Monday, November 14, 2016

Reminder: November is "VSBA Take Your Legislator to School" Month

During the month of November, we urge each school division in the state to invite at least one of their state legislators to visit their schools this month. There are many benefits from participating in “VSBA Take Your Legislator to School” Month, including developing closer relationships between school divisions, local communities and our elected officials, and creating opportunities for productive dialogue so that educational and political leaders can work together to ensure that we provide the best possible education for our students.

VSBA encourages school divisions to choose an area of focus for your legislative visits. For example, you may decide to focus on workforce readiness or CTE programs at your schools. This will allow you to emphasize certain aspects and programs in the division that you are most proud of or wish to highlight. Also, don’t forget to share some the challenges your school division is facing. Use this time to build a relationship, have an open dialogue, and share your personal stories about public education and your school division.

You can find the TYLTSM Guide on the VSBA website, which includes quick tips/suggestions, a sample invitation letter, a sample press release, and a proclamation from the VSBA Board of Directors. During the last few weeks of November, we ask that you please share photos of your legislative visits on social media and with VSBA so that we can use them in future publications.

Thank you for your continued commitment and hard work as leaders, advocates, and supporters of public education.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Engage the Business Community as Leaders, Supporters and Advocates for Public Education

We all know what the data is showing; the United States has a skills gap in our workforce. We’ve also heard Virginia policymakers talk about the important role that education plays in economic development. During the 2016 General Assembly session, legislators passed a bill that will work to redesign high schools and create the Profile of a Virginia Graduate. Educators and business leaders wholly supported this initiative and now the Board of Education is working hard to develop these reforms to better position Virginia’s students in the global economy. This is just one example of how business and education can work together for bi-partisan education reforms. 

Over the past few years, we have encouraged local school boards to engage the business community as leaders, supporters and advocates of public education and we need you to continue that conversation. The business community can be your key partners in education and, if they are appropriately informed, they can serve as advocates for your school division within your community and at the General Assembly. 

Before the start of the 2017 General Assembly session, we encourage you to meet with your Chamber of Commerce, economic development association and local business owners. Invite them to attend and present at your school board meeting to share their work, host a business roundtable, or visit your schools to highlight your CTE programs. Discuss your successes and challenges, look for ways that they can partner with your students and schools and listen to their needs as local business owners. Whether it’s providing financial resources for a specific program, mentoring students, or being a vocal supporter of public education, business leaders can make a positive impact. To assist with your advocacy efforts, please utilize the VSBA Grassroots Advocacy Guide for potential policy topics to discuss and good questions to ask when engaging with business leaders. 

Thank you for your continued support of VSBA’s advocacy initiatives. Your voice makes a difference for your students and your schools. Take time to advocate for your students, teachers, and community and engage with local business leaders today! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sine Die

The 2016 Virginia General Assembly has adjourned Sine Die. Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks on the biennial budget and their final actions on legislation.

Budget Compromise

As reported in the papers yesterday, the House and Senate conferees have reached a budget compromise with little time to spare. Budget briefings were held this afternoon to outline the details of the compromise. Overall, it has been a very successful year for public education in the biennial budget. On behalf of VSBA Executive Director, Gina Patterson and your VSBA Lobbying Team, we thank you for all of your hard work and advocacy efforts this session! Your voice has been heard and made a difference in Richmond! 
Below you will find a summary of the budget compromise. You can also view the budget briefing presentations from the Senate Finance Committee here and House Appropriations Committee here. Additionally, you can find the Direct Aid to Public Education Estimated Distribution sheets for FY’17 here and FY’18 here. The final vote on the budget is anticipated for Saturday morning. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available.

Lottery Per Pupil Funding
The compromise increases direct aid for public education by $892.3 million over the current biennium, including $400.5 million for Biennial Re-benchmarking. It also re-establishes the policy of distributing part of the Lottery Proceeds on a per pupil amount (PPA) basis, providing $193.8 million over the biennium. In FY’17, $36.6 million is provided, which equals $52.42 PPA. In FY’18, $157.2 million is provided, which equals $224.43 PPA. This policy gives local school divisions more local flexibility for spending options, permitting up to 50% of the new lottery PPA allocation to be used on any recurring expenses and at least 50% on non-recurring expenses such as capital, equipment, school buses, and maintenance. These funds do require maintenance of effort so revenue cannot be used to supplant local funding.

