Thursday, January 18, 2018

VEA Bills Start Their Journey

Today one of the VEA bills has started its journey through the legislative process.

SB456, carried by Senator Jennifer McClellan, would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop and make available annually to each public elementary and secondary school teacher in the Commonwealth a voluntary and anonymous school climate survey to evaluate school-level teaching conditions and the impact such conditions have on teacher retention and student achievement. The bill requires such survey to include questions regarding school leadership, teacher leadership, teacher autonomy, demands on teachers' time, student conduct management, professional development, instructional practices and support, new teacher support, community engagement and support, and facilities and other resources.

The NEA and the VEA have supported to implementation of school climate surveys for years and we, in fact, encouraged the VA DOE to include a climate survey in their Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan. State-wide school climate surveys have been used by 20 other states and by 5 school divisions in Virginia. These states and divisions are using the data generated by these surveys to inform state and local policies on teacher retention and student achievement. We believe that as Virginia addresses the teacher shortage, we need to take action on the long list of issues that are driving teachers from the classroom.

Without question, salaries are part of the equation, and the VEA continues to fight for teacher salaries that are at or above the national average. But teachers don't get into the profession to get rich, they do it because they have a calling to teach. However, they do deserve to live and retire with dignity, to be able to pay their student loans, to own a home, and to support a family. What they also deserve is to work in an environment that is conducive to good teaching and good learning. We know there are serious issues in our schools that we need to fix to help our teachers teach. Data from a school climate survey will help inform good policy to address these issues.

We are grateful to the Senate Education and Health Sub Committee on Public Education for unanimously reporting SB456 to the full committee and we are hopeful the bill goes to the Senate floor soon. The Senators who voted in sub to move our bill forward are: Senators Carrico (Chairman), Dunnavant, Howell, Locke, Peake.

We have the identical bill on the House (HB1119) side and we look forward to that bill coming to the House Sub Committee soon.

In other VEA bill news, today Delegate Chris Hurst filed his bill that will restore the voting rules of the SOL Innovation Committee back to the original intent, and take away legislators' ability to veto really good, common sense reforms. Delegate Hurst is very brave to take on this bill as any legislation that takes away a legislators authority (that they gave themselves through legislation) is a tough one. But, like us,  Delegate Hurst sees the current voting practice as an overreach of legislative authority and as undermining to the good work of the SOL Innovation Committee. The VEA is issuing a press release on this bill that I will post once it is available. We are also launching a petition. This is where we need your help. Please sign the petition and share it every way you know how. We'd like Delegate Hurst to have thousands of petitions with him when he brings his bill to the House Education Committee. Click here  to sign the survey.

Budget amendments will be public later today, so we will fill you in tomorrow on the good, the bad, and the ugly on those. The outgoing Governor's budget and these budget amendments will form the basis for the final 2018-2020 budget we will have before session adjourns on March 10, so these amendments are very important.

This week has been slow, so get ready to roll next week. All of the House Sub Committees will FINALLY meet and take up bills, so things will start moving very quickly. As a reminder, Monday, January 22 is VEA Lobby Day. It is also Women's Lobby Day so we are expecting very large crowds all day. The new building will really be tested as will your patience. Right now the weather looks good, so that will help. Tomorrow I will post details on some of the events for Women's Lobby Day as I know many of you will be in Richmond for VEA Lobby Day and may want to also participate in those events.