Friday, January 24, 2020

Are You Ready For Monday?

January 24. 2020

Today was a typical Friday at the General Assembly. Onto the floor early, lighter committee afternoons, and emptying hallways at the Pocahontas building. The difference today was the increase in frantic texts and emails from legislators and their aides as education bills are finally being placed on committee and subcommittee dockets. There are only two full weeks before cross over which is when each body must complete work on legislation that originated in that body. As of today, the House has only passed 16 bills of the more than 1600 filed in House. I’m not a math person, but that’s less than 1%. The next two weeks will be very, very busy.

Monday is HUGE day for public education at the Capitol. Yes, it is our Lobby Day (more on that later) but Monday is also a packed-full day for the House Education Committee. If you are going to be in Richmond on Monday and your schedule allows, try to get into one of the three House Education Committee meetings.

Monday’s Schedule:
7am- House Education Subcommittee on SOLs/SOQs chaired by VEA member Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg. All of the House Education Committees will meet in the House Shared Committee Room in the Pocahontas building.

This docket is packed with important bills, including those that the VEA initiated. I know it’s early, but come if you can. Subcommittee is more interesting, as this is where bills get a full vetting and in-depth hearing. Click here to see the list of bills that will be heard during that meeting.

9am- Full House Education Committee chaired by Delegate Roslyn Tyler.
This docket is filled with bills that have already been through a subcommittee hearing. The bills are heard as subcommittee reports with far less testimony. Click here to see that agenda.

4pm- House Education Subcommittee on K-12 chaired by Delegate Lamont Bagby.
This subcommittee is also stacked with bills. I expect this sub to go well into the night. You can click here to see that agenda.

Hopefully you have appointments with your legislators already set up, but if you have time, come by the House Education Committee.

Lobby Day Click here for all the details:

You have you plan all ready and appointments all set, right?. Arrive to the Pocahontas building early on Monday as the line to get in could be as long as 45 minutes to an hour. All visitors need to go through security and be screened. You can bring drinks and snacks in with you. Be patient as the state police and General Assembly security at the door are really lovely and helpful. They are working to keep us all safe. I know lines are no fun, but it’s what we have to do.

If you have an appointment with a legislator and you “get their aide instead” please know it is because there are so many committees on Monday and all legislators are on committees and presenting their own bills in front of others. Unlike Congress, the General Assembly does not have any down time during the day when legislators are free to be in their offices for appointments. Legislative Aides are highly knowledgeable professionals who work closely with their member of the General Assembly. I promise, a meeting with an LA is just as good as with a Delegate or Senator (except maybe for photo ops).

There is a coffee vendor on the 5th floor of the Pocahontas building. It’s not great coffee and it is expensive. That is the only place to get coffee in the building! There are vending machines on most floors, but not coffee. You can bring coffee in with you, so I recommend that.

There is a very large, very good cafeteria across the street from the Pocahontas building on the 3rd floor of the Sun Trust building that is open to the public. There is a very small lunch spot in the Capitol, but it gets very crowded.

There will be no screening to enter the Bell Tower area where we will hold our rally. Please remember, though, you can only have hand-held signs, nothing on post. Also remember there are no signs allowed in committee meetings.

Everyone who attends one of our Lobby Day briefings will get a packet of materials, but in case you aren’t able to make one of those, or you want to study up, here are the talking points and bill numbers for Monday:

ISSUE #1: Collective Bargaining for Public Sector Employees
  • Virginia is one of only three state in the country that explicitly ban public sector workers from collectively bargaining for fair pay, better working conditions, and the resources they need to do their jobs
  • Having a seat at the table will ensure that school employees have a genuine voice in the learning and working conditions in their schools.
  • In other states with collective bargaining, educators and school districts have negotiated agreements that have lowered class sizes, provided for extra resources for students, and addressed school health and safety issues.
  • Collective bargaining also offers an avenue for addressing poor pay, erasing teacher shortages, and making sure we attract and retain the very best to our classrooms.
ASK: Vote YES on SB1022 (Boysko)/HB582 (Guzman) that will repeal the prohibition on public sector employee collective bargaining and establish a framework and structure to support collective bargaining.

ISSUE #2: Fully Implement and FUND the Standards of Quality (SOQs) as issued by the VA Board of Education
  • Virginia ranks 40th in the nation in the amount of state funding it allocates, per student, to our public schools, yet we are the 12th wealthiest state in the country.
  • Since the Great Recession, state funding for our schools has actually declined 8 percent, in inflation-adjusted dollars, even as the number of young people attending them has grown.
  • Every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or zip code, should attend well-staffed public schools where they have instructional, social, and emotional support to be successful.
  • The SOQ revisions updated staffing ratios for school counselors, social workers, mental health staff, nurses, assistant principals, and teachers for English language learners, among other staff, who faced with overwhelming student caseloads.
  • The Virginia Board of Education also included a new fund that combines existing state funds for the At-Risk Add-On program with the SOL Prevention, Intervention, and Remediation program and add an additional $270 million in new state funds in the two-year budget. Divisions are directed to spend funds in schools with the greatest concentration of poverty and will report to the Virginia Department of Education to ensure resources are going where need is greatest.
ASKS: Vote YES on SB1316 (McClellan)/HB728 (Aird) to fully implement the revised SOQs and support the budget amendments (Item 136 C.5.k. McClellan/Aird) that reverses the Support Staff Cap as recommended by the VA Board of Education.

ISSUE #3: Increase Salaries for SOQ Positions/Increase Minimum Wage
  • Virginia ranks 32nd in the county in teacher salary. We are $8500 BELOW the National Average. 
  • Virginia must provide state support for salary increases every year until we are at, or above, the National Average if we are ever to meet the goal established by the General Assembly.
  • Our Educational Support Personnel (ESPs) are the backbone of our public schools, and many of them do not make a living wage.
  • Virginia must increase the minimum wage for all workers so that our dedicated ESPs can continue to serve our students and our public schools while also being able to pay their bills, feed their families, and earn a respectable salary.
  1. Support budget amendments in include a 5% salary increase in the first year of the biennium ($241.5 million).
  2. Vote YES on SB73 (Locke)/HB395 (Ward) that will increase the minimum wage in Virginia to $15 an hour for all workers.
 ISSUE #4: Restore Due Process to Teachers
  • In 2013, the General Assembly took action to roll back due process for teachers because of a false narrative that it is hard to fire a teacher.
  • Rollbacks included extending probation for teachers from 3 years to up to 5 years. Classified state employees only serve a one year probations, so even 3 years is a very long time. SB98 (Locke)/HB365 (Carroll Foy) restore teacher probation to 3 years.
  • In 2013 a definition of teacher incompetency was added to the that included ONE, single unsatisfactory performance evaluation as a standard and as a reason a teacher can be fired. SB 167 (Favola)/HB570 (Guzman) removes the very punitive definition form the Code. The bills DO NOT remove “incompetency” as a reason to fire a teacher, they just remove the punitive use of one evaluation.
  • In 2013, the use of a three person panel in teacher dismissal cases was stripped from the Code denying teachers a fair hearing before a school board. SB377 (Bell) restores the OPTION of using a three person panel.
ASKS: Vote YES on legislation that will restore fairness and due process to teachers in their employment contracts with school divisions. Vote YES for SB98/HB365. Vote YES on SB167/HB570. Vote YES on SB377.

The VEA is working more than 400 bills this session, but these are the ones we really need you to highlight on Monday. So get your RED on, get rest now, pack your patience, and get ready to tell your story!

See you Monday!