Monday, January 28, 2019

Lobby Day, March, and Rally

Today has been a good day. More than 2,000 supporters of public education marched to and rallied on the Capitol steps. Check out facebook at twitter to see the crowd. It was really impressive, and the legislators who were in session on the floor of the House and Senate at the time heard you. A couple of legislators mentioned the rally during their testimony on bills. So while they could hear our voices during the rally, will they pass a budget that funds our future? We will see. Today the House Republicans announced that they will include the additional 2% for teacher salaries in the second year of the budget which will match the Governor's proposal. We don't yet know what they will cut to fund it. They are not planning to make the tax policy decisions included in the Governor's proposals, so that leads to a very significant difference in the revenues the House Rs have available to invest. I will be meeting with Delegate Chris Jones in the morning. He is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and the lead budget negotiator in the House. I am hopeful he gives me some details ahead of Sunday's budget announcements.

In other new, the VEA initiated HB2325 from Delegate Thomas that expands the options available to the VA BOE when they are taking action in a teacher's license passed the House Education Committee 18-0. That puts the bill on the uncontested calendar starting tomorrow. That generally makes for smooth sailing for a bill on the floor. Hopefully that will happen and we can start getting the Senate ready to take up the bill after crossover. This is a good bill, and Delegate Thomas is a great, hard-working patron. I feel good about  the bill. This is the bill that came from a new business item at convention and will allow the VA BOE to reprimand a teacher versus taking the more punitive license action that are, currently, their only options.

Later today the last House Education K-12 Subcommittee will meet. There is nothing too controversial, so while it will be long, it shouldn't be too bad. I will give updates tomorrow.

A big thank you to Delegates Hugo and Bloxom for their votes on HB2351 in the House Finance Committee this morning. The VEA opposes the bill as it expands the Education Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship Program. Even though this is a very limited expansion, there are some things we know about the program. These tax credits are lost state revenues that could and should be used to provide additional programs that actually target the most in need students. Last year VA lost over $11 million in tax credits to this program. Donors to these scholarships not only get significant tax breaks on their state returns, they can actually make a profit off of their donation in VA by also claiming the Federal tax deduction and, sometimes a 501 (c) 3 write off.  These programs are marketed for children in poverty and yet the bill allows for families who make up to 400% of poverty (over $100,000) to be eligible to take them. This is yet another way to shift state dollars (through lost revenues of the tax credits) to private schools under the guise of helping students in poverty.

The VEA is opposed to even a limited expansion to this tax credit program for these reasons and this morning HB2351 died on a 11-11 vote with Delegates Hugo and Bloxom voting with the Democrats.