Monday, January 30, 2017

Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools on Life Support

Today it seems as though, barring unusual action Friday by the full House Privileges and Elections Committee, the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools is breathing its very last breaths.

If you remember, this is an attempt to change the Virginia Constitution. Currently, the Constitution grants the local school boards the authority to administer the local public schools. This includes the authority to approve charter schools. Senator Obenshain and Delegate Robert Bell each brought resolutions (bills) to amend the VA Constitution so that the state Board of Education would have the authority to grant charters to schools in any school division they choose. These charter schools would then operate in, and be funded through, the local school division. 

Last week Senator Obenshain struck his version of the bill in committee. We thought at that time that the Senator was concerned about not having the votes to pass the legislation in the Senate and he would wait for the House version to come over. Today, the House version was laid on the table in sub-committee. So, barring the full committee picking the bill off of the table Friday at their 9:30am meeting, the House version is dead. Check back for an update on Friday, but it will sure be nice to not have to worry about this bill in its second year during the 2018 session.

As we approach crossover in just over a week, all of the subcommittees are frantically working through their bills in order to get them to the full committees. Today the House Education committee took up many bills that came out of subcommittee in the last week. Most of the bills we are following were sent to House Appropriations to check their fiscal impact on the state. A couple of good bill (a nurse in every school and class size reductions for instance) will likely face a tough path “upstairs” in appropriations.

We are also nearing budget day. This Sunday the House and Senate will make their budget amendments known. We will get an official look at what will happen with school employee salaries. Our members have done a great job contacting legislators. Keep it up. We are hearing different rumors about what will be possible with state support for salary increases, but we are hearing something will happen. We must keep the pressure on. If you haven’t contacted your legislators, please do. We have an active cyber lobbyist alert. Make sure you take action. 

As I am posting this Daily Report I am listening to the VA Senate debate one of the many bills this session that will make it more difficult for some people to vote. It is disturbing to listen to the floor debate and to hear Senators, who support making it more difficult to vote, try to deny that Virginians whom are often most impacted by these ever-tightening laws are minorities, especially those who live in poverty. Voting is a right that should be protected. It should not be stripped away by legislation designed to make voting more difficult. I am jumping off my soapbox now, but SB872 just passed the VA Senate 21-19 on a strict party line.