Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lots of Action in the House Today

We are still waiting for some big bills to make their way through committees. Many of the education bills the VEA is following were referred to the money committees, so they are caught up in those committees. The big action today was in two subcommittees: House Education Innovation Sub and House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Sub.

The very early starting Innovation sub had a long docket of bills including the VEA initiated HB2332. This bill adds language making the goal of the Commonwealth teacher salaries that are competitive with the national average. Delegate Tyler is carrying this for us. Interestingly the subcommittee didn’t think the goal was big enough and Delegate Greason amended the bill to include the line “at or above the National Average.” The bill reported unanimously and will be in front of the full committee tomorrow morning. Clearly our legislators are listening to us. Now we need to see if they are willing to put money where their mouths are. Delegate Greason mentioned that he expects us to be happy when we see the House budget on Sunday. He didn’t say any more than that, so we will see.

Also in the sub was Delegate Landes’ HB2342 which is a bill to establish regional charter schools. What is really interesting in this year’s charter school bill is that all of the funding for any charter school would come from the state and Federal government. There is no requirement that a locality would put any money towards the school or that any local money would follow the student. It will be interesting to see how the Appropriations Committee will react. We all know that current per-pupil SOQ funding will not afford a school and everything it takes to run it. Not sure where Virginia would find all the additional funds to support any charter school (there is language in the bill that allows charters to see grant funding, but that would have to be quite a large grant). It will be something when the state realizes how far just SOQ money gets you… By the way, not far. The bill reported and was referred to Appropriations for a review.

A bill that would add yet another requirement to teacher licenses narrowly reported from the subcommittee. Like so many bills before it, HB1829, is well intended. The bill would add that when seeking an initial license or a renewal, an applicant would need to complete hands on CPR training. Right now current language requires CPR, first aid, and AED training, but it’s not hands on. The VEA certainly sees value in having all of our teachers have hands on training, but with no funding and no plan to make it happen, the burden of cost, time, and opportunity would fall on the teacher. VEA opposes this type of license requirement.

Delegate John Bell had HB1807 in the sub today. VEA appreciates him for highlighting this issue and bringing forward this legislation again this year. This bill would restore the option of a three-person panel in teacher grievance and dismissal cases. It also attempts to restore more appropriate timeframes for notification. Unfortunately, the bill was killed and VEA was reminded that the “good work” “we all” did in 2013 should not be eroded. The VEA thinks Delegate Bell for the attempt.
The House Appropriations Sub on Elementary and Secondary Education was the other hot ticket today. Bills killed included HB1764 which is Delegate Bulova’s Virtual School bill he carried at the request of the Governor. Delegate Dickie Bell’s Virtual School bill made it out of the subcommittee. Last year the Governor vetoed Bell’s identical bill on Constitutional grounds. Bulova’s bill was the Governor’s attempt to reach a compromise on Virtual Schools in VA. In good news, the Senators carrying the same legislation are working together to get a compromise bill both sides can live with (SB1380 which is the Governor’s bill being carried by Senator Peterson and SB1240 which is Senator Dunnavant’s version of Delegate Bell’s bill). We haven’t seen language, yet, but we are hopeful.

Delegate LaRock’s voucher bill HB1605 made its way out of subcommittee even with an annual price tag of more than $300,000. It will make its way to the floor on Thursday and we will make sure our friends in the House know how to vote.