeal (HB1368)

Delegate Hugo, for Sponsoring 3 Person Panel (HB1744)

Sen. Vogel and Sen. Chafin for Sponsoring Statewide Health Insurance (SB866)

Sen. Norment for Sponsoring Mandatory CPS Timelines (SB1117)

Sen. Howell for Sponsoring Tuition Tax Credit Accountability (SB905)

OneVirginia2021 for Advocacy of Redistricting (8 bills)

Rookie of the Year (100% VEA voting record first year in chamber)


Rosalyn Dance (D)

 Delegates (five-way tie)

Bob Bloxom (R)
Joseph Lindsey (D)
Kathleen Murphy (D)
Joseph Preston (D)
Rip Sullivan (D)

Solid as a Rock (100% for two or more years in a row)


Kenny Alexander                                                                                            
George Barker                                                                                                 
Chuck Colgan                                                                                                    
Creigh Deeds                                                                                    
Adam Ebbin                                                                                                       
John Edwards                                                                                   
Barbara Favola                                                                                                 
Janet Howell                                                                                                     
Lynwood Lewis                                                                                                
Mamie Locke                                                                                                    
Louise Lucas                                                                                                      
Dave Marsden                                                                                                 
Donald McEachin                                                                                            
John Miller                                                                                                         
Toddy Puller
Dick Saslaw
Jennifer Wexton



Mayme Bacote
David Bulova
Betsy Carr
Eileen Filler-Corn
Michael Futrell
Charniele Herring
Patrick Hope
Tim Hugo
Matthew James
Mark Keam
Kaye Kory
Rob Krupicka
Alfonso Lopez
Monty Mason
Jennifer McClellan
Delores McQuinn
Ken Plum
Sam Rasoul
Tom Rust
Mark Sickles
Marcus Simon
Lionell Spruill
Scott Surovell
Luke Torian
David Toscano
Roslyn Tyler
Jeion Ward
Vivian Watts
Joseph Yost

Friday, February 27, 2015

Seat-Time Bill Passes, First Annual WUWT Award, Sine Die

Yesterday, the House adopted the conference report for Delegate Greason's HB1616.  The Senate followed suit today.  This bill has not attracted much attention, but it could fundamentally change the way schools operate, as it eliminates the 140 hour seat-time requirement to earn a credit for graduation.  This bill would allow a student to demonstrate knowledge of the content, gain the credit, and move on.  School divisions, based on Board guidelines, could develop tests to use to assess the demonstration of knowledge.  The Board of Education will develop the regulations, but the elimination of the seat-time requirement is sure to change the lives of all involved in secondary education.  Here is the meat of the bill:

9. Permit local school divisions to waive the requirement for students to receive 140 clock hours of instruction to earn a standard unit of credit upon providing the Board with satisfactory proof, based on Board guidelines, that the students for whom such requirements are waived have learned the content and skills included in the relevant Standards of Learning.

In every session there is a bill that makes you wonder, "What's up with that?"  This year, it's HB2331, which "defines the fisher as a fur bearing animal."  When my curiosity got the best of me, I started fishing for some facts about this animal, which, as of July 1, when the law goes into effect, will be fur bearing.  When I found out that the habitat of the fisher does not include Virginia, that the closest one to here is in Maine, I again asked myself, "What's up with that?"  Who will tell the fishers of their change in status if any can be found?  Not one person in the General Assembly voted against this important bill.  The whole thing seems fishy to me.  And, oh, by the way, no wonder we had 2,774 bills! 
The session adjourned Sine Die at 9:09 PM, but please check in periodically, as I will be posting from time to time as we approach the reconvened session (veto session). 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Diploma Seals, Seat Time, and Hinkle

HB1351, which approves granting a diploma seal for bilingual students gained final passage as the House and Senate concurred with the conference report.

The House concurred with the conference report on HB1675, but we await Senate action.  This is a most consequential bill as it eliminates the seat-time requirement for a unit of credit.