Salary Increase
Also included in the budget compromise is $49.0 million in the first year and $85.4 million in the second year for the state’s share of a 2% salary increase, for all funded SOQ instructional and support positions, effective December 1, 2016. Participation is optional and requires a local match. Local school divisions must provide at least a 2% salary increase by December 1, 2016 to be eligible for the state funding. School divisions cannot use the phase-in of the VRS swap as part of its local match.  

VRS Teacher Retirement
$56.8 million is provided in the second year, for the state’s share of funding, to advance the VRS scheduled rates to 100%. We know that advancing these rates ahead of schedule is a major concern for our school divisions and we have already been in talks with the budget conferees about potential solutions next year.

Cost of Competing Adjustment for Support Positions
Provides $17.0 million in the first year and $17.4 million the second year to fund the COCA rate of 10.6%.

Other policy and spending changes include:

  • $5.0 million over the biennium for additional support toward increasing Career and Technical credentialing and equipment
  • $2.0 million for equipment & $500,000 for tests & materials costs of earning industry certifications each year.
  • $4.6 million over the biennium for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.
  • $3.0 million for a new pilot program to provide grants to incentivize additional public-private partnerships in preschool services.
  • $1.6 million would be used to develop and operate a new scholarship grant program at community colleges to increase skills of the early education workforce.
  • $2.9 million over the biennium to increase the Preschool Initiative per pupil amount from $6,000 to $6,125.
  • $2.1 million for new competitive grants in the second year for school divisions that develop and implement a performance-based teacher compensation system.
  • $1.6 million GF for Virtual Virginia to expand the full-time pilot initiative from 90 to 200 students and a new Virtual Virginia Math Outreach Algebra I pilot program.
  • $3.1 million over the biennium for supplemental education programs:
  • Communities In Schools (CIS): $450,000 each year
  • High School Innovation grants: $250,000 each year
  • Jobs for Virginia Graduates (JVG): $200,000 each year
  • Summer and CTE Governor’s Schools: $200,000 each year
  • Great Aspirations Scholarship Program (GRASP): $187,500 each year
  • Project Discovery: $187,500 the second year
  • Roanoke Valley CTE Center Governor School: $100,000 the first year
  • Virginia Student Training and Refurbishment (VA STAR): $50,000 each year
  • Southside Regional Technology Consortium: $50,000 each year
  • $1.0 million over the biennium for computer science training for teachers.
  • $1.0 million over the biennium for the Breakfast-After-the-Bell.
    • Includes clarifying language to ensure that the funding will be focused specifically on elementary schools with at least 45% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch and the traditional breakfast program. 
Department of Education Central Office Appropriations

  • $5.0 million for a one-time development cost for expanding the Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) to grades 3-5 for math and grades 3-8 for reading.
  • $900,000 each year for eMediaVA to handle the digital content development and on-line portal access for Virtual Virginia contract with WHRO.
  • $414,000 over the biennium and one position to administer statewide dyslexia training to teachers seeking an initial licensure or a renewal.
  • $500,000 the first year for a new pilot to assess student academic growth in schools.
  • $275,000 the second year to provide start-up funding for the implementation costs of the new Virginia Virtual School.
  • Budget language directs DOE to transfer the statewide average of SOQ, sales tax, and any appropriate special education funding from a resident school division to Virginia Virtual School for each enrolled student beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

Language-only amendments
In addition to funding and policy changes, there were several language-only amendments in the budget compromise. Those language amendments:

  • Mandate the Board of Education to withhold a portion of the At-Risk Add-on funding from a school division that has been determined by the Board to have failed to meet its obligations for progress in implementing corrective action plans.
    • Direct the Department of Education to:
    • Establish a workgroup to review the transition from the use of computer labs in schools to the use of technology devices such as tablets and similar laptop devices in classrooms.
    • Complete a statewide review of the use of technology in the classroom, all digital content, and on-line based curriculum to determine best practices and benefits.
    • Convene an interagency workgroup to assess the barriers to serving students with disabilities in the schools & report to the Commission on Youth prior to the 2017 Session.
    • Review the equity issue regarding the length of program day and distribution methodology used to determine the Governor’s School tuition payments & report to Chairmen of House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees prior to the 2017 Session.
    • Work in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System, to ensure that the same policies regarding the cost for dual enrollment courses held at a community college, are consistently applied to public school students and home-schooled students alike.
    • Develop and provide a teacher exit questionnaire model to school divisions


