Friday, January 18, 2019

Action Alert on Senate Bill 1236- An Attack on the VEA

Fridays are generally really slow at the General Assembly. They try to finish up early so that legislators can head home for the weekend. Today even the committees that usually meet on Fridays after the floor session, have been cancelled. I won't lie. It's been a long, busy week here. I am looking forward to getting home while it is still light out.

A couple of important updates. We have a cyberlobbist action alert active on Senate Bill 1236. This bill, from Senator DeSteph of VA Beach,  attempts to very broadly define an education employee association.  The bill puts all of these “associations” on an even playing field with the VEA even though there is no requirement in the definition that these other "groups" represent employees, or advocate for improved working and learning conditions for teachers and students.

As defined in the bill, “an education employee association means teacher associations, teacher organizations, and other associations that are formed for the purpose of promoting the interests of teachers or students.” So local school boards would need to treat any “group” as an equal to the VEA and other teacher unions. These other “groups” want access to employee emails and mailboxes. They want access to buildings and events. They want to be able to replace the true teacher unions.

Wondering where this bill came from? There was a local fight in Virginia Beach that the Virginia Beach City School Board resolved in a way that left a disgruntled group looking for a different answer. So even though this local issue was resolved by locally elected officials, Senator DeSteph has decided to try to reverse that decision through legislation.  While Senator Desteph claims to have brought in stakeholders on his substitute legislation, the VEA, VSBA, and VASS were not included in those discussions. It is not a compromise.

Both the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents oppose this legislation and we are grateful for that. It is a swipe at the local control of schools that is a Constitutional right granted to our local school boards. More importantly, SB1236 is an effort to silence educator voices at a time where, across this country and right here in Virginia, they have finally found their voices. Please contact your member of the VA Senate now by clicking here and demand they vote NO on SB1236. The bill will be on the floor of the Senate on Monday.

Speaking of Monday, it will be a crazy day here. MLK Day is always "Gun Day at the General Assembly." Gun rights advocates from across the Commonwealth come to Richmond, openly carrying their weapons, to demand protection of their 2nd amendment rights. The gun violence prevention groups will be here too. It is amazing to see their silent protests and quiet work on Gun Day especially since many of them are victims of gun violence. The VEA is proud to stand with them on common sense gun violence prevention legislation.

As if Gun Day wasn't crazy enough, Monday is always a marathon day for House Education. Dockets haven't been published, but I expect quite a large number of important VEA bills to come up. Make sure to read the Daily Report on Monday for a full run down.