This past Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch was not a pleasant read, for any number of reasons, this biggest of which was Bart Hinkle’s column, “More money doesn’tequal better schools.”  Folks, this is what we are up against, so I would suggest you read it, internalize it, and be ready to combat this reasoning.  As Sun Tzu said, “Know thy enemy….”




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

LaRock Voucher Bill Defeated, Howell Teacher Turnover Study Passes

In what was an incredible day, VEA and VSBA worked together to deliver key votes to defeat Delegate Dave Larocks’s HB2238, a voucher bill to shift public school funding to home and private schools (see yesterday’s post).

As the day started, we feared the NAACP’s position in support of the bill threatened our efforts to defeat the bill.  With help from Senator McEachin’s office and heavy lifting from Senator Locke, the NAACP changed their position to one of opposition.  We thank the NAACP for taking another look at the bill.

On the floor Senators Petersen, Favola and Locke spoke against the bill.  The bill’s champions were Senators Garrett, Obenshain, Stuart, Black and Martin.
When the votes were on the board, it stood 18-18 (see below).  Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam cast the tie breaking vote against the bill and it failed.

Take a look at the vote below.  Senator Puller was not present for health reasons.  Note that those Republicans who "took a walk" helped us.

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--18.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--18.

RULE 36--Norment--1.

NOT VOTING--Chafin, Puller, Watkins--3.

Mr. President: NAY

We thank the eighteen Democrats who stood strong.  We thank Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam for breaking the tie.  Se thank Norment, Chafin, and Watkins for not voting.

Additional good news came when the Senate concurred with the House substitute for Senator Howell’s SJR218, sending this study of teacher turnover to the Governor’s desk for his signature.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

House Holds Budget Briefings, Busy Day in Both Chambers

The Conference budget from the House and Senate has couple of bright spots.  First, there is $52.9 million in funding for a 1.5% salary increase for educators.  Secondly, the General Assembly is pouring about $193 million into the Teacher VRS plan, alleviating some of the pressure, due to the unfunded liability, on the pension plan.

The salary increase is long overdue.  The increase is funded for ten and a half months – apparently a compromise between the Senate’s ten months and the House’s 11 months that they had proposed in earlier budgets.  The teacher raise is also lower than the amount being provided to state workers, faculty at universities and colleges, and state-supported local employees such as Commissioners of Revenue and Treasurers. 
Other than the pay increase and the funding for VRS, there are only minor changes to K-12 funding.  There is $52.9 million for school construction loans through the Literary Fund.  This is more than there has been in the fund for loans for years but less than what the Governor had proposed for construction loans and interest rate subsidies.  There is some money for K-12 initiatives such as extended year programs and training.
The budget language does keep hope of a statewide health insurance option alive.  It “Includes language instructing the Department of Human Resource Management to conduct an actuarial analysis of the impact of including employees of political subdivisions and their dependents in the state employee health plan and also to conduct a review of the Local Choice Health program.

Much more detail will be coming out from VEA soon.  From here, each of the two chambers vote on the budget.  Assuming they pass it, it then goes to the Governor. 

On the legislative front, the House passed the Dickie Bell’s virtual school bill, HB324, but it contains a reenactment clause requiring passage next year if it is to go into effect.  The vote was 61-38.
Senator Howell’s teacher turnover study, SJR218, passed the House on a 99-0 vote.

Obenshain’s Charter School Constitutional Amendment, SJR256, which had passes the Senate by 1 vote (See yesterday’s post), passed the House on a58-42 vote.
In the Senate, Delegate Farrell’s bill, HB1320, prohibiting requiring teachers to pay for courses for relicensure, passed 39-0 in a block vote.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Voucher Bill Moves Forward, Charter School Constitutional Amendment Defeated In Senate, But Stll Much Alive In House

This morning, Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB2238, a voucher bill exploiting special needs children to open the door to the future use of public school funds for pay for home-school expenses and private school tuitions, reported from the Senate Finance Committee on a voice vote.  Senator Emmett Hanger was successful in placing a reenactment clause on the bill, requiring that it pass again next session before it becomes law.  Please click on the bill number and read the summary of the bill in the second Fiscal Impact Statement.

