Thursday, February 9, 2017

VEA Bill Advances and Budget Debate

In an astonishing display of committee chairmanship, Senator Newman completed a docket of 73 bills this morning in the Senate Education and Health Committee in just under 3 hours. Only 4 bills were passed by for the day, so they took action on 69 bills. It was something to watch. He really runs a fantastic committee.

The VEA-initiated bill that establishes, as a state policy, the goal that teachers be paid at or above the National Average reported out of Senate Education unanimously (HB2332). It was referred to Senate Finance even though there is no fiscal impact on the bill. The bill was not referred for fiscal review in the House, so I mentioned to our patron, Delegate Roslyn Tyler, the referral concerned me. She wasn’t worried, but the Lobby Cadre will make contact with the members of the Finance committee to explain the bill so that it continues on its path to passage.

In other action, the Senate Education and Health Committee reported the “Tebow bill” that would allow home-schooled students to participate in VHSL activities. Here is a portion of VEA’s testimony on the bill this morning:

“Public school students must meet 13 different requirements in order to be eligible to participate in VHSL activities. There are no “maybes” or “almost” or “close enough”. It’s all or nothing. VHSL’s purpose with these requirements is to maintain a fair, and level, playing field for our student athletes. Allowing non-public school students to participate un-levels the playing field.
Every parent tries to make the best decision for their own child and with each of these decisions there are things the parent must consider. Public school families give up the freedom and flexibility of curriculum, hours, and state standards but they are afforded the opportunity that comes with a public school education. Parents who choose a non-public school setting have the benefits of flexibility of time and instruction, but with their decision, they lose the opportunity to participate in public school VHSL activities.”

Here's how the committee voted. A Nay vote was the right vote:

HB 1578 Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs (Tebow Bill). Reported from Education and Health (9-Y 6-N)

YEAS--Newman, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Lewis, Dunnavant, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake--9.
NAYS--Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke, Barker, Petersen--6.

The Senate Committee also failed to report the calendar bill that would allow local school divisions to determine the best start day for school. For 31 years, public schools in VA have been required to start school after Labor Day unless they are granted a waiver, mainly for weather. Next year Fairfax will be added to the list of local school divisions that will have control over their own calendar as they were granted a waiver last year. So Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax, and nearly every school division west of I-95 has a waiver. Local control is already in place for most school divisions in Virginia through the waiver process. It is well past time to return it to ALL localities. This won’t be the year, but, maybe, one day, the state will allow local control on decisions effecting school start dates.

Here is the committee vote to kill the bill this morning, a NAY vote was the Right Vote:

HB 1983 School calendar; opening day of school year.

Passed by indefinitely in Education and Health (9-Y 6-N)

YEAS--Newman, Saslaw, Lucas, Barker, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Lewis, Dunnavant--9.
NAYS--Howell, Locke, Petersen, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake--6.

Delegate Dickie Bell’s long-term suspension bills (HB1535 and 1537) were conformed to the Senate versions, which we prefer. While this is action that was expected after crossover, we are very hopeful when the bills go to conference, we get a bill closer to the Senate version. We are keeping a close eye on this process.

The other bills that are concerning to us are those on CTE local waivers on teacher licensure. These identical bills (HB1770 and SB1583) would allow a local school division to waive, for CTE hires, the licensure requirements on teaching. The VEA will continue to hold the line that just putting a subject matter expert in a classroom doesn’t mean they can teach. We realize there are shortages, and hiring for some trade classes is difficult, but we need to make sure that our teachers have training on how to teach. You don’t solve a teaching shortage by removing requirements of training in pedagogy.

The House and Senate each spent a long afternoon debating each amendment to their respective budgets. Once each body adopts their own budget they will send their Budget Bill to the other body. The House will reject the Senate budget, and the Senate will reject the House budget. That action forces Budget Conference (the meeting to come to a compromise). Budget work will continue until the end of session. Keep tuned for more and for possible cyber lobbyist alerts.