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.