VEA offered the following statement on the bill:
VEA urges your opposition to House Bill 2238.  This bill creates a new government entitlement at a time when the Commonwealth is unable to properly fund existing core services.  For example, when inflation is considered, funding for our public schools is 16 percent below 2009 levels.

The new entitlement involves siphoning off funds now received by public schools to create Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts that can be used to pay for education-related expenses.

Although this bill has been amended to include only students having a disability, from what we have seen in the states of Arizona and Florida, the ultimate aim of advocates of Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts will be to broaden eligibility.  Indeed, HB2238 was amended to broaden the definition of disability.  In Arizona, one year after implementation, the scope was expanded to include students in low-performing schools, students with parents on active military duty, and students adopted or pending adoption from the state foster care system.

Beyond the fact that there is legal doubt as to whether the public school division can be relieved from the responsibility of implementing an Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is important to note that private schools are not bound by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or by the terms of a child’s IEP.  They are not compelled to avail the child of the least restrictive environment.  Further, this bill requires no review of student progress, as is required by IDEA, and there are no due-process provisions for parents if progress is not being made, as is required by IDEA.  The Florida plan requires an annual review of student performance with termination provisions if progress is not being achieved.  There are no such provisions in this bill.  IDEA has provisions for impartial due process if discipline is not being administered in an appropriate manner – this bill contains no such provisions.  This should give pause to any of you who recently voted in favor of great regulation of seclusion and restraint in our public schools and to those cognizant of the Constitutional provisions requiring an “educational program of high quality.”

What if the parent and student are not satisfied with the educational options chosen?  The provisions of the bill (lines 64-66) bar them from returning to the public school:  “Not enroll the qualified student in any school division in the school year for which the application or renewal applies ….”  The student is stranded.

The accounts are available without income limits, which raises the question, “Should this funding be available to those who can easily fund the education of their children?“  “Students whose family's annual household income is not in excess of 300 percent,” is a criterion used elsewhere in the code.  As written, funds from low-income Virginians could be handed over to the wealthy for their “Savings Accounts.”

We are just beginning to implement Virginia’s “Education Improvement Scholarships,” in keeping with the passage of HB321 in 2012.  Shouldn’t we evaluate how well this option is serving Virginia’s students before adopting another “choice” option?

According to multiple studies analyzing assessment data from voucher programs, students offered vouchers do not perform better than their public school peers.   Indeed, public school students have actually been found to outperform private school students when test scores are weighted to reflect socioeconomic level, race, and disability.
This same reenactment clause was added by the Senate to Delegate Dickie Bell’s HB324, which opens the door to full time virtual schools run by corporate providers, which is now on the House Floor again, awaiting House Action on the Senate amendments.  In a highly unusual moment, Delegate Dickie Bell refused to yield to Delegate Krupicka’s question regarding the Senate amendments.  Delegate Vivian Watts pointed out that the amendments did more than Delegate R. Bell’s explanation revealed, and the bill went by for the day.

In a bitter-sweet moment Delegate Rob Bell's HJ577 failed to pass today on a 20-20 vote, with Senator John Watkins’ defection from Republican ranks deciding it’s fate.
YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--20.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Puller, Saslaw, Watkins, Wexton--20.

Twenty-one votes are needed to advance a Constitutional Amendment.  This outcome contrasts sharply with the Senate vote on SJ256.

Unfortunately, it looks like the cow is out of the barn, as Senator Obenshain’s identical SJ256 is now in the House awaiting what appears to be sure passage.  But take a look at the vote on SJ256 when it passed the Senate on a 21-17 vote on 2/4.

