Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sine Die... For Now

The gavel went down on the Regular Session of the General Assembly right before 2pm this afternoon. They adjourned Sine Die, which means with no future date or times set for their next meeting. That is usually the signal that the session is really over, but they adjourned without having adopted a 2018-2020 budget as they are required to do.Governor Northam will call them back for a Special Session to take up the budget. That date is not yet known or set, and it will depend on when the House and Senate Budget Conferees make headway on a compromise budget. There is some talk that may take well into April. We shall see. The VEA continues to put pressure on the Senate Conferees to expand Medicaid and invest in Virginia. Our cyber lobby alert has been updated. Even if you have already sent a message, please do so again. You can click here to send an email to the six Senate Conferees.

Work on Legislation is finished and there are a couple of exciting updates:

  • We protected our school librarians by working to defeat  SB261.
  • We round up the votes to pass HB1044 that will require every school division in Virginia to have policies on workplace bullying and employee protections.
  • We returned the 4 year education degree as a possibility as defined in SB76.
  • We limited expansion of back door vouchers by defeating SB172 and HB1165.
  • We were the only education association that supported SB229 that will require the DOE to develop and make available training for school bus personnel in assisting special education students. 
  • We worked with other education groups and our community colleges and higher education to clean up the dual enrollment process and build consistency in how those college credits, earned in high school, are honored. HB 3 makes positive changes to how those credits are gained and honored. 
  • We helped add recess to the instructional hour count in the elementary grades so that schools will have the time to allocate to this important part of the day.  SB273 and HB1419 establish this possibility. 
  • We protected the professionalism of teaching in HB1125 and SB349 that make some changes to the licensing process in the Commonwealth. We worked endlessly on that bill to make sure those sections that would have disadvantaged prospective teachers who go through a traditional teacher prep program and that would have allowed a local school division to hire non-licensed teachers were not included in the final bill. 
  • We worked with the Virginia Superintendents Association and the Virginia School Boards Association to change teacher licenses from 5 years to 10 years to limit the burden placed on our teachers to be in an constant state of license renewal. 

There is much more to report, but those are some of the highlights as I reflect on the session today just a few hours after the gavel went down. The work we did was good, but there is so much to do.

We must address the teacher shortage and teacher salaries through a sustained, long-term effort.
We must address the other issues that are causing our teachers and school employees to leave.
We must address the rising cost of health care and the burden that places on school employees.
We must do real work on the student debt problem in Virginia.
We must revise how we evaluate teachers in Virginia and use real measures of effectiveness, not test scores, when we evaluate.
We must fund the SOQs as revised by the Board of Education in 2016.
We must stop allowing "rebenchmarking" to be called a new investment in public schools. It is a technical funding update that changes NOTHING on the ground, it only reflects updated costs to our current programs.

So we have much to do. Start today. Contact the Senate Budget Conferees. Engage in your local association. Make yourself a vital voice to your School Board and Board of Supervisors or City Councils. VOTE! Do not wait for someone else to act on your behalf. Be the pebble that creates that huge ripple in a quiet pond. We must all get to work. While this session was better than the last, there is much to do.

Sine die!