Thursday, December 27, 2012

Governor's Educator Fairness Act and 2% Salary Increase

Earlier this month the Governor announced his “All Students” initiative.  Included in that initiative were the “The Educator Fairness Act” and a 2% salary increase for teachers and other instructional personnel.  The Educator Fairness Act retains continuing contract for qualifying teachers, but it ties the grant of continuing contract to satisfactory performance reflected on annual formal performance evaluations.  The evaluation instrument will have to be consistent with the evaluation instrument approved by the Board of Education.  Other noteworthy aspects of the Act are an extension of the probationary period from 3 to 5 years and a streamlining of the grievance procedure.  The extension of the probationary period is viewed as a benefit to both the teachers and the administrators because it will afford teachers more time to demonstrate their mastery of standards covered by the evaluation, including student academic progress, and it will give administrators more time to work with probationary teachers.  It is not unusual for principals and superintendents to ask whether they can extend a teacher’s probationary period so that they can work with the teacher rather than have to make the decision whether to recommend non-renewal or to grant continuing contract status.  Extending the probationary period is not permitted under the current law.  It is even more important now that student academic progress is required to be a significant factor in a teacher’s evaluation.  The streamlining of the grievance procedure as it relates to dismissals will benefit both teachers and the school system by ensuring that the matter resolved in a timely fashion.  Currently, it can take 60 or 90 days or even longer for a recommendation of dismissal to come before the school board for its consideration.  This delay is due mainly to the fact-finding panel procedure in the current grievance procedure.  The Act ensures that a recommendation of dismissal will be before the school board no longer than 50 days after it was initially made by giving the school board the option of either hearing the matter directly or appointing a hearing officer to make a record of the hearing that will be presented to the school board for its consideration.  It is important to note that the 2% raise for instructional personnel is contingent on the General Assembly passing The Educator Fairness Act.  

School Safety Likely a Hot Issue in the Upcoming Session

The 2013 session of the General Assembly is about to begin.  We anticipate a very busy short session this year.  Due to the tragic events in Newtown, we expect many bills to be introduced dealing with gun control issues and with school safety.  You have undoubtedly read about calls nationally and in Virginia for arming school employees and other means of protecting our schools from armed intruders.  We will not know the full scope and number of those bills until the bill introduction cutoff takes effect (January 18) and the printed bills appear in the Legislative Information System.  You may find it of interest as the school safety debate heats up that until the 2002 session of the General Assembly, school boards could employ school security officers who were appointed as conservators of the peace or as special police officers and who could, therefore, carry firearms.  During its 2002 session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 498 (Ch. 868 Acts of Assembly) which prohibited school security officers from being conservators of the peace or special police officers.  It was clear from the debates in committee over this bill that the intent of the bill was to prohibit school employees from possessing firearms.  It is interesting that we appear to be coming full circle.  Perhaps the General Assembly will consider restoring the authority of school boards to employ school security officers who may carry firearms as part of their job duties.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2013 VSBA Legislative Conference

The 2013 VSBA Legislative Conference will be held on January 23-24, 2013 at the Richmond Mariott. 
The 2013 General  Assembly promises to be challenging for supporters of public education. Offering commentary on the "big picture" political scene will be Robert  Holsworth, President of Virginia Tomorrow, LLC, and frequent  political analyst for the press and television. VSBA  perennial issues will be reviewed by the VSBA lobbyists.

It is said every year, and it just keeps getting truer, school board members faces and voices need to be seen and heard more than during these crucial times. The VSBA Legislative Conference is scheduled to provide that opportunity during critical legislative  discussions. To register, call (800) 446-8722 or (434) 295-8722. More information can be found here
VSBA lobbyists and staff have been  preparing for months, and we aim to make this a successful session for public education in Virginia.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


We are very pleased to report that the Senate Finance Committee met today and unanimously reported out its versions of the both the amendments to the 2010-2012 biennial budget, SB 1300, and the 2012-2014 budget, SB 1301. With a few exceptions, these budgets are identical to Senate Bills 29 and 30 previously reported by the Committee, but which died on the Senate floor. Of particular interest to school boards is that the Committee adopted amendments to its previously adopted SB 30 that would increase funds going to K-12 by approximately $55 million. Because the budget bills received a unanimous vote of the Committee, versus the 9-6 party line vote the first time around, it is reasonable to assume that the full Senate will vote in favor of the bills and that they will be sent to House, which will reject the bills so that they can go into conference. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet in special session again next Monday, March 26, and these votes by the Senate and the House could take place then. If that is the case, it is entirely reasonable to assume that we will have a state budget by the time of the veto session, which will take place on April 18.

