Tuesday, August 4, 2020
RICHMOND — Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane today exercised emergency authority granted to him by the 2020 General Assembly to waive annual school accreditation for the 2021-2022 academic year. Schools will be assigned a rating of “Accreditation Waived,” the same rating assigned schools for 2020-2021 under a waiver issued in April.
Accreditation ratings are based on performance during the previous school year. The statewide closure of schools in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of spring Standards of Learning testing. Student performance on SOL tests in English, mathematics and science are key metrics under the state Board of Education’s school accreditation standards.
Without spring 2020 SOL results, there is insufficient data for the Virginia Department of Education to calculate accreditation ratings for the 2020-2021 school year. And because year-to-year growth in English and growth in mathematics are also accreditation metrics, VDOE won’t have sufficient data to calculate ratings for 2021-2022 either, because even if students are able to take tests next spring, the department won’t have baseline data from 2019-2020 for measuring growth.
In April, Lane appointed a task force comprising division superintendents, testing directors, educators, the vice president of the state Board of Education and representatives of education professional organizations to study the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on the commonwealth’s school accountability system and make recommendations on accreditation determinations for 2021-2022. Waiving accreditation until there is sufficient baseline data to measure student growth was one of two options recommended by the task force.
“Waiving annual accreditation for a second year will allow our schools to focus on assessing the impact of the shut down on students, academically and on their social and emotional well-being,” Lane said. “It will also allow school divisions to make decisions about resuming in-person instruction or reverting to virtual learning that prioritize the health of students and staff, without the added pressure of the possible impact on accreditation. If tests are administered during the upcoming school year, the focus should be on evaluating the impact of the pandemic on student learning and establishing a new baseline for measuring student growth.”
The Virginia Department of Education’s Office of School Quality will continue to support schools implementing improvement plans based on their accreditation ratings for 2019-2020.
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Senate Republicans unveiled a new COVID-19 pandemic response plan with a total funding level of approximately $1 trillion. It addresses public education in a variety of ways. The proposed legislation includes $105 billion for education including approximately $70 billion for K-12 education. However, two-thirds of the funding is only available to districts with approved re-opening plans that must be submitted to and approved by the Governor. Republican leaders are referring to the comprehensive legislative section focused on appropriations as the HEALS Act (Health
The legislation in its current form has significant opposition but it will be used as a starting point for negotiations with the Democrats. It is expected it will change significantly as it moves through the legislative process. However, we wanted to highlight the proposal's major education components and their potential impact on local school districts.
Education Stabilization Fund
The total legislative package contains $105 billion for education (K-12 and higher education combined) overall. The funds are available through September 30, 2021 and allocated as follows:
- $1 billion for outlying areas and the Bureau of Indian Education
- $2 billion for governors
- $69.6 billion for K12
- $29.1 billion for higher education
- Maintenance of Effort.
- NAEP Funds and Administration Funds
Private Education Provisions
The HEALS Act includes provisions for the school choice program that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed for Education Freedom Scholarships
The legislation does not address the homework gap leaving this critical issue students across the nation are facing unresolved in this current proposal. Addressing the digital divide in education is an allowable use under the funds but this will create a competitive environment with many other important programs and will not adequately resolve the issue.
The legislation includes schools in its liability coverage. State tort liability laws are essentially eliminated under the legislation for issues arising from COVID-19 and replaced with a federal cause of action in which the plaintiff must prove their case through a clear and convincing evidence standard which is a higher standard than the normal one. Plaintiffs will need to prove that the defendant was not making reasonable efforts to comply with applicable government standards and /or guidance and was engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Friday, July 10, 2020
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Layne added that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic shutdown to mitigate the spread of the virus, did negatively impact the final months of the fiscal year. He added that revenue collections will be less than $billion below the official forecast made to lawmakers earlier in the fiscal year.
Highlights from Secretary Layne's report include:
Net Individual Income Tax (70% of general fund revenues): Through May, collections of net individual income tax fell 3.6 percent from the same period last year, trailing the annual estimate of 1.3 percent growth. Performance in each component of individual income tax is as follows:
Individual Income Tax Withholding (62% of general fund revenues): Collections of payroll withholding taxes fell 13.0 percent in May. Two fewer deposit days accounted for a large part of the decline; however, there was a broad-based decrease in the number of firms paying. Tax withholding collections decreased 4.4 percent during April and May combined. Year-to-date, collections have grown 3.1 percent, trailing the annual estimate of 4.7 percent growth.
Individual Income Tax Nonwithholding (17% of general fund revenues): May is typically a significant month for collections in this source, with final payments for tax year 2019 and the first estimated payment for tax year 2020 both due at the beginning of May. This year, the payment date has been extended to June 1, so it is unclear how many payments have been delayed.
Collections in nonwithholding were $500.1 million compared with $764.9 million in May of last year, a decline of 34.6 percent. This decline was anticipated and consistent with our projections. Year-to-date, collections fell by 22.6 percent, trailing the annual estimate of a 4.3 percent decline.
Individual Income Tax Refunds: The Department of Taxation issued $182.0 million in refunds in May, compared with $144.6 million in May of last year, an increase of 25.9 percent. For the filing season, TAX has issued 2.3 million refunds, about the same number as last year. On a fiscal year basis, TAX has issued $1,695.9 million in refunds through May compared with $1,643.4 million through the same period last year.
Sales Tax (18% of general fund revenues): Collections of sales and use taxes, reflecting April sales, fell 12.5 percent in May. The month represents a full month of reduction in sales due to numerous store closings during the COVID-19 pandemic. On a year-to-date basis, collections of sales and use taxes have risen 5.4 percent, trailing the annual estimate of 7.4 percent growth.
Corporate Income Tax (5% of general fund revenues): May is not typically a significant month for collections in this source, as final or extension payments are mainly due only from retailers who usually have a January 31 close to their fiscal year. Such payments vary significantly from year to year. Collections of corporate income taxes were $47.2 million in May, compared with receipts of $2.5 million in May of last year. The main reason for the increase is that last year contained about $25 million in prior tax year refunds.
To view the full report from Secretary Layne, please click here.
Friday, June 12, 2020
Last month, the United States House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act that included funds to assist state and local governments with their budgets. The Senate has yet to take up debate on the HEROES Act and according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the bill will not see any action until after Congress' July 4th recess.
Education leaders informed the Senate committee of the challenges they anticipate once they resume in-person classes. Senators were provided with information outlining the significant budget impact that reopening will have on school divisions. With deep budget cuts in state and local government programs, schools are grappling with reopening schools without the necessary resources to properly transition back to in-person instruction. Many districts are facing decisions regarding furloughs of employees and how best to provide services to students.
AASA, the School Superintendents Association, released es that districts would incur nearly $1.8 million in costs to meet federal health guidelines, from $640 for no-touch thermometers to $448,000 for additional custodial staff; that is just for an average school district of about 3,700 students. Additionally, the American Federation of Teachers on Wednesday released a cost analysis estimating that schools would need $116.5 billion for instructional staff, distance learning, before- and after-school care and transportation, while the National Education Association estimated that without federal relief, schools would lose 1.9 million education jobs.
If you have any questions about the topics discussed during the Senate hearing, please contact VSBA Government Relations Specialist, J.T. Kessler, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the entire hearing, click here.