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Cosgrove, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins--21.

NAYS--Alexander, Barker, Colgan, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--17.

RULE 36--0.

NOT VOTING--Lucas, Puller--2.

Senator Watkins provided the 21st vote and the ultimate passage of SJ256.  So Watkins was the deciding vote for it on 2/4, but the deciding vote against it today.  Will the real John Watkins please stand up? 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Redistricting 2015 RIP, Teacher Turnover Study Reported

The Virginian-Pilot (the daily paper in South Hampton Roads) entitled a recent article “It's 7a.m.: Another redistricting bill is about to die.”  Today was a much kinder day, they waited until 9 a.m.  The Summary of Senator Jill Vogel’s SJ284, reads, “Establishes the Virginia Redistricting Commission that will conduct the decennial reapportionment of the election districts for the House of Representatives and the General Assembly. The amendment also establishes the criteria and process to be used for each decennial reapportionment.”  It was the last survivor of a package of redistricting bills to survive, but it died today when it was never taken up by the Privileges and Elections Committee.

The bill passed the Senate 27-12, but was never heard in the Senate.  Again, this is not the way our government, specifically the legislative branch, is supposed to work.

Despite the fact that all redistricting bills are now dead, the OneVirginia2021 Coalition was successful in increasing the profile of the issue and generating enough heat to make the legislators squirm.  That was the goal for this session.  We have two more sessions to pass legislation in time for the 2021 redistricting.

The good news of the day was House Rules reporting Senator Janet Howell’s SJ218.  This resolution “Requests the Department of Education to study the feasibility of implementing a program in the Commonwealth to track teacher turnover by developing exit questionnaires and other means.”  Leadership of the House and Senate indicate that the funding for this will be provided.  Cuts to DOE staff over the past years have left us with no demographic information regarding the teacher workforce, and this study may provide very useful information for teacher advocacy.  In addition to Senator Howell, two Delegates, Lee Ware and Bobby Orrock, have been especially helpful with this issue.

One more week until Sine Die.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Statewide Health Insurance Bill Killed Without a Hearing

A cold and troubling day at the General Assembly began at the 7 AM meeting of the Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.  Delegate Mark Cole moved to table Senator John Watkins’ SB840, a bill to prohibit the use of political data in the redistricting process.  The motion carried on a 4-3 vote (NAY is a right vote).

YEAS--Ransone, Landes, Fowler, Cole--4.

NAYS--Minchew, Sickles, Futrell--3.

The last chance for passage of a redistricting bill this session will come tomorrow when the House Committee on Privileges and Elections takes up Senator Jill Vogel’s SJR284, a Constitutional amendment (first resolution) to establish a Redistricting Commission.

The last meeting of the Senate Education and Health Committee followed at 7:45 AM.  The committee reported Delegate Peter Farrell’s HB1320, which prohibits requiring teachers to pay for college courses to satisfy license renewal requirements.
They also reported Delegate Tag Greason’s HB1672 which repeals A-F.

In a very disappointing party-line vote the committee reported and re-referred to the Senate Finance Committee, Delegate Dave LaRock’s HB2238, a public-money to private and home-school bill.  Actually, the money can even go to car dealers – read the bill.  If we are unsuccessful in killing this bill in the Finance Committee on Monday, you will be hearing much more about it as we head into the floor fight.
The major disappointment of the day, came when Senator Ben Chafin’s SB866, the bill to provide local school divisions with a statewide health insurance option, suddenly disappeared from the docket of the last meeting of the Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.  When I asked why, I was told the House Appropriations Chair had made the decision.  After coming out of the Senate on a 38-0 vote, the bill was never heard in the House.  That is not the way government should work! 


