Friday, February 8, 2019

VEA Convention and Teachers of Color Summit Bills Advance

If you ever thought that your voice couldn't make a difference, I wanted to assure you that it can. Two important bills continued their paths towards passage yesterday. The idea for each of these bills came directly from our members.

House Bill 2325 started as a New Business Item at Convention. Lori May from the Stafford Education Association made the motion that the VEA seek legislation to amend the Code of Virginia to broaden the authority of the Virginia Board of Education on cases where an educator faces license action. Current Code allows only for the license to be revoked or suspended. The NBI asked that a less punitive action, a reprimand, be added to the Board's authority. The VEA asked for legislation to be drafted, and Delegate Bob Thomas from Stafford has carried the bill on our behalf. The bill passed the House of Delegates 95-0 and yesterday passed the Senate Education and Health Subcommittee on Public Education unanimously. The bill will go to the full Senate committee next Thursday with a recommendation to send the bill to the floor of the Senate for passage. Once that happens, the bill should go to the floor of the Senate that Friday, and pass the Senate the week of February 18. At that point all that is left is the Governor's signature and the bill becomes law!

House Bill 2037 and the identical Senate Bill 1397 are the direct result of the recommendations from attendees of the first Teachers of Color Summit back in 2017. During that Summit, attendees worked in small groups to come up with recommendations, in both policy and practice, that would break down the barriers that prevent teachers of color from entering the profession. One of those recommendations was changes to the professional assessment requirements for entry into a teacher preparation program, those needed to earn an initial license, and those needed to complete the provisional license process. The pass rates for non-minority students is upwards of 40% higher than their minority counterparts. At the summit, our members talked about this issue and the inherent cultural biases that exist in the tests (and in many standardized tests, frankly).

Staff at the VEA formalized those recommendations and pushed them out to policy makers and legislators. This year Delegate Carroll-Foy and Senator Peake drafted those recommendations into legislation that are on the road to passage.

The House version of the bill passed 99-0, crossed over, and is currently assigned to the Senate Education and Health Committee. The Senate version of the bill is moving a little more quickly. It passed the Senate 40-0, crossed over and is on the floor of the House of Delegates where I expect it to pass today. These bills will also become law in Virginia.

Don't let anyone tell you your voice doesn't matter or that you can't make a difference. Get involved, fight for your issue, talk to others and see if the issue is, perhaps, state-wide. If so, we may need a new law to fix it!