Friday, March 16, 2012


VSBA and VASS have been receiving a number of questions regarding the VRS legislation adopted by the General Assembly last Saturday.  While the information below may not answer all of your questions, we hope that it will be helpful to you.

Q:  What is the employer contribution rate and how was it calculated?
A:  The employer contribution rate for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2012 and 2013 will be 11.66%.  The VRS board set an employer contribution rate of 16.77%.  The conference substitute for SB 498 provides that school boards only have to pay 69.53% of the VRS board-established rate, or 11.66%, for the fiscal years beginning on July 1 of 2012 and 2013.  Here is a link to the entire bill:

Q:  Is there an employee contribution rate in addition to the employer rate of 11.66%?
A:  Yes, there is an employee contribution rate of 5%.  However, there are discussions about increasing this rate to 6%.

Q:  Must school boards require their employees to pay the 5% employee contribution rate?
A:  Yes, school boards are required by SB 497 to make their employees pay the 5% employee contribution, although the bill gives school boards the option of phasing-in this requirement over a five year period with at least 1% being paid by the employees each year.  The requirement for employees to pay the employee contribution becomes effective on July 1, 2012, for all new and existing employees.

Q:  Must the school board provide an increase in compensation to employees to offset the employee contribution to VRS?
A:  Yes, for certain employees.  The school board must increase the creditable compensation for persons employed by the school board as of June 30, 2012, for whom the school board had been paying the employee contribution. The increase in creditable compensation must equal the amount of the contribution the employees are required to pay VRS.  For example, if the school board had been picking up the employee contribution for all persons employed as of June 30, 2012, and the school board elects to require those employees to pick up the entire 5% employee contribution effective July 1, 2012, the school board must increase the creditable compensation of those employees by 5%.  If the school board elects to phase-in the requirement on those employees, the school board must give those employees an increase in creditable compensation equal to the phase-in amount.

Q:  What is "creditable compensation?" 
A:  In the last few years VRS has interpreted creditable compensation to be salary and payments to employees treated by the school board as part of the contracted salary.  For example, if the employee is given a car allowance and the employment agreement with the employee specifies that the allowance will be considered salary for IRS and VRS purposes (e.g. reported as income on the employee's W-2), VRS has been willing to treat the allowance as creditable compensation.  It would be wise to check the VRS Employer's Manual regarding what can and cannot be counted towards creditable compensation and to get approval from VRS if you are contemplating matching the employee contribution with anything other than an increase in salary.  (Please recall that the law was recently changed to make employer potentially liable to VRS for incorrect retirement payments based on the erroneous reporting of creditable compensation by employers.)  Also, please remember that the actual costs to the school board of increasing creditable compensation/salary will be greater than 5% because of the additional fixed costs, e.g. FICA and increased employer contributions.

Q:  Is the school board required to give a salary increase to employees who were paying the member contribution before June 30, 2012, or who are hired (or rehired) on and after July 1, 2012. 
A:  No, it is not required, although a school board may elect to do so.  Obviously, if salaries are not adjusted for new employees, you may end up with a two-tiered salary schedule which may cause practical, but not legal, problems.

Q:  Did the VRS bills approved by the General Assembly make other changes that are not discussed above or in the previous Alert?
A:  Yes, the bills changed certain benefits, e.g. COLA increases, for certain employees and they mandate that employees hired on and after January 1, 2014, who are not members of the current defined benefit plan must belong to a "hybrid" plan.  Because these changes do not directly effect the budgeting process, we have elected not to address them in this Alert. If you would like more information on the changes in benefits, we encourage you to read the full text of SB 498 as passed by the General Assembly, which can be accessed through the link set forth above.