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

One Additional Step Closer to Repealing A-F, A Lot on the Line Tomorrow

We are one more step in the right direction towards the repeal of A-F grading for schools.  Senator Black’s SB727 was reported from the House Education Committee on a 21 to 1 vote.
YEAS--Landes, Lingamfelter, Rust, Pogge, Massie, Greason, Bell, Richard P., LeMunyon, Robinson, Yost, Yancey, Farrell, Davis, Leftwich, McClellan, Tyler, Bulova, Keam, Hester, Preston, Lindsey--21.


A committee substitute was adopted, which is an improvement over earlier versions.  Here is the critical portion of the bill:
No later than July 1, 2016, the Board of Education, in consultation with the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, shall redesign the School Performance Report Card so that it is more effective in communicating to parents and the public the status and achievements of the public schools and local school divisions in the Commonwealth. The Board, in redesigning the School Performance Report Card, may consider (i) the standards of accreditation, (ii) state and federal accountability requirements, (iii) state-mandated assessments, (iv) any alternative assessments developed or approved for use by the relevant local school board, (v) student growth indicators, (vi) student mobility, (vii) the experience and qualifications of school staff, (viii) total cost and funding per pupil, (ix) school safety, and (x) any other factors that the Board deems necessary to produce a full and accurate statement of performance for each public elementary and secondary school and local school division in the Commonwealth. No later than October 1, 2016, the Board shall provide notice and solicit public comment on the redesigned School Performance Report Card. No later than December 1, 2016, the Board shall make a summary of the redesigned School Performance Report Card available to the public and submit such summary to the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Health. No later than October 1, 2017, and each October 1 thereafter, the Board shall make available to the public a School Performance Report Card for each public elementary and secondary school and local school division in the Commonwealth.

The bill now goes to the full House.  Since there was one negative vote, it will be on the contested calendar.  Following probable House passage, we can hope the Senate will accept the House amendments, rather than sending the bill to conference.
We have a number of key bills up in committee tomorrow:

House Privileges and Elections (7 A.M.) will take up two redistricting bills, Senator Watkins’s SB840 , and Senator Vogel’s SJR284. 

The Senate Education and Health Committee (7:45 A.M.) is taking up numerous significant bills including one that will siphon off public school dollars to private schools, home-schooling parents, institutions of higher learning, and even auto dealers, HB2238 – Parental Choice Savings Accounts.

The Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee (4 P.M.) is taking up SB866, Senator Chafin’s bill to offer a statewide health insurance option to public school divisions.
So, please check in tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Despite the Snow, The Day Was Busy

The snow delayed the start of subcommittee meetings – 7:30 meetings were moved to 9.  But once they got started, the day was busy and eventful.
Senator Janet Howell’s SJ218, a study addressing exit surveys for teachers leaving the profession and the teacher turnover rate, was reported from the Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to House Rules.  This study is sorely needed.

In Senate Finance, HB324, a very problematic virtual school bill which would have opened Virginia to corporate virtual providers, was amended by adding a reenactment clause requiring the bill to be taken up again next session before it goes into effect.  We can thank Senator Norment for making this motion.  This gives us a year to work the bill.

Senator Vogel’s SB1386, which would have required dyslexia training for initial licensure or licensure renewal, was tabled on a voice vote of the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on the Senate Education and Health Committee.

A-F School Grading is one step closer to being repealed, as the Education Reform Committee of House Education amended and reported SB727.
Speaking of dumb education policy ideas, OEI (state takeover entity) is one step close to being repealed, as the same subcommittee voted to report Senator Miller’s SB821.

In regard to these last two, slowly but surely Governor McDonnell’s misguided education agenda is being dismantled, even as his party controls both chambers.

The final Senate vote on the Tebow Bill (HB1626) was disappointing.  Senator Garrett offered a floor amendment, which was adopted, which made the bill local option.  The final vote was 22-13.

YEAS--Alexander, Black, Carrico, Chafin, Colgan, Cosgrove, Dance, Garrett, Hanger, Lewis, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner--22.

