Friday, January 16, 2015

Quote Of The Day/If I Had Five Minutes With My Delegate....

Yesterday, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents held their annual press conference at the Library of Virginia.  They issued The New Blueprint for the Future of Public Education:  Redefining Virginia’s Framework for Public Education.   Jennifer B. Parish, Superintendent of the Poquoson City Schools, when presenting the Funding Public Education section of the report, earned the quote of the day award:

“There is a fundamental mismatch in Virginia between the performance expectations and goals for K-12 public schools and the amount of state funding provided to meet our high expectations.” 

Yesterday, I related what I would say if I had five minutes with my Senator.  Today, let’s switch to the House.  What would I suggest that you say to your delegate were you to have five minutes of his time?

If I had five minutes with my Delegate, I’d use my time to help advance VEA’s Legislative Agenda, and to advance the cause of public education.  I’d tell him that our schools are suffering from a lack of state funding, and that this year we need to stop the cuts, and to look for ways to enhance state funding in the next biennial budget.  For background, I’d hand him the recentPolitiFact showing that VEA is right when we say state funding has been cut by 16% since 2009.

Then, I would urge him to support Delegate Plum’s teacher salary amendment providing the state share of a 6% salary increase for school employees.  The Commonwealth must take action to attract and retain high-quality school personnel.  Virginia is the 10th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 37th.  Our average teacher salary is $7,456 below the national average.  We must do better if our students are to continue to have highly qualified teachers.  State funding is critical to the ability of localities to make salaries of Virginia school employees more competitive.
I’d urge support for Delegate Jackson Miller’s HB 1368, which will eliminate the misguided A-F grading of our schools.  A single grade cannot fully represent the true measure of a school’s performance.   These letter grades too often reflect the impact of demographic factors and do little to reveal the quality of the instructional opportunity available to students.  Unintended consequences will include exacerbating the existing challenge of recruiting high-quality personnel to urban and poor rural schools, and negative effects on property values in these same areas, further reducing funding sources.

I’d ask them to vote for Delegate Hugo’s HB1744.  In the 2013 Session the passage of HB 2151 and SB 1223 eliminated the use of the “fact finding panel,” replacing the panel with a “hearing officer.”  VEA will seek legislation to provide local school boards with the option of utilizing ether option:  fact finding panel or hearing officer.  Many VEA members contend that the three-person panel leads to a more judicial resolution of the dismissal decision. 

I’d ask my delegate to support a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.   Four bills are before the Senate to advance this cause, and each one addresses a part of the problem.

Then there are three measures I’d ask them to oppose:
Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 526, a constitutional amendment, transfers the decision of whether or not to have a charter school in your school division from your local school board to the Virginia Board of Education, a board appointed by the Governor.  Let’s leave the charter granting authority closest to the people with local school boards.   The local board best knows the needs of the children in their locality.

Delegate Lingamfelter’s HJ 536 would amend the Constitution of Virginia to allow lottery proceeds to go to “education and training” for veterans.  The problem is that these funds now go to fund our schools.  We should do all we can for our veterans, but not by taking funding away from our schools.
HB324 and HB1361, these two, virtually identical bills, create a board in the executive branch of government to govern stand-alone virtual schools.  Funding would follow the students, with the state funding for virtual schools being the same as what is provided for traditional bricks-and-mortar schools.  The “all-or-none” approach these bills take to virtual learning is contrary to what is best for students.  Digital-based learning experiences are essential as we prepare today’s students for the world ahead, but blended instructional approaches, not “all-or-none” will be of much greater benefit to Virginia’s students.