Q:  Are Senate Bills 497 and 498 as adopted by the General Assembly on March 10 the final word on the changes to VRS?
A:  Probably not.  It is anticipated that the Governor will present amendments to the bills to be considered by the General Assembly at the reconvened session scheduled for April 18.  VSBA and VASS will be encouraging the Governor to send down amendments to make both the member contribution and the increased creditable compensation requirements optional with school boards.  In addition, the budget for the 2012-2014 biennium has not been adopted.  That budget may very well address some issues relating to VRS.  In this regard, it is important to remember that the budget has the force and effect of law, is effective immediately upon being signed by the Governor, and takes precedence over any inconsistent provisions in the Code of Virginia.  The General Assembly will hold a special session to deal with the budget.  The General Assembly is scheduled to convene for that special session on March 21.  It goes without saying that each and every school board member and superintendent should encourage their Delegates and Senators to pass a budget as quickly as possible to remove the current uncertainty hanging over the local budgetary process.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sine Die

As we sit here on the last day of the GA, otherwise known as Sine Die, we are awaiting word on several bills in conference.  We take comfort in the fact that the GA  adjourns today, at least this regular session.  A special session will be called to deal with the budget, in addition to the normal veto session.  We will not be so bold as to predict which month, much less which which week or day, the GA will adopt a budget.  The "pretend" budget conferees are meeting this morning in hopes that their work will be expenditure when the Senate finally adopts its version of the budget.  Stay tuned.
One of the bills in conference is SD 598, which deals with the funding of virtual school program funding.  The VSBA was successful in having the bill amended to give school boards control over virtual school programs.  The private vendors want what they term as "choice."  Under their proposal, students could elect to attend any virtual school program in the state regardless whether the local school board had its own program and the state and local funds would follow the student.  There is no middle ground on which VSBA and the vendors can agree so we anticipate the bill to die this morning.  This issue will not go away and legislators have told us to expect to work on it during the off season. 
We will have more to report over the next couple of days.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Budget Alert!

Another House budget was introduced this afternoon. This will give the Senate another opportunity to vote out a budget which can be put in conference. Please call your Senator TODAY requesting that he or she vote to pass a budget when the House version of the budget comes before the Senate. If the Senate votes down the budget (a third time), there will be no budget before the General Assembly on which it can act before adjournment. The last time this happened, Governor Kane was not able to sign a budget until June 30. This uncertainty will wreak havoc on the budget process for localities and school boards, among others. It is imperative, therefore, that the Senate pass some type of budget so that the budget conferees can meet and the Commonwealth can have a budget by adjournment.

Budget Reintroduced!

This afternoon the House approved the introduction of its budget again. This will give the Senate another opportunity to approve a budget so that the General Assembly can meeting its deadline of adjourning on March 10 with a budget. Below is a release by Speaker Howell:

March 1, 2012

Statement of Speaker William J. Howell Following Reintroduction of the FY 2012-14 House Budget by Unanimous Consent

RICHMOND, VA - Speaker of the House of Delegates William J. Howell (R-Stafford) issued the following statement this afternoon following the motion by Appropriations Chairman Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford) to reintroduce the FY 2012-14 House Budget by unanimous consent:

"With the defeat of the House budget yesterday by Senate Democrats, the Commonwealth of Virginia entered uncharted financial waters. Never before has the General Assembly failed to put a version of the Budget into conference. As many of us have said over the last several days, the obstructive actions of Senate Democrats put Virginia on uncertain financial footing."

My colleagues and I in the House Republican Caucus were unwilling to allow such a state of affairs to continue. So today, Appropriations Committee Chairman Lacey Putney asked for the unanimous consent of the House of Delegates to reintroduce the FY 2012-14 House budget."

Due to procedural deadlines in the General Assembly, introduction of new legislation this late in the legislation session requires the unanimous consent of the body.

"We are pleased that our Democrat colleagues in the House of Delegates were willing to cross party lines to work with us on the most important piece of legislation to come before us this session. With their help, we now have a vehicle for continued consideration of the biennial budget."

"Today the entire House of Delegates - Republican and Democrats alike - sent a message to Senate Democrats: we have let this political theater play out for long enough. Now, Senate Democrats must come to the table and earnestly work with us on the financial blueprint that will govern Virginia's services and spending for the next two years."

One Big Loss and One Big Win

The Senate Education and Health Committee voted down the Labor Day opening bill introduced by Delegate Tata by a vote of 9-6. This is the same vote that killed the Senate version of the bill a few weeks ago. The usual culprits again opposed the bill - the hospitality industry. Before the committee voted against Delegate Tata's bill, the committee defeated a much more limited bill that would have given the City of Martinsville the right to open before Labor Day. Despite the fact that the city has approximately 70% students on free and reduced lunch, the hospitality industry bitterly opposed the bill because of alleged damage to tourist destinations, such as Virginia Beach. To hear the hospitality representatives and those from Virginia Beach the world as we know it today would come to a grinding halt if even one school system is exempted from the post-Labor Day opening law. It is unlikely that any bill to repeal the Labor Day opening law will be successful with the current makeup of the Senate committee and it is not anticipated that the members of the committee will change before the next Senate election four years from now.

