Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bad Bills and Class Size

The early morning House Education Subcommittee's agenda looked like we had traveled back in time with some bad bills that are very familiar. Delegate LaRock's Education Savings Account bill (HB1605) is back this session and is bigger, and badder than ever. In past sessions, Del. LaRock has limited these vouchers to special education or low income students. This year his bill opens the vouchers up to everyone so long as you were in public school for the two previous semesters. Well.. unless you are an incoming kindergartner. They are eligible without ever stepping foot inside a public school. For kicks and giggles today, LaRock added a line that would eliminate the two semester requirement if a student had failed an SOL or been suspended or expelled.

The bill has serious Constitutional issues that Delegate Bulova questioned (and for which this bill was vetoed last session by the Governor). Delegate Bulova asked about public dollars to religious schools and Delegate LaRock explained the Constitutional cover this bill has- the state doesn't pay the school any money. The state pays the parent who then pays the school. So no direct payment of state money to private, religious schools. This bill has been found to meet Constitutional muster in Arizona's Supreme Court. Delegate Bulova reminded the subcommittee that while Arizona is a lovely state, we live in Virginia.

There are so many issues with this bill, but the subcommittee reported and referred the bill to House Appropriations where it will also, likely,  be reported.

Delegate Dickie Bell's Virtual School bill is also back this session, but so are some bills with a different approach to virtual learning, so they were all passed by for the day since members of the sub had to leave to go to other meetings. The Chair of the subcommittee is adding more early morning meetings in order to get through the 60 bills they still have left to consider before crossover on February 7. The sub has met twice so far, and only reported about 5 bills. They are very backed up.

The Subcommittee then took action on two class size bills, both of which were supported by VEA. Delegate LeMunyon's bill focuses on the SOQ staffing rations for classroom teachers, and Delegate Murphy's bill is limited to science laboratory classes in middle and high school. Both bills reported and are off to Appropriations where they face a tough road.

Tomorrow there are bills-a-plenty that VEA opposes including the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools and multiple bills to expand our Tuition Tax Credit Scholarships. We will fight the good fight on those.

A reminder we have a cyber-lobby alert on teacher salaries. Make sure you contact your legislators and demand the state include state support, without the revenue reserve trigger, for at least a 2% salary increase. I heard more talk from legislators today on teacher salary. They are hearing us!