Thursday, January 17, 2019

Early Start in Senate Education and Health

An early start today in the full Senate Education and Health Committee this morning. Let's get to the good news first. SB1397, the bill that the VEA and the School Superintendents worked on together, passed unanimously. This is the Teacher Diversity Bill that will break through the current roadblocks that keep minority students from entering the teaching profession. It is a really good bill. It now goes to the floor of the Senate early next week. Since it passed unanimously out of the full committee, it will go to the floor as an uncontested bill and likely pass in the block and cross over to the House. A really good outcome. Interestingly, the House version of the bill (HB2037) hasn't been heard in a subcommittee yet, so while we are hearing the House is as favorable to the bill as the Senate has been , we haven't seen a vote on the bill on that side of the General Assembly. So while we feel confident, we are still talking to members of the House and leadership on the House Education Committee and answering any question that have on the bill. We want to make sure this bill gets through the House with identical language to the Senate bill, too. That is important so that it can get on the "fast track" when it crosses over. This is a really big, really impactful bill. Lots of good work has been done to highlight the lack of diversity of Virginia's teacher workforce and this bill is a direct result of all of that work. I am proud of the VEA for taking this issue on and fighting for some really good solutions to this problem. So that's today's good news.

Making a right hand turn, there is some bad new to report. Senate Bill1236,Senator DeSteph's bill that goes after the VEA and other teacher unions, reported out of the full committee today. Interestingly Senator DeSteph offered a revised version of the bill and claimed that he "developed the substitute bill after discussing the issue with stakeholders and coming to a compromise." I am trying to figure out who those "stakeholders" were and how he can call something a compromise when you only talk to one side. Neither the VEA nor the other two opponents to the bill- the School Boards Association (VSBA) and the Association of School Superintendents (VASS)- were invited by the senator to discuss a compromise. The bill is better but it still puts all employee "groups" on an even playing field with the VEA. It also directs local school boards on how they will mange their relationship with the local education association. That is a complete overstep of local control of our schools. You can read the new version of the bill here. This is a tough committee for anti-union bills. Frankly it was our goal to make sure the Democrats on the committee knew what the issue was and that they voted to protect the union. We visited the office of each of the Democratic members and dropped off a one pager on the bill. Because Senator DeSteph claimed to have reached a compromise with stakeholders, two members who are usually with us, abstained from the vote because there was no testimony allowed on the substitute bill. The vote tally is below. A NAY vote was to kill the bill:

SB 1236 Public schools; equal access, education employee associations, etc.

01/17/19  Senate: Reported from Education and Health with substitute (8-Y 4-N 2-A)

YEAS--Newman, Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, Dunnavant, Chase, Suetterlein, Peake--8.
NAYS--Saslaw, Lucas, Howell, Locke--4.
ABSTENTIONS--Barker, Petersen--

The bill will now go to the floor of the Senate. We will be getting out a cyberlobby action later today on the issue asking our members of the VA Senate to vote NO on the bill. We are making sure that VASS and VSBA are reaching out to their members, too. If we can get school superintendents to call their school division's senator, we may be able to kill this on the floor. If not, we will, hopefully, kill it before it gets to the floor of the House.