On a positive note, the committee voted down a bill sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell that would have permitted home schooled students to participate on pubic school athletic teams. The bill failed on a 8-7 vote. Many home school families support this bill, although it is not supported by the home school league. Therefore, we can expect to reappear next year.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tax Credits

Today the Senate approved the House tax credits bill (Delegate Massie), after conforming it to the Senate version (Senate Stanley) on a vote of 21-20. The vote of the members of the Senate was evenly divided 20-20 and Lt. Governor Bolling cast the deciding vote in favor of the bill. Unfortunately, tax credits for donations for scholarships for students to attend private schools will become a reality.

Budget Update

The House adopted its budget last week. The Senate rejected its budget and voted today to reject the House's budget. Consequently, we have no budget at this time. Regardless, you can access a comparison of the budget adopted by the House and the budget reported by the Senate Finance Committee, but rejected on the floor of the Senate, by clicking here and here. We think these comparisons will be helpful to you at some time before July 1. House Bill 29 is the so-called caboose bill amending the budget for the current biennium. House Bill 30 is the budget for the 2012-2014 biennium.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Some Good New and Some Bad News

The last several days have been a mixed bag at the General Assembly. Today the House Finance Committee reported the Senate tax credit bill by a vote of 12 to 8. It will take a major miracle for this bill not to pass the House. Unlike Delegate Massie's tax credit bill which has passed the House, the Senate tax credit bill sponsored by Senator Stanley has a lower threshold for students who qualify for a scholarship, 200% of poverty versus 300% in the House bill. The Senate bill also includes special education students in addition to low income students. The Senate bill allows individuals as well as corporations to get the tax credit. Lastly, the Senate bill allows $25 million in tax credits versus $10 million in the House version. The House version is before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning. We would not be surprised if the committee amended the House bill to make it identical to the Senate version.

Both houses of the General Assembly have passed their own versions of a bill amending the charter school law. While we are far from happy with the final product, we were able to get both bills amended to make them less objectionable. The bills as introduced would have required a school board to let a charter school use or purchase any vacant or unused buildings or land owned by the school board. The revised bills now make the use or purchase property a matter of negotiation between the school board and charter school. However, both of the bills still have a requirement that the charter school receive 90% of the per pupil local and state SOQ funding. The Secretary of Education testified that all charter schools in Virginia receive more than 90%. It is entirely possible, therefore, that 90% will become both the floor and the ceiling of charter school funding. The charter school bills are in conference so we are still at risk that additional harmful provisions can still be inserted into the final version.

We are still working hard on the bills relating to the funding of full-time virtual school funding. As originally drafted the bills would have required a school system that does not contract with a vendor to provide a virtual school program to send the state and local SOQ funds up to $6500 to another school division that provides a virtual school education to one of its students. We are happy to report these bills are undergoing substantial revisions that lessen the effect of these bills. However, these bills are still alive in some form and these can change at any time.

On the good news front, a much needed bill is receiving favorable treatment in the General Assembly. A bill sponsored by Delegate Bulova provides that student records can be self-authenicated by school personnel. I know what you are thinking - what does this have to do with the price of eggs. Ask any of your principals about how much time is lost because a school employee has to sit in the court house waiting to be called just to testify that the copies of the student records which have already been turned over to the attorneys, normally in a custody case, are true and correct copies of the originals. This bill will eliminate the need for a school board employee to go to court to authenicate records.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Strange Days at the GA

This is a strange time in the General Assembly.  A time when a bill that has been sailing through the General Assembly with little or no opposition is killed in committee or on the floor.  Killing the bill normally has nothing to do with the merits, but is caused by a totally unrelated issue.  While this strange time occurs each session to a lesser or greater extent, this year may be particularly bad.  There are several issues that are causing straight party-line votes.  For example the "personhood" bill and the bill that would require ultrasounds before an abortion, to name just two.  These party-line votes will probably increase in the next few days because of the stalemate in the Senate over the budget.  The Lt. Governor cannot break a tie vote on the budget and it takes 21 votes to pass the budget.  The Democrats are threatening to vote as a block against the budget unless the Republicans agree to some power sharing arrangement.  The Democrats position on the budget and the redistricting of Senate districts by the Democrat controlled Senate last year have the Republicans smarting.  Therefore, we are seeing a lot of party-line votes that are either passing or killing bills that normally would have bipartisan support or opposition.

