Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Charter School Bill Advances, VEA Bills Heard, and a Bill You Have to Read to Believe

The chaotic tempo of the days leading up to crossover continued this morning and this chaos created a path for an unconstitutional charter school bill to report out of the full House Education Committee. HB2416 from Delegate Glenn Davis, authorizes the Virginia Board of Education to establish local charter schools even of the local school board denied the charter school application. It violates the local control statue and is a concerning bill. Interestingly, the bill died in subcommittee on Monday afternoon on a 4-4 vote. Ties votes fail in the House. The patron of the bill managed to have his bill reheard in the full committee. The full House Committee is made up of 12 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The Democrats oppose charter school bills that violate the Constitution and we can count on Republican Delegate Gordon Helsel to vote against these bills as well. If every member of the committee is present and voting, the bill would die on an 11-11 vote. The problem in the days ahead of crossover is that subcommittee meetings are scheduled at different times and the most controversial bills usually come up at this point in session. Members who serve on committees that meet at the same time are often running back and forth between committees to cast their votes. In the House you must be present to vote. Senators can leave a proxy vote if they have to head to another committee. When the charter school bill came up, Delegate Roslyn Tyler had to be in another subcommittee meeting so she was absent. That allowed the charter school bill to pass on a 11-10 vote. Delegate Helsel still voted with the Democrats on the bill, but even with that, we were outnumbered. The bill will go to the floor tomorrow. We feel good that we have the votes to stop the bill on the floor, but after defeating the bill in subcommittee, it was a blow to allow for committee trickery to bring it back.

Last night the House Rules Committee heard more than 65 bills and among them were two VEA initiated bills. HJ670 patroned by Delegate Hala Ayala asked for a study of the cost implications of allowing part-time school employees to be eligible for Virginia Retirement System (VRS) benefits. All study bills were laid on the table and the patrons were all asked to draft letters about their study request and submit them to the commission that reviews these study requests. The VEA will do that and we will see if we can get a study completed so that then we can determine the possibility of expanding VRS eligibility.

Our other bill in Rules last night was HJ592 patroned by Delegate Debra Rodman that would have required the VA Board of Education to revise the teacher evaluation model that is still tied to the Race to the Top requirements from 2011. These requirements include that 40% of a teacher's evaluation is tied to student growth. Test scores continue to be the measure of student growth and we know that is not the best indicator of a good teacher. The bill was laid on the table, but the Chair of the House Education Committee, Steve Landes, will write a letter, on behalf of the VEA, to the Board of Education asking them to prioritize this work this year. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is. This is win. We have been asking the VA BOE to do this work for three years, and, while they keep insisting the work on on the plan "this year", it has yest to happen. Having the Chair of the House Education Committee put pressure on the BOE will certainly push them. Right now the BOE says they will take up the work in July of this year.

And finally, in case you think that we can rest easy as we build our pro-public education majority in the House, I leave for you HJ684 from Delegate Dave LaRock. This bill was defeated 7-0 in Rules without the VEA having to say a word in opposition, but I want you to read the bill so you know what type of legislation is literally just below the surface waiting for any sign of light so it can pass. We need to work hard to make sure we never lose the good friends who vote against this type of bill. Thank you to Delegates Knight, Landes, Ware, Orrock, Plum, Ward, and Torian who voted to kill the bill. Please take a couple of minutes to read the bill yourself so you know why we have to stay awake and continue to fight the fight. Click here to read the bill.