NAYS--Barker, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Howell, Locke, Marsden, McEachin, Miller, Petersen, Saslaw, Wexton--13.

RULE 36--0.

NOT VOTING--Lucas, Norment, Puller, Stosch, Watkins--5.

 Senator Dance stated that she voted yea on the question of the passage of  H.B. 1626, whereas she intended to vote nay.


Monday, February 16, 2015

CPS Bill Passes, Tebow Bill Vote May Be Tomorrow

With the able leadership of Senator Norment, VEA initiated SB1117 gained final passage in the House (99-0) and is heading to the Governor's desk.  This bill amends the Child Protective Services section of the Code of Virginia to make the reporting deadlines mandatory.

Non-compliance to the 45-day limit causes several problems:

·         Teacher 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.”

Delegate Farrell's HB1320, which prohibits requiring teachers to pay for coursework to satisfy licensure renewal requirements, was reported from the Senate Health and Education Subcommittee on Public Education with no opposition.  This bill now heads to full committee.

This same subcommittee reported Delegate Greason's HB1675, which has the possibility of profoundly changing the way schools operate.  First, it will allow locally developed tests for verified credits.  Second, it removes the 140 hour seat-time requirement to earn a verified unit of credit.  The latter may profoundly change school scheduling and the professional lives of school personnel.

In the House Education Committee, Senator Vogel's SB1386, which requires dyslexia training for teachers seeking initial or renewal of license, was referred to the House Appropriations Committee.  Appropriations killed a similar measure from Delegate Cline before crossover, so a similar fate should befall SB1386.

 The Tebow (HB1626) bill came up for a vote in the Senate today, but went by for the day.  The vote may be as soon as tomorrow.
The snow is coming down, but the General Assembly won't stop their work.  Please look for a posting tomorrow.



Friday, February 13, 2015

The Time Has Come for a Statewide Health Insurance Plan for Public School Employees

For years VEA has been fighting for a statewide insurance option for public school employees.  The Compensation and Retirement Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on this issue (SB866 Chafin/Vogel) on Thursday afternoon.  The bill came out of the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote, but in years past it has been killed by this committee.

Why do we need this bill?

Moving to a statewide insurance option for local school divisions and local governments could save millions of dollars for the state, localities and employees in the years ahead.  In addition, it would provide a high quality insurance option to small divisions that endure volatile rates and little bargaining leverage with insurance companies.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission estimated that implementing such a plan for the school divisions alone would save $44 to $66 million annually. 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.  Smaller localities would benefit the most – benefiting from the increased bargaining leverage (market power) and rate stability of a larger pool of employees.  In addition, savings are achieved as administrative and procurement costs are eliminated.

SB866 provides an option to local governments and school boards.  Participation is not required under the provisions of the bill.

This plan offers a substantial “cooperative procurement” opportunity to school divisions.  When JLARC last examined this issue in 2010, school divisions in Virginia were spending $0.9 billion on health insurance.  JLARC identified health insurance as the “area of greatest potential savings” for school divisions.  As health insurance is funded in part by the Standards of Quality, any savings are to the benefit of the localities and the state.

In 2010, JLARC reported that, “At least 25 states allow or require public school divisions to purchase health insurance through a statewide pool. Some states pool public school employees with all state employees and share the same experience ratings and premiums between groups. Other states create separate pools with unique experience ratings and premiums for school employees and state employees.

Please call the offices of this subcommittee’s members and leave this simple message:  “Please vote for SB866.”

Delegate Charles Poindexter      (804) 698-1009 

Delegate Riley Ingram                    (804) 698-1062

Delegate Scott Lingamfelter        (804) 698-1031

Delegate Tag Greason                   (804) 698-1032

Delegate Scott Garrett                  (804) 698-1023

Delegate Johnny Joannou            (804) 698-1079

Delgate Daun Hester                      (804) 698-1089

I have also included their email addresses in the event that you would prefer to send an email message.