This phenomenon was exhibited today during the Senate Education and Health Committee meeting.  A number of bills were passed by the bare minimum of 8 (Republican) yeas against 7 (Democratic) neas.  The House version of the Governor's teacher contracts bill was one such example.  Just a few days ago the Senate defeated the Senate version of the bill on the floor by a vote of 20 (Democrats) to 18 (Republicans).  Had two Republicans voted for the bill, the tie would have been broken by the Lt. Governor (in favor of passage).  The two Republicans who abstained from voting may have done so for strategic reasons.  Regardless, in light of the budget impasse, it is likely that the contracts bill will become a caucus issue for both parties, resulting in the bill's passage by the tie-breaking vote of the Lt. Governor.  

Tensions are running high in the Senate, so it behooves all of us to stay tuned to the Senate floor debates.
Repeal of the Labor Day law and the bill that would allow home-schoolers to play high school athletics are both on the docket for the last regularly scheduled meeting of Senate Education and Health next Thursday.  The fate of the Labor Day bill is really in doubt.  Therefore, every superintendent and school board member needs to call or write his or her Senator expressing support for the bill. 

The two versions of the budget would give school boards approximately the same amount of additional money, but from different sources.  Consequently, it is conceivable that we could get even more money if the budget goes to conference.  (This assumes that the Senate will adopt a budget.  See above.)  There are at least a couple of notable differences in each budget.  The Senate gives some money for cost of competing in the first year of the biennium, while the House budget gives money for inflation in SOQ personnel costs.  The House budget also adopts a higher assumed rate of return for VRS which has the effect of reducing the contribution rate by 1%, 10% versus 11%.  This will reduce the VRS contribution by school boards by approximately $80 million.  The House budget is being debated on the floor today and more will follow.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Budget Update

Today the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee presented their respective budgets.  Click here to read about the proposed House budget amendments.  Click here to read about the Senate budget amendments.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Each house must finish work on its own bills by Tuesday of next week, except the Budget Bill. This is the so-called "crossover." Therefore, this past week was rather hectic and many important education bills were acted on in committee and on the floor.

The Governor's Charter School Bills (HB 1173 - Lingamfelter and SB 440 - Obenshain) are making their way, in slightly different forms, through both houses. While VSBA was successful in getting the bills amended to make them a little less objectionable, they still contain the requirement that a school board give the charter school 90% of the school board's state and local SOQ funding. This was touted by the administration as a "best practice" without any evidence to back it up and despite the testimony of the Secretary of Education that existing charter schools in the state receive in excess of 90%. At present, the amount of funding is negotiated between the school board and the charter school.

Another set of Governor's bills relate to the funding of Virtual Schools. The bill introduced in the House of Delegates (HB 1272 - Dickie Bell) was recommended to be "laid on the table" by a House Appropriations' subcommittee. This is a polite way of killing a bill. The subcommittee also recommended that the language in a competing bill (HB 696 - Filler Corn) be incorporated in the budget. That bill provides that if a resident student enrolls in a virtual school in another school division, state funding will be based on the local composite index of the school division in which the student resides. The bill is intended to rectify what the administration has called a $500,000 over-funding by the state. The other virtual school bill sponsored by the Governor (SB 598 - Newman) has gone through many redrafts, each one worse for school boards than the previous one. The latest redraft would require a school board that has not contracted with an online vendor to have a virtual school to send its state and local SOQ funding to the school division offering the virtual school program. This is a blatant attempt to force school boards to contract with an online vendor or send its money to a school board that does contract with an online vendor. To make matters worse, the revised bill contains language guaranteeing that the $500,000 over-funding of virtual schools will remain in place. We expect this bill to be further amended before it leaves the Senate. We have tried to point out to the Senate that having a bill like this is like putting the cart before the horse. The state has not determined what constitutes a basic virtual school program and the staffing standards that should be applicable to such a program. Based on the testimony of online vendors in favor of this legislation, it would appear that the Senate bill as drafted is intended to benefit those vendors at the expense of localities that either do not presently see a need for a virtual school or have put together their own school with their own employees.

