Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Win and Some Losses

Today VEA initiated legislation, Delegate Tyler’s HB2332, passed the House Education Committee 17-1 with Delegate Cole casting the only NO vote. This bill would set, as a state policy, Virginia’s goal of teacher salaries to at least or more than the National average. We were hoping there wouldn’t be any NO votes so the bill would go on the uncontested calendar, but Delegate Tyler feels she has the support on the House floor to get it through. The VEA thanks Delegate Tyler for being a champion of this bill for us. 

Other than that, the House Education Committee was not favorable to bills we are watching. Delegate Dickie Bell’s Discipline bills (HB1534 and 1536) both passed easily. I have written about these bills and the Senate versions (SB995 and 997) in previous posts. The committee votes are certainly letting us know this will be a tough fight on the floor. The Senate versions are in full committee tomorrow, so we will see what they do on that side of the building.

Another well-intended bill passed the committee 17-0. Delegate Dudenhefer’s HB1829 would require teachers applying for an initial license or renewal to take hands on CPR and first aid training. Again, this will be yet another light on the Christmas Tree of teacher licensure. This light will be funded by the teacher or the school divisions.  The VEA certainly understands and can appreciate the intent of this bill, but unfunded mandates are problematic to us and our members.

Delegate Landes “sexually explicit materials” bill (HB2191) came up in the committee today and had a full hearing since it never appeared in subcommittee. Delegate Landes offered a substitute bill that is better than the original and uses some language adopted by the Board of Education at their January meeting. However, his bill does define “sexually explicit” as content that involves criminal sexual assault punishable as a felony in VA Code. Books that would be considered as sexually explicit according to this bill would include Beloved and The Color Purple. The bill would require school divisions to develop plans to notify parents of the use of sexually explicit material and notifying parents of their option to have an alternate assignment available to their student. The VEA is concerned that books that will be “flagged” as sexually explicit and will not be used by school divisions and teachers.

In some good news, the Senate Finance committee killed SB1426 that would increase the tax credits available for Tax Credit Scholarship Donations from 65% to 90%. Here is the vote to kill, a vote YES was the right vote:
YEAS--Norment, Hanger, Howell, Saslaw, Lucas, Ruff, McDougle, Barker, Dance--9.
NAYS--Newman, Wagner, Vogel, Carrico, Obenshain, Dunnavant, Stuart--7.