Friday, August 15, 2014

Budget Update from Governor's Address to Joint Money Committees

This morning, Governor McAuliffe addressed the Joint Money Committees of the General Assembly to provide a budget update and report on the finances of the Commonwealth. The address spelled out a bleak financial picture and the need to significantly lower the revenue forecast for the 2015-2016 biennium. The governor stated that this fiscal year marks the first time that general fund revenues declined in Virginia other than in a national recession. Typically our economy parallels or outpaces the national economy, but we are seeing the national economy grow while our economy suffers due to federal government spending cuts.

The overall budget shortfall is worse than expected at $2.5B over the biennium. However, with set asides from the FY'14 budget and utilizing the "rainy day" fund, approximately $1.55B of the shortfall is already covered. The governor and legislators will need to identify $882M in cuts for the next biennium- $346M in FY’15 and $536M in FY’16.

You can read the full text of the governor’s address here: https://governor.virginia.gov/news/newsarticle?articleId=5800. VSBA will continue to update you on the budget and potential impacts to school divisions as more information becomes available.

Thank you for your continued advocacy and support of public education. 

AUGUST 2014 ACTION ALERT

Back-to-School: Engage your parents

Parental involvement is one of the most important factors in a child’s education. Parent’s who set high expectations for their child’s educational achievements and monitor their child’s learning process inspire their children to get excited about academics. Children who are motivated to learn behave better in school and have higher attendance rates, which inevitably enables the teachers to spend more time on classroom instruction.
As our students and teachers start back to school, it’s a great time to engage parents in their child’s learning, the work of your school board, and advocate for their continued support of public education. Over the next month, we ask that you take time to meet with parents and your local PTA/PTO’s, and especially those hard-to-reach parents. You can engage your parents by opening lines of communication, discussing successes in your schools, and listening to what they see as challenges. Utilize back-to-school nights, Saturday mornings at the soccer field, and social media to have these important conversations. We've even seen one local school board member hold “office hours” where they allow community members to express their ideas and concerns. Consider employing community-based organizations, like faith-based organizations, local Head Start programs, and homeless shelters, to help disseminate information and materials.
Parental engagement is a key to the success of your students and your schools. They can be your best advocate in your schools and in your community. Take a few minutes to engage them now!
Don’t forget to utilize the VSBA Grassroots Advocacy Guide for policy topics to discuss and good questions to ask when engaging with parents. Questions, ideas on ways to advocate and engage your community, or success stories to share? Send them to VSBA Government Relations Coordinator Emily Webb at emily@vsba.org.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Update from Senate Education and Health and House Appropriations

The Senate Education and Health Committee met Thursday morning for its final meeting of session. Chairman Lucas moved quickly through the docket taking the recommendations from the subcommittee reports.  VSBA had a few successes in defeating bills unwanted bills and a defeat with the School Calendar “Labor Day” bills. Below is a report of the committee’s actions.

HB197 (Landes) directs the Board of Education to develop guidelines for supplementary written materials used to teach the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United State, the Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom, the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the charters of the Virginia Company of April 10, 1606, May 23, 1609 and March 12, 1612. It further requires that all teachers ensure that supplementary written materials contain accurate restatements of the principles contained in the documents. The bill was reported from the full committee.

HB324 (D. Bell) was carried over to 2015. VSBA strongly opposed the bill due to significant problems including funding concerns. The bill established the Board of the Virtual Virginia School and requires that the School be open to any student in the Commonwealth. The bill would result in federal, state, and local funds, up to $6,500 per pupil, being transferred from local school boards to the Virtual Virginia School. Chairman Lucas will send a letter to the Chairman of the Finance Committee requesting that they examine the funding provisions in the bill.

HB515 (Minchew) was significantly amended in the House but VSBA still had concerns. The bill required principals to attempt to notify the parents of any student who violates a school board policy or compulsory school attendance requirement if the violation could result in a student’s suspension, long-term suspension or expulsion. VSBA had concerns with the language of the amended legislation because it could be construed to place a significant burden on principals to notify parents of minor infractions even when the teacher or principal has decided not to suspend the student. The bill was passed by indefinitely and failed to report from the committee due to the concerns raised by VSBA.