The Governor's teacher/principal contract bills (HB 576 - Dickie Bell and SB 438 - Obenshain) narrowly made it out of their respective committees, but they are expected to pass despite staunch opposition from the VEA and other groups. The bills as originally introduced would have shortened the probationary period for all teachers and principals and would have abolished continuing contracts for all current and future teachers and principals and replaced them with annual contracts. VSBA was instrumental in redrafting the bill so that it, among other things, lengthens the probationary period from 3 to 5 years (to which there is no objection), maintains continuing contract for those who have it at the time the bill becomes effective, and provides for 3-year term contracts for those who are in a probationary status when the bill becomes effective. We suspect that there may be further attempts to amend the bill as they wind their way through the other house.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charter School Bill Before Senate - Contact Your Senator TODAY

Contact your Senator TODAY and urge him or her to vote against SB 440. This bill would require, among other things, public school boards to give charter schools at least 90% of the state and local share of the Standards of Quality per pupil funding.

The General Assembly has never required that a set percentage or amount of funding be sent by a school board to any other type of school, including Governor’s schools and other regional programs. Charter schools should be treated no differently.

In testimony before the House Education Committee, the Secretary of Education stated that currently charter schools in Virginia receive in excess of 90% of state and local per pupil funding. It would appear that SB 440 is intended to fix a problem that does not exist. If passed, SB 440 may well cause a problem in that 90% will become not only the floor but also the ceiling for charter school funding.

Under the current law, the amount of funding provided to a charter school is a matter of negotiation between the school board and the charter school. Those negotiations take into account many factors that may impact funding, such as whether the school board will provide transportation for charter school students, the programs offered at the charter school, and the make-up of the student body at the charter school.
Ninety percent of per pupil funding is an arbitrary figure that bears no relation to the actual costs of operating a charter school. Indeed, the cost of operating a charter school, or any other school, depends upon many variable factors, including the student population, the programs offered, and the facilities used. One charter school may need more than 90 % of state and local per pupil funds while another charter school may need less funding to operate efficiently. Further, there is no evidence to support 90% funding or funding of any particular percentage.

In addition, many charter schools have access to additional types of funding not available to regular public schools. Requiring school boards to give an arbitrary amount of funding to charter schools without regard to the needs of the particular charter school or other funding available to the charter school is not good policy.

Ask you Senator to vote NO on SB 440.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Labor Day Bill Passed by House

The House voted 76Y-23N to pass HB 1063 (Tata) to repeal the King's Dominion law and allow local school boards to determine when to start the school year. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update on the Labor Day Bill

HB 1063 (Tata), which would repeal the King's Dominion law and allow school boards to determine when to start school, was debated on the floor of the House today on second reading.  After a long debate, Del. Bob Marshall attempted to amend the bill to include a provision that would have required the Secretary of Finance to report to the General Assembly on the impact of the bill on the revenue of the Commonwealth.  The amendment was defeated and the bill was engrossed and passed on to third reading.  The bill should be voted on by the House tomorrow. 

Continue to urge your Delegates to support HB1063!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Legislative Alert - Labor Day Bill

Contact your Delegates TODAY to urge them to support HB 1063.  This bill will repeal the so-called King's Dominion law that prohibits school boards from starting school before Labor Day.  HB 1063 will allow each local school board to set the school calendar and determine the opening date of the school year.  A local school board is in the best position to set its own calendar and to determine a start date that is best for the students and community.  It is a decision best made by local officials.  Mandating that schools start after Labor Day forces schools to miss valuable instructional time before nationally-normed tests such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate, which can begin in early May.  This mandate places the interests of the tourism and hospitality industries ahead of the interests of students and education, without allowing local boards to weigh these interests. 

Urge your Delegates to support HB1063!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

School Calendar Bills Considered by Senate and House Committees

This morning, the Senate Education and Health Committee somewhat unexpectedly took up the Senate bills relating to school start dates.  Despite requests for the Administration and the bills' patrons, the committee chairman refused to pass the bills by for the day.  The issue of the post-labor start date - or the so-called King's Dominion law - was hotly debated on the Senate.  The bills were defeated on a close 9 to 6 vote. 

This evening, however, was much different on the House side.  In the Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee, 10 school calendar bills were considered.  One bill, HB591 (Merricks), dealing with particular localities was passed by for the day so the fate of the remaining bills could be determined.  Another bill, HB1063 (Tata), was one of the Governor's bills.  By an apparent agreement of patrons, the remaining bills were tabled in favor of the Governor's HB1063.  HB1063 was recommended for reporting on an overwhelming vote of 7 to 1. 