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Homestretch

This week marks the final week of the 2016 General Assembly session. As we moved toward the finish line, there are still a handful of consequential bills on the floor of their respective houses, including the Parental Choice Education Savings Account legislation and the Virginia Virtual School legislation, or in a conference committee, including the High School Redesign legislation. Additionally, the budget conferees are still in the process of meeting to finalize their budget conference report.  We anticipate that the budget conference report will be available on Thursday for review with a final vote on Saturday. Please check back later for additional information on the budget and remaining legislation. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Update from the Money Committees

Senate Finance Committee - Right after the House Education Committee yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee took up a lengthy docket which included HB8, the virtual school bill, and HB389, the Parental Choice Savings Account bill.

HB8 (R. Bell) establishes the Virginia Virtual School as a full-time virtual school program. Additionally, it requires that any student who enrolls full-time shall have the average state share of the Standards of Quality per pupil funding be transferred to the School. The committee amended the bill to: 
  • place a cap of enrolled students to 5,000
  •  delay the implementation date by one year, and
  •  direct the Department of Education to review the statewide use of online learning, including virtual courses and programs and develop a proposed methodology for estimating the cost of fully online programs. 
With these amendments, the committee reported the bill on a 10-4 vote.

HB389 (LaRock) creates the Parental Choice Education Savings Account that allows a parent of students with disabilities to receive 90 percent of the SOQ per pupil state funds to use for education-related expenses of the student, including tuition, deposits, fees, transportation and required textbooks at a private, sectarian or nonsectarian elementary or secondary school or a public higher education institution. After a lengthy discussion and testimony, the committee placed a reenactment clause on the bill, which reads "that the provisions of this act shall not become effective unless reenacted by the 2017 Session of the General Assembly." With the reenactment clause, the 9-5 vote reflected bipartisan opposition. 

House Appropriations Committee - A bill that we have been working on for several years was considered by the House Appropriations Compensation and Retirement subcommittee yesterday. 

SB364 (Chafin) gives the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) the flexibility to create a statewide health insurance plan similar to the state employee health plan for local school divisions and local governments, giving local school boards an option to assist with controlling runaway health insurance costs. The subcommittee unanimously reported the bill and a few minutes later the full committee did the same. SB364 now heads to the House floor on the uncontested calendar.

Thank you to Senator Chafin for his diligent work and all of our members who were very active and engaged over the past few years on this legislation. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Final House Education Committee

Today’s meeting was the final committee meeting of the 2016 session. They took up two bills, both of particular interest to VSBA. Below is a summary of the bills and the committee’s action.

SB740 (Surovell) prohibits school boards requiring the use of any electronic textbook in any course in grades six through 12 unless the school board adopts a plan to ensure that by July 1, 2019, each student enrolled in such course will have actual access at school and in their residence to at least one personal computing device not shared with another student that contains an operating system and hardware necessary to support the format of each electronic textbook expected to be used in such course, and the relevant schools will be equipped with the fiber optic or wireless broadband connections necessary to provide adequate connectivity. The bill defines adequate connectivity as fiber optic or other technology that is capable of delivering bandwidth of at least one megabit per second per enrolled student. There was extensive discussion on this legislation in yesterday’s subcommittee where VSBA expressed concerns. In today’s committee meeting the bill was passed by indefinitely and will not be moving forward.

SB734 (Obenshain) makes several changes to the provisions for the establishment and operation of public charter schools, including making changes and providing greater specificity regarding (i) the applicability of various laws, regulations, policies, and procedures to public charter schools; (ii) the contents of charter applications; and (iii) the procedure for executing charter contracts and the contents of such contracts. The full committee recommended reporting the bill on a 16-6 vote.