HB751 (Rust) was amended and unanimously reported by the committee. The bill clarifies that school administrators and the local school board have discretion in disciplining students for certain drug offenses. Current law requires school boards to expel students for these offenses but does allow school boards to impose another sanction if warranted by special circumstances. Under this legislation, a school board may still expel a student for drug offenses, but is not required to do so. 

HB754 (Rust) was stricken at the request of the patron. The bill allowed the school board or a committee thereof to change a disciplinary decision made by a Superintendent or designee or hearing officer in certain circumstances. It was VSBA's position that school boards can already take such actions.

HB786 (Wilt) prohibited the dismissal or probation of an employee on the grounds that they possessed an unloaded firearm in a closed container in their vehicle or in a locked trunk, a knife with a metal blade in their vehicle or an unloaded shotgun in a firearms rack. The possession of a firearm on school property in these limited circumstances is not prohibited by law but, currently, a school board may choose to prohibit it. This bill effectively prevented school boards from exercising their authority to prohibit firearms on school property in these circumstances. Due to the work of VSBA and other stakeholder groups, the bill was passed by indefinitely by the committee on a close 8-7 vote.

HB887 (Peace) requires the Board of Education to develop model criteria and procedures for establishing a Governor’s Career and Technical Education School. The bill was reported by the committee.

HB930 (Greason) was slightly amended by the patron and committee to clarify the specific stakeholder groups that will be involved in the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee, which will be led by the Secretary of Education. The committee is tasked to make recommendations on the Standards of Learning assessments, authentic individual student growth measures and alignment between the Standards of Learning and assessments and the School Performance Report Card. Additionally, the bill requires local school boards to certify instruction and the completion of local assessments in the other Standards of Learning subject areas. The bill also allows the Board of Education to make future further reductions in the number of SOL assessments in grades 3 through 11. VSBA has worked extensively with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. 

HB1086 (D. Bell) provides that when a student with a disability who lives in one school division enrolls in a full time virtual program offered by another a school division, the school division in which the student is enrolled must provide special education services to the student. The bill was reported by the committee.

HB1115 (Greason) expands Virtual Virginia by authorizing DOE to contract with local school boards that have developed virtual courses to make those virtual courses available to other school boards through Virtual Virginia. VSBA has been working with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. The full committee unanimously reported HB1115.

HB1229 (Landes) was conformed to SB324 to delay implementation of the A-F grading scale by three years. SB324 (Miller) has passed the House floor which delays implementation by one year. Both bills will go to conference to work on a compromise.

Unfortunately, the School Calendar “Labor Day” bills were not placed on the docket for a hearing by the committee. Without an action on HB333, HB610 and HB577, the bills will be left in committee indefinitely.

Thursday afternoon the Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee of House Appropriations met to act on the final bills assigned to them. As expected, the majority of the bills were tabled due to the fiscal impact.

SB388 (Barker) required the Board of Education to promulgate regulations providing local school boards maximum flexibility to determine the date for administering SOL assessments. The bill was tabled.

SB389 (Barker) directed the Board of Education to promulgate regulations for eligibility of expedited retakes of SOL assessments for each student regardless of grade level or course. The bill was tabled.

SB291 (Carrico) imposed certain evaluation requirements, including evaluation by a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, for students with visual impairment. VSBA had concerns about the fiscal impact this legislation would have on school divisions. The bill was tabled due to those concerns.

SB305 (Deeds) required that the Board of Education promulgate regulations to (1) increase the number of students and grade levels that are eligible for expedited retakes  and (2) allow students in grade 3 through 5 who score 390 to 399 on a SOL assessment to receive remediation and retake the assessment. The bill was tabled.

SB144 (Edwards) required all revisions to SOL assessments be finalized by December 31 of the school year prior to the school year in which the revised assessment will be administered. Due to the same fiscal impact concerns of HB365, the bill was tabled.


SB532 (Stuart) was conformed to HB134 (Cole) and reported from the subcommittee since it doesn’t have any fiscal impact to school divisions. The bill requires that a student with diabetes, with written parental and prescriber consent, be allowed to carry and use supplies and equipment for immediate treatment of their diabetes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Update from the final House Education Committee

The House Education Committee held its final meeting of the session this morning. The docket contained all of the Senate SOL Reform bills and a handful of other pieces of legislation.

SB2 (Marsden) requires that all textbooks approved by the Board of Education after July 1, 2014 must note that the Sea of Japan is also referred to as the East Sea. After much discussion and debate, the bill reported on a 19-3 vote.

SB144 (Edwards) is identical to HB365 and requires all revisions to SOL assessments be finalized by December 31 of the school year prior to the school year in which the revised assessment will be administered. Due to the fiscal impact HB365 was tabled in the Appropriations Committee. SB144, as amended to include an enactment clause, was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee 18-1.

SB270 (Miller) was reported 19-0 from the full committee. This bill requires only math and reading SOL assessments for grade 3.

SB305 (Deeds) requires that the Board of Education promulgate regulations to (1) increase the number of students and grade levels that are eligible for expedited retakes  and (2) allow students in grade 3 through 5 who score 390 to 399 on a SOL assessment to receive remediation and retake the assessment. The bill was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee 18-1. It will be before the Appropriations subcommittee tomorrow afternoon.

SB306 (Deeds) was conformed by the committee to HB930 (Greason) and unanimously reported. With the substitute the bill reduces SOL assessments in grade 3 through 8 from 22 to 17 assessments. It requires local school boards to certify instruction and the completion of local assessments in the other Standards of Learning subject areas. Further, the bill creates the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee. The committee, led by the Secretary of Education, will include a variety of stakeholders that are tasked to make recommendations on the Standards of Learning assessments, authentic individual student growth measures and alignment between the Standards of Learning and assessments and the School Performance Report Card. The bill also allows the Board of Education to make future further reductions in the number of SOL assessments in grades 3 through 11.

SB388 (Barker) was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee with a with a substitute. The substitute bill requires the Board of Education to promulgate regulations providing local school boards maximum flexibility to determine the date for administering SOL assessments.

SB389 (Barker) directs the Board of Education to promulgate regulations for eligibility of expedited retakes of SOL assessments for each student regardless of grade level or course. The bill was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee on an 18-1 vote.

SB532 (Stuart) was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee on a 12-8 vote. The bill requires training for certain staff in the administration of insulin and glucagon and the certification of the Superintendent that the requirements of Board’s Manuel for Training Public School Employees in the Administration of Insulin and Glucagon have been met. Additionally the bill requires that a student with diabetes, with written parental and prescriber consent, be allowed to carry and use supplies and equipment for immediate treatment of their diabetes. 

SB636 (Hanger) directs the Board of Education to review SOL assessments and develop a plan to reduce the number of assessments required by at least 25 percent. Given the other SOL bills that have passed or will pass the General Assembly this session, the committee felt the bill was no longer necessary and was tabled.

Several of these bills were referred to the House Appropriations committee. The Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee will meet tomorrow at 3pm to vote on these bills. Check back tomorrow for an update from the Appropriations subcommittee. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday's House Education Committee Update

Much of the legislative work of the General Assembly is starting to wind down while work on the budget is ramping up. The House Education committee met this morning for one of its final meetings of the session. : 

SB2 (Marsden) requires all textbooks approved by the Board of Education after July 1, 2014, to note that the Sea of Japan is also referred to as the East Sea. At the request of the patron, the bill went by for the day. It will be taken up for a vote on Wednesday.

SB107 (Stanley) was reported and referred to the Appropriations committee. This bill establishes a STEM grant program. The donations must be used by the qualified schools to support STEM programs. Qualified schools are public elementary and secondary schools where at least 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Grants are capped at $50,000 per organization per year.

SB168 (Stanley) was reported and referred to the Appropriations committee. This bill provides a grant of $5,000 to new and experienced teachers who relocate to either a school where at least 40 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch or to a school in a locality with a population of 50,000 or less.

SB672 (Favola) allows the Board of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) to create criteria and procedures for all out-of-state students to attend VSDB. There will be a tuition charged to these out-of-state students.  This bill was unanimously reported and referred to the Appropriations committee.

SB153 (Stuart) was reported and referred to the Appropriations committee. This bill only impacts Planning District 16 that includes Stafford, Fredericksburg, Caroline, King George and Spotsylvania. It expands eligibility for services through the Comprehensive Services for At-Risk Youth and Families program to students who transfer from an approved private school special education program to a public school special education program for the purpose of providing special education and related services when the public school special educational program is able to provide services comparable to those of an approved private school special educational program.      

SB562 (Locke) was reported unanimously from the full committee. This bill allows the school board that partners with a college partnership laboratory school to charge tuition to students enrolled in the college partnership laboratory school who do not reside within the partnering division.  

SB236 (Carrico) is a very problematic bill for VSBA. It requires that each school division adopt a policy that creates a limited public forum at any school event at which a student is permitted to speak and provides that the limited public forum does not discriminate or regulate against a student’s voluntary expression of religious viewpoint. Additionally, students may organize prayer groups or religious groups before, during or after school and shall have the same access to school facilities as other student-organized groups. If this bill passes, we believe that a constitutional challenge against a school board implementing the legislation is extremely likely. VSBA has offered amendments to the legislation that would authorize the Attorney General to advise and defend school boards implementing the legislation. This proposed amendments have been rejected by the patron. The bill, without the amendment proposed by VSBA, passed the Senate 20-18 prior to its reorganization. After much discussion from both sides, the bill reported from House Education on a close 12-10 vote. We will continue to work this bill in hopes of defeating it on the floor. As reported in the Washington Post, the governor has indicted that he would veto the bill if it passed both Houses. 

Action Alert – “Labor Day” bills in Senate Education and Health on Thursday

There are three “Labor Day” bills that the Senate Public Education recommended reporting Friday morning, House Bills 333, 610 and 577.

House Bill 333 (Greason) repeals the so-called “King’s Dominion law” and allows a local school board to set its own calendar and determine the opening date of the school year.

House Bill 610 (Robinson) is a different and creative take on the Labor Day bills. It allows a local school board to set its own school calendar and opening date. However, the division must close schools from the Thursday before through Labor Day or Friday before through the Tuesday after Labor Day. The members have been very intrigued by the Del. Robinson’s novel approach to this issue.

House Bill 577 (Stolle) allows a school board to set its academic calendar for any school within the division that has failed to meet full accreditation status. Additionally, it allows the school board to set its academic calendar for the entire division if more than 15 percent of all schools within the division have failed to achieve full accreditation status.

We request that you contact the members of the Senate Education and Health committee and urge them to SUPPORT all three of these bills. Our preference is House Bill 333, which allows for full flexibility by the local school board, but we believe House Bill 577 or House Bill 610 may have a better chance of passing.

Please contact Senators Lucas, Saslaw, Howell, Martin, Newman, Edwards, Locke, Barker, Miller, Smith, McWaters, Black, Carrico, Puller, and Favola by 7am on Thursday and ask them to SUPPORT local control of the school calendar and House Bills 333, 610 and 577. You can find the contact information for your legislators here.

Thank you for your continued support. 

Update from Senate Public Education subcommittee

On Friday morning, the Senate Public Education subcommittee met to take up a very lengthy docket. They made recommendations on several bills that will be before the full committee for a vote on Thursday.

HB324 (D. Bell) establishes the Board of the Virtual Virginia School and requires that the School be open to any student in the Commonwealth. The bill would result in federal, state, and local funds, up to $6,500 per pupil, being transferred from local school boards to the Virtual Virginia School. There are also other significant problems with this legislation and VSBA strongly opposed the bill in subcommittee. The subcommittee recommended carrying over the bill to 2015. The Chairman of Education will write a letter to the Chairman of Finance to look at the funding challenges.

HB333 (Greason) would repeal the so-called “King’s Dominion law” and allow local school boards to set their own calendars and determine the opening date of the school year. The subcommittee recommended reporting 3-2.

HB610 (Robinson) is another take on the Labor Day bills. It allows a local school board to set their school calendar and opening date. However, the division must close schools from the Thursday before through Labor Day or Friday before through the Tuesday after Labor Day. The subcommittee was very intrigued by the concept of this bill. They recommended reporting 3-2.

HB577 (Stolle) allows a school board to set its academic calendar for any school within the division that has failed to meet full accreditation status. Additionally, it allows the school board to set its academic calendar for the entire division if more than 15 percent of all schools within the division have failed to achieve full accreditation status. The subcommittee recommended reporting on a 3-1-1 vote.

HB515 (Minchew) requires principals to attempt to notify the parents of any student who violates a school board policy or compulsory school attendance requirement if the violation could result in a student’s suspension, long-term suspension or expulsion. VSBA has concerns with the language of the amended legislation because it could be construed to place a significant burden on principals to notify parents of minor infractions even when the teacher or principal has decided not to suspend the student. Due to the concerns of VSBA and several stakeholder groups, the subcommittee recommended passing by indefinitely on a 4-0-1 vote.

HB751 (Rust) changes the “shall” to “may” in the Code section dealing with the discipline of students for possessing drugs. Current law requires students to be expelled for these offenses, but does allow either a lesser punishment or no punishment if the facts of the particular case warrant it. The subcommittee unanimously recommended reporting HB751.

HB786 (Wilt) prohibits the dismissal or probation of an employee on the grounds that they possessed an unloaded firearm in a closed container in their vehicle or in a locked trunk, a knife with a metal blade in their vehicle or an unloaded shotgun in a firearms rack. The possession of a firearm on school property in these limited circumstances is not prohibited by law but, currently, a school board may choose to prohibit it. This bill would effectively prevent school boards from exercising their authority to prohibit firearms on school property in these circumstances. VSBA strongly opposed this bill in subcommittee. The subcommittee did not recommend reporting the bill on a 3-2 vote.

HB887 (Peace) requires the Board of Education to develop model criteria and procedures for establishing a Governor’s Career and Technical Education School. The subcommittee unanimously recommended reported HB887.

HB930 (Greason) reduces SOL assessments in grade 3 through 8 from 22 to 17 assessments. It requires local school boards to certify instruction and the completion of local assessments in the other Standards of Learning subject areas. Further, the bill creates the Standards of Learning Innovation Committee. The committee, led by the Secretary of Education, will include a variety of stakeholders that are tasked to make recommendations on the Standards of Learning assessments, authentic individual student growth measures and alignment between the Standards of Learning and assessments and the School Performance Report Card. The bill also allows the Board of Education to make future further reductions in the number of SOL assessments in grades 3 through 11. VSBA has worked extensively with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. The subcommittee recommended reporting on a 4-1 vote.

HB1086 (D. Bell) provides that when a student with a disability who lives in one school division enrolls in a full time virtual program offered by another a school division, the school division in which the student is enrolled must provide special education services to the student. The subcommittee recommended reporting 4-1.

HB1110 (Toscano) was not taken up this week at the request of the patron.

HB1115 (Greason) expands Virtual Virginia by authorizing DOE to contract with local school boards that have developed virtual courses to make those virtual courses available to other school boards through Virtual Virginia. VSBA has been working with Delegate Greason on this legislation and strongly supports the bill. The subcommittee unanimously recommended reporting HB1115.