Thanks to the school board members, superintendents, and others who come this evening in support of this important measure.  We will continue our efforts to get this bill through the House and will work to pick up the votes needed on the Senate side. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Urgent Action Needed on SB278! Contact Your Senator Today!

SB278 (Senator Smith), which changes the date by which probationary teachers must be notified of their nonrenewal from April 15 to June 15, came up for a vote on the floor of the Senate today. The bill initially passed on a vote of 28Y-12N but then Senator Howell (Fairfax) moved to reconsider the vote and pass the bill by for the day. This is a tactic that is sometimes used to garner additional opposition votes.

The recently adopted Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers use student growth as a significant factor (40%) in teacher evaluations. The results of SOL tests, which are used as the measure of student growth in SOL courses, are not available until late May or early June, thus making the April 15 deadline unworkable. Likewise, in non-SOL courses, it is unworkable and unreasonable to attempt to measure student growth prior to April 15.

Contact your Senator TODAY to urge him or her to vote YES on SB278.
SB185 (Miller) which provides that the Board of Education shall only require SOL assessments for math and English in the third grade was passed by the Senate 33Y-7N.

SB271 (Marsh), as amended, adds evidence-based antibullying tactics to the list of training that the Virginia Center for School Safety provides and adds bullying to the list of topics on which the Center conducts research and provides information.  The bill was passed by the Senate 29Y-11N. 

Update from House Education SOQ Subcommittee

HB462 (Stolle and Peace) would require the Board of Education to adopt regulations to adjust the formula for calculating the final high school accreditation to add points for each student obtaining a diploma and an industry certification.  The bill was recommended for reporting by the House Education SOQ Subcommittee.  
HB1061 (Byron) is one of the Governor's bills to reduce the number of diplomas.  The bill was recommended for reporting by the SOQ subcommittee. 

HB469 (Albo), which would have required school divisions to administer an algebra readiness test to all students before they are enrolled in an algebra course.  The bill was carried over for the year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Highlights from Public Education Subcommittee of Senate Education and Health Committee

SB168 (Petersen) would have prohibited school divisions from using closed circuit cameras to monitor student conduct unless necessary to protect the physical safety and security of students. We, along with VASS and several others opposed the bill.  At the patron's suggestion, the bill was carried over for the year.   

SB119 (Marsh), which places restrictions on the hiring of temporarily employed teachers in the core subjects of English, mathematics, science and history in middle and secondary schools, was recommended for reporting in a close (and unusual) 3-2 vote.  Subcommittee members Locke, Carrico, and Black had left to attend other meetings.  Senator Howell voted in favor of the bill and she also voted in favor of the bill for Senator Locke, by proxy.  Senator Blevins, the subcommittee chair, voted against the bill.  He also voted no for Senator Black, by proxy.  Senator Blevins apparently had Senator Carrico's proxy but without an indication of which way Senator Carrico wished to vote on the bill.  So as not to send the bill to Committee with a negative recommendation, Senator Blevins voted Senator Carrico's proxy in favor of the bill.  It will be interesting to see how the vote turns out in the full Committee later this week.

SB256 (Miller) would have required school divisions to provide at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to students in grades K-12.  Senator Miller indicated that he preferred Senator Northam's SB471, which requires the Board of Education to adopt regulations governing physical education requirements.  Therefore, at the patron's request, the subcommittee voted to recommend that the bill be stricken with a request that the Chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee write a letter to the Board of Education on the subject. 

SB261 (Ebbin) which would create a grant fund for unexpended VPI funds (identical to HB144), was recommended for reporting by the subcommittee.

Update from House Education Committee

HB96 (Wilt) was reported by the House Education Committee. This bill delays until 2013 the implementation of certain SOA requirements.

HB224 (Habeeb) was amended by the House Education Committee to require the Board of Education to adopt regulations providing for an optional additional SOL testing window prior to March 1 each year. Local school boards that choose to participate in the early testing window would have to bear the cost of the optional test administration. The bill as amended by the Committee was reported and referred to Appropriations.

HB144 (Englin) regarding the use of unexpended VPI funds was reported and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

HB218 (R.P. Bell) regarding IEP team requirements for students who are deaf and hard-of-hearing was reported and referred to Appropriations.

HB578 (R.P. Bell) regarding licensure requirements for teachers of online courses was reported.

