Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Charters, Vouchers, and Budget

Today the House and Senate took up Charter School legislation. HB2342 (Delegate Landes) and SB1283 (Senator Obenshain) are identical bills that would allow the VA Board of Education to establish Regional Charter “School Divisions”. The VA Constitution grants the BOE the authority to establish school divisions, to these bills use this language to skirt around the Constitutional issues bills like this usually have here in VA. Our cyber lobbyists did a wonderful job contacting members of the House and Senate urging them to vote NO on these bills. 

In the Senate, the bill passed 21-19 which was not a party line vote as Senator Emmett Hanger broke from his Republican caucus and voted NO on the bill, and Senator Chap Petersen broke from his Democratic Caucus and votes YES on the bill. Interestingly, Senator Petersen, an attorney, has represented Charter School applicants when they go before the Fairfax School Board. The vote tally sheet is below. A NAY vote was a right vote. 

In the House, the bill passed 54-43. The vote count is below. Again, a NAY vote was the right vote. The VEA will ask Governor McAuliffe to veto this bill. The administration has opposed this legislation this year, so we are hopeful but also grateful for our goalie in the Governor’s Mansion.

HB 2342 Public schools; Board of Education shall only establish regional charter school divisions. Senate: Passed Senate (21-Y 19-N)

YEAS--Black, Carrico, Chafin, Chase, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Obenshain, Peake, Petersen, Reeves, Ruff, Stanley, Stuart, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Vogel, Wagner--21.
NAYS--Barker, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Howell, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Saslaw, Spruill, Surovell, Wexton--19.
SB 1283 Public schools; Board of Education shall only establish regional charter school divisions. VOTE: PASSAGE (54-Y 43-N)

YEAS--Adams, Anderson, Austin, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Campbell, Cline, Cole, Collins, Cox, Davis, Dudenhefer, Edmunds, Fariss, Farrell, Fowler, Freitas, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Hodges, Holcomb, Ingram, Jones, Knight, Landes, LaRock, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Massie, Minchew, Miyares, Morris, O'Bannon, Orrock, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Ransone, Robinson, Rush, Stolle, Villanueva, Ware, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Mr. Speaker--54.
NAYS--Aird, Albo, Bagby, Bell, John J., Bloxom, Bourne, Boysko, Bulova, Carr, Filler-Corn, Hayes, Helsel, Heretick, Herring, Hester, Hope, Hugo, James, Keam, Kilgore, Krizek, Leftwich, Levine, Lindsey, Lopez, Marshall, R.G., McQuinn, Miller, Mullin, Murphy, O'Quinn, Pillion, Plum, Price, Rasoul, Sickles, Simon, Sullivan, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Watts, Yost--43.
NOT VOTING--Kory, Morefield, Ward--3.
Delegate Edmunds was recorded as yea. Intended to vote nay.
Delegate Kory was recorded as not voting. Intended to vote nay.

The Senate also took up Delegate LaRock’s very broad Parental Educational Savings Accounts, a voucher bill. The more narrowly drawn Senate version of this bill was defeated 20-20 with Lt. Governor breaking the tie and killing the bill. If you keep up with the Daily Reports, you know why that vote happened. As expected, this very broad and very concerning bill passed on a party line vote 21-19. Like the Charter School bills, the VEA will ask the Governor to veto this bill.

The votes on these two bills should reinforce the importance of the 2017 election in Virginia. The entire House of Delegates is up as are all three state-wide offices- Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. It is imperative that education voters recognize everything this election could mean to public education. Do not sit this one out. We must engage every single Virginian who supports us and our public schools. We must get them registered to vote if they are not, and we must make sure they vote on November 7. Too much is riding on this.

The Senate has been sitting on HB2251, the Optional Defined Contribution VRS plan. The House passed the bill and included $1.5M to fund the start-up of the plan in their budget. The Senate did not fund the new plan in their budget. Today the Senate added a second amendment to the bill. Aside from passing next year before taking effect, the Senate added language requiring that before any DC plan rolls out, all other VRS plans must be funded at 100%. That won’t happen. So the bill needs to go to the House before passage and they may not like the amendment. That would kill the bill or send it to conference if there is still time for that.

We have heard the budget is finished and will be in members’ hands at 7pm tonight. Usually the General Assembly completes their work 48 hours after the budget is available. That is 7pm Friday. That is one day early. The Conference Budget will be available on-line as soon as members get it. We will be taking a good look at it this evening and give you an update here. 

Rumors are we will see state funding for a 2% salary increase for all SOQ funded positions, but with the flexibility that I described in another post. If a school division gave a raise at any time during the biennium, they can pull down the state money to back fill that cost. So, unless your school division didn’t give a raise this school year, it would be surprising to see one for 2017-18. We will see.

We will be working late tonight analyzing the numbers.