Thursday, December 18, 2014

Governor’s Biennial Budget Update

This morning, Governor McAuliffe addressed the joint money committees of Senate Finance, House Appropriations, and House Finance to unveil his biennial budget amendments. The governor’s August address spelled out a bleak financial picture and the need to significantly lower the revenue forecast for the 2015-2016 biennium. Since that time, the governor and legislature, along with state agencies, have made progress on closing the $2.4 billion budget shortfall. Today’s address unveiled additional spending cuts along with targeted investments in key areas including public education. We are pleased to see that Governor McAuliffe has protected K-12 education from additional cuts or program reductions. However, the budget process for the 2015 General Assembly session has just begun. There are still many tough decisions to be made and we must continue to advocate for our students and schools as the legislature convenes on January 14th. 
You can read the governor’s full remarks here. Below are a few highlights from today’s announcement that we believe will be of interest to you and your division. 

  • No additional cuts or program reductions for elementary and secondary education. 
  • $75 million will be allocated from the Literary Fund to be used for school construction loans ($50 million) and interest rate subsidies on loans through the Virginia Public School Authority ($25 million).
  • $150 million will be allocated from the Literary Fund to be used to reduce the unfunded liability of the teacher retirement fund. 
  • $572,976 for five additional positions at the Department of Education to strengthen the Department's support of academically struggling school divisions.
  • $200,000 for expedited retakes of Standards of Learning assessments for students in grades three through eight.
  • $732,000 of one-time funding to transition the grade seven and grade eight Standards of Learning mathematics tests to a computer adaptive testing (CAT) format. Currently, only the grade six mathematics assessment is available in a CAT format.
  • $713,000 to establish a program of professional development to increase the capacity of principals in under-performing schools. The funding amount covers training for 40 principals at schools which have failed to meet accreditation standards.
  • $537,297 for school divisions for innovative methods of serving breakfasts to unserved or underserved children.
  • Budget language in the second year of the biennium that authorizes the transfer of allocated Preschool slots that have not been used by school divisions to other divisions that have fully utilized their state allocated slots. The additional slots will allow divisions with full participation to offer preschool programs to children on waiting lists.
  • $500,000 for broadband planning grants to localities, pursuant to budget language change. 
We hope this information is helpful to you and your division. As updates become available we will be sure to communicate them with you.

Monday, December 8, 2014

DECEMBER 2014 ACTION ALERT

Share the VSBA Legislative Priorities 

We’re just a few weeks away from the start of the 2015 General Assembly session, kicking off January 14th. On Friday, the VSBA Board of Directors approved the VSBA 2015 Legislative Priorities. These priorities focus on key areas like funding and flexibility, challenged schools, student learning, and increased local option.

Over the next few weeks, we ask that you take time to share the VSBA 2015 Legislative Priorities with your local legislators. You can call, write, email, or schedule a visit at their office. Hearing from concerned citizens and local officials will cause a legislator to pay attention to a particular issue and encourage him or her to lend their support. Decisions on the budget and potential legislation are in full swing so it’s important to have an open dialogue and share your personal stories about these priorities and public education.

In addition to sharing these priorities, we encourage you to sign-up for the 2015 VSBA Capital Conference January 26th and 27th. The Capital Conference offers you an opportunity before crossover to be seen and heard by your legislators and receive an update on the budget and pending legislation. You can register for the Capital Conference by clicking here.

Thank you for your continued support of VSBA and our legislative initiatives. Your voice makes a difference in your schools, community and in Richmond as legislators make decisions that impact you. Take a few minutes to advocate for your students and share these priorities with your legislators now! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

OCTOBER 2014 ACTION ALERT

Engage Business Leaders as Partners in Education

We have all heard the statistics; the United States has a skills deficit in our workforce. Administration officials and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce often speak about attracting businesses to the Commonwealth and the importance that education plays in economic development. We must continue to improve the quality of our workforce to maintain our competitive position within an ever-changing, fast-paced global economy. Business leaders can be key partners in education. If they are appropriately informed, they can serve as advocates for your school division with your community and fellow business owners.
Over the next month, take time 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, or visit your schools to highlight your CTE programs. Discuss your successes and challenges, provide information so they can share your message about public education, 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 policy topics to discuss and good questions to ask when engaging with business leaders.
Just a quick reminder that November is Take Your Legislator to School Month. During your advocacy meetings this month, we encourage you to invite your legislators to visit your school division in November. This year, the VSBA encourages school divisions to choose an area of focus for your legislative visits. For example, you may decide to have “VSBA Take Your Legislator to CTE School Month” or “VSBA Take Your Legislator to STEM School Month”. This will allow you to emphasize particular aspects of the division that you are most proud of or wish to highlight. To learn more about Take Your Legislator to School Month check out the 2014 VSBA Guide.
Your voice can make a difference in your schools, community and in Richmond. Take just a few minutes to advocate for your students and engage with local business leaders now!
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.

SEPTEMBER 2014 ACTION ALERT

Time to engage your legislators 

You have elected legislators into office to represent your views on important issues. To help them do their job, citizens must share their opinions and thoughts with their representatives. Hearing from a handful of concerned citizens will cause a legislator to pay attention to a particular issue and encourage him or her to lend their support. There are a number of different ways to advocate for your views. You can call, write, email, or schedule a visit at their office. However, the more personal your advocacy contact is, the more effective it will be.
With just over four months until the start of the 2015 General Assembly session, now is the time to engage with your legislators. Decisions on the budget and potential legislation have already begun so it’s important to build a relationship, have an open dialogue, and share your personal stories about public education. Over the next few weeks, we ask that you take time to schedule a meeting or phone call with your local legislator. Encourage your board to host a luncheon with all your legislators and school board or a joint townhall meeting. Discuss your concerns about funding, increased need for local flexibility, reducing unfunded mandates and other division challenges. Don’t forget to utilize the VSBA Grassroots Advocacy Guide for policy topics to discuss and good questions to ask when engaging with legislators. 
Just a quick reminder that November is Take Your Legislator to School Month. During your advocacy meetings this month, we encourage you to invite your legislators to visit your school division in November. This year, the VSBA encourages school divisions to choose an area of focus for your legislative visits. For example, you may decide to have “VSBA Take Your Legislator to CTE School Month” or “VSBA Take Your Legislator to STEM School Month”. This will allow you to emphasize particular aspects of the division that you are most proud of or wish to highlight. To learn more about Take Your Legislator to School Month check out the 2014 VSBA Guide.
Your voice can make a difference in your schools, community and in Richmond as legislators make decisions that impact you. Take a few minutes to advocate for your students and engage with your legislators now!
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, 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.