HB547 (Comstock) regarding the use of unexpended state funds for a bonus for teachers was referred to Appropriations.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Updates After the First Full Week of the 2012 Session

The 2012 Session of the General Assembly is now well underway.  Below is a summary of the activity on just some of the bills that we are following this session.  Be sure to check back throughout the week as we post more updates and details of more bills.
House Education Committee - SOQ Subommittee
HB138 (Cole) would have required local school divisions to, among other things, determine the immigration status of students and report to VDOE data regarding citizens and lawfully and unlawfully present aliens enrolled in public Schools.  The bill would also require the State Board of Education calculate the cost to the state and localities of educating students who are not lawfully present in the United States sand to submit an invoice for such costs to the U.S. Department of Education.  The SOQ Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended laying HB 138 on the table. 
HB224 (Habeeb) would require the Board of Education to adopt regulations allowing students to retake SOL tests and, at the discretion of a student’s teacher, to take SOL tests at any time during the school year.  The SOQ Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that HB 224 be reported and referred to Appropriations.     
HB225 (Habeeb), which would have required the Board of Education to adopt regulations establishing standards for accreditation based on student growth measures as an alternative to student outcome measures, failed to report out of the SOQ Subcommittee of the House Education.
House Education Committee - Students and Early Education Subcommittee
HB110 (R.P. Bell) would have required that the organ and tissue donor awareness component of driver education programs be at least 30 minutes.  At the patron’s request, the Students and Early Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be laid on the table.
HB143 (Englin) would allow a locality to use private funds for the local match in order to obtain state matching funds for certain preschool programs.  The bill was recommended for reporting by the Students and Early Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee.
HB144 (Englin) would create a grant fund to be funded with unexpended Virginia Preschool Initiative (“VPI”) funds.  Often, VPI funds are unused because they require a local match and currently unexpended VPI funds revert to the state treasury.  The grant fund created by this bill would make the funds available for, among other things, improving training for preschool teachers, creating and improving preschool classrooms, and creating innovative early childhood programs for rural communities.  The Students and Early Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be referred to Appropriations.    
HB218 (R.P. Bell) would require local school divisions to ensure that IEPs teams consider the specific communication needs for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing and address those needs in the IEP.  The Students and Early Education Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be referred to Appropriations. 
House Education Committee - Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee
HB250 (Cline) was amended to incorporate HB78 (Habeeb).  The bill would require each school board to report annually to the Board of Education the percentage of its operating budget allocated to instructional spending and directs the Board of Education to define instructional spending.  The bill was amended in subcommittee to remove language that would have required any school board that reported spending more than 67% of its operating budget on instructional spending present a plan to the Board of Education to increase instructional spending by 0.5% the next fiscal year.  The bill was also amended in subcommittee to include require the Board of Education to report annually to the House and Senate money committees the amount on instruction spending by school division.  The Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be reported as amended.    
HB547 (Comstock) would allow a school division to use unexpended state funds (that would otherwise revert to the state) to be used to pay a one-time bonus of up to 3% of annual base salary to all teachers.  The Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee recommended that the bill be referred to Appropriations. 
HB578 (R.P. Bell) would require the Board of Education to promulgate regulations establishing licensure requirements for teachers who teach only online courses.  The bill was recommended for reporting by the Teachers and Administrative Action Subcommittee of the House Education Committee.   
Senate Education and Health Committee
SB185 (Miller) provides that the Board of Education shall only require SOL assessments for math and English in the third grade.  The bill was reported from the Senate Education and Heath Committee and is on the floor of the Senate. 
SB190 (Miller) would clarify that a Special Power of Attorney may be used to enroll a student when the student’s parent is deployed within or outside the United States.  The bill was reported from the Senate Education and Heath Committee and is on the floor of the Senate.
SB271 (Marsh) adds evidence-based antibullying tactics to the list of training that the Virginia Center for School Safety provides and adds bullying to the list of topics on which the Center conducts research and provides information.  The bill was amended in subcommittee to remove a provision that would have allowed the Center to require that school safety audits include student surveys on bullying, gang activity, acts of violence and other, unenumerated topics.  The bill, as amended, was reported from the Senate Education and Heath Committee and is on the floor of the Senate.
SB278 (Smith) changes the date by which probationary teachers must be notified of their nonrenewal from April 15 to June 15.  We supported this bill because the new teacher evaluation system adopted by the Board of Education uses student growth as a significant factor (40%) in teacher evaluations.  The results of SOL tests, which are used as the measure of student growth in SOL courses, are not available until late May or early June, thus making the April 15 deadline unworkable.  SB278 was unanimously recommended for reporting by the Senate Education and Heath Committee and is on the floor of the Senate.