Friday, December 23, 2011

More on the Budget and Prefiled Bills

This promises to be an extremely busy and interesting year in the General Assembly for K12. We have reported to you on the Governor's Budget proposal. In addition to dollars and cents matters, the Budget Bill contains language that indicates legislation to come. As we noted in an earlier blog posting, language in the Budget Bill references a conversion from continuing to annual contracts for teachers and principals. In reviewing the remarks of Ric Brown, Secretary of Finance, to the joint meeting of House Appropriations and Senate Finance on December 19 we were interested to see a reference to a $10 Million reduction in revenues going to the General Fund in the second year of the biennium due to a "Private School Tax Credit." This would appear to indicate that the Administration is anticipating that the General Assembly will pass a tuition assistance tax credit this year.

On a more positive note, three bills have been introduced to date regarding the post-Labor Day Opening law. House Bills 15 (Habeeb) and 86 (Greason) would repeal the law outright and leave the setting of the school calendar entirely to the discretion of the local school board. Obviously, we believe that this is the correct approach. House Bill 43 (Tata) would also amend the current law, but it would prohibit schools from opening earlier than two weeks before Labor Day.

We reported to you earlier about language in the Budget Bill that directs the DOE of develop a methodology based on the SOQ to measure instructional spending and authorizing DOE to develop an additional methodology based on other criteria, including the Census Bureau definition of instructional spending. A bill has now been introduced (HB 78-Habeeb) that does much the same, but that also requires the BOE to annually report instructional spending by school divisions to the General Assembly. Neither the Budget Bill nor the House Bill mandate any particular level of instructional spending. Presumably, that will come later.

Lastly, a bill has been introduced (HB 76-Habeeb) changing the date by which probationary teachers must be notified of non-renewal from April 15 to June 15. This change in date is undoubtedly a reaction to the new teacher evaluation guidelines that require that student academic progress counts 40% of the evaluation. SOL test scores are not reported until late May.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More on the Governor's Proposed Budget

Buried in the Governor's proposed budget for the 2013-2014 biennium are a couple of noteworthy items. First, Item 137 F specifies an appropriation for performance evaluation training "in support of the transition from continuing employment contracts to annual employment contracts for teachers and principals." This language signals possible legislation to be introduced by the Governor to replace the current continuing contract law with term contracts for teachers and principals. We expect to learn more about this and other initiatives on Thursday of this week.

Also, in Item 139 B 26 DOE is directed to include in the annual School Performance Report Card for each school division the percentage of the school division's annual operating budget allocated to instructional costs. This is the precursor to the 65% rule. One bright spot is that DOE is directed to develop a methodology for allocating expenditures consistent with the funding of the Standards of Quality. This should include expenditures for such things as guidance counselors, principals, librarians, etc. On the other hand, the Item goes further and states that "at the discretion of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Education may also report on other methods of measuring instructional spending such as those used by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education." As we have mentioned to you on several occasions, the Census Bureau methodology would exclude expenditures for, among other things, guidance counselors, principals, librarians, occupational and physical therapists, etc. This budget language may signify a shift in battle on this issue from the General Assembly to DOE. We will have more to say on these two issues in the future.

Governor Announces FY 2013-2014 Budget

This morning, Governor McDonnell announced his proposed biennial budget.  The proposed budget includes $438 million of new funding for K-12 and would require each school division to report to VDOE the percentage of its operating budget allocated to instruction spending. 

Below is an excerpt from the summary of the Governor’s Budget that highlights the proposals for K-12 funding. 

K-12 Education Funding
  • We cannot expect to grow our economy in the future if we do not educate our children today.
  • The proposed budget provides an additional $438 million in total new funding for public education for the next biennium.
  • This funding recognizes the rising costs of the Standards of Quality and demonstrates our commitment to make significant investments in the retirement system for teachers.
  • The proposed budget identifies more than $1.6 million dollars each year that will be redirected to new programs to be more effective at reaching those children who are most at-risk.
  • Beginning with this budget, we are going to get serious about measuring the return on our investment of taxpayer dollars by requiring all school divisions to report the percentage of spending on instruction.
  • The proposed budget provides funding to support the transition to new performance-based evaluation models for our public schools.
  • Total funding for public education has outpaced enrollment growth significantly using the time period of FY2002-2011 as used by the recent JLARC review. During this time period, the public education direct aid appropriation grew by 41% and unadjusted ADM enrollment grew by 6%, which resulted in funding 6.8 times the rate of enrollment growth.
The budget includes:
  • $913,016 in each year of the biennium to pay the testing fees for all 10th grade students enrolled in a public school in Virginia to take the Preliminary SAT exam
  • $1,000,000 in each year of the biennium for Communities in Schools
  • $308,655 in each year of the biennium to provide support grants to school divisions for standard diploma graduates
    o As part of this effort, the Department of Education will be reducing the types of
diplomas offered in Virginia from seven to three – standard, advanced and special

  • Reform initiatives for K-12 education that focus on performance by requiring the Department of Education to include in the annual School Performance Report Card for school divisions the percentage of each division’s annual operating budget allocated to instructional costs
  • $300,000 in fiscal year 2013 and $400,000 in fiscal year 2014 to establish a comprehensive pilot initiative to recruit students to major in the fields of mathematics and science to help alleviate the shortage of qualified teachers in these fields
  • $500,000 in fiscal year 2013 and $100,000 in fiscal year 2014 to fund a pilot initiative to attract, recruit, and retain high-quality diverse individuals to teach science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) subjects in Virginia’s middle and high schools
  • $80,000 in fiscal year 2013 to provide one-time planning and implementation grants to support the establishment of Governor’s Health Science Academies
  • $67,897 in each year of the biennium to support implementation of a Youth Development Academy pilot program for rising 9th and 10th grade students in a selected region of the Commonwealth
  • $325,000 in each year of the biennium for the Virtual Virginia program to support the statewide implementation of the required Economics and Personal Finance course, ensuring that sufficient student slots are available to accommodate statewide demand for the course. This increase is being supported by the transfer of funding from the Mentor Teacher in Hard-to-Staff Schools account, which is being eliminated.
  • $385,138 in each year of the biennium to address an increase in GED testing costs. This increase is being supported by the transfer of funding from the Mentor Teacher in Hard-to-Staff Schools account, which is being eliminated.
Click here to open the Governor’s press release on his proposed budget.  You can read the Governor’s remarks to the Joint Money Committees here.  The Governor’s full budget is available here and the summary document is available here.    

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Governor Announces Historic VRS Funding Proposal

Governor McDonnell has announced that his proposed biennial budget will recommend the largest employer contribution in history to VRS. The Governor’s proposed VRS rate for teachers is 11.6 % and his budget calls for employer contributions for teachers of $1.61 billion (state and local) ($605.6 million GF) for FY2013 and FY2014. In comparison, the total projected employer VRS contributions for teachers for the last biennium (FY2011 and FY2012) was $732.6 million. As the Governor’s press release points out, a "significant" portion of the $1.61 billion proposed by the Governor would be borne by localities.

Click here to read the Governor’s full press release.