Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Lobby Day a Smashing Success!

January 27, 2020

Wow! We showed up today and made our voices heard! Thank you to all of our members who got up early, stood in very long lines, and took the time to meet with your legislators today. I am hearing from so many members of the General Assembly how amazing Virginia’s educators were today. This is how we demonstrate our power and hold legislators accountable.

It is my honor to serve you all.

Some big news today. If you didn’t hear, the ERA passed in Virginia and we will become the 38th state to ratify. I know some of our members were able to be in the gallery to watch the debate and final vote. Congratulations to all the advocates who have worked this issue for all these years. You have heard me say it before, elections matter!

We started the day at 7am in the House Education Subcommittee on the SOLs/SOQs. Delegate Aird’s HB1316 that will fully implement the SOQs as issued by the VA Board of Education passed on a 7-1 vote. The bill will head to the House Appropriations Committee as implementation will include over $405 million a year. These are all much needed programs and the VEA fully supports the bill and the budget amendment to fully fund the legislation. It is time for the General Assembly to do the work the VA Constitution directs them to do and ensure that all students in the Commonwealth have a system of high quality public education. The newly issued SOQs puts VA on the path towards that Constitutional obligation. Also in the subcommittee were bills that will implement the portions of the SOQ revisions that Governor Northam included in his budget. This includes HB1508 from Delegate McQuinn that will change the staffing ratios in the SOQ on school counselors. The Governor funded the state’s share of one school counselor for every 250 students. This is the ratio recommended by the National Association of School Counselors and we look forward to finally being able to support not only our students post-secondary needs, but also their mental health needs by having the school counselors we need in our public schools. The other SOQ bill was Delegate Guzman’s HB975 that will improve the staffing ratios for teachers who work with our English Language Learners. This has been an issue our members who work with ELL students have been raising for years. We both bills reported and were referred to the Appropriations committee.

After the subcommittee and full committee, it was time to rally. Turn out was ever better than we expected. You all rocked your red, your signs were on point, and your voices were loud. Congratulations on your work today. Keep it up. You heard the patrons of the bills today tell you that for the SOQ bills, today was the first step. You will be getting information from the VEA. In the next few days on actions you need to take to make sure that the final budget does, in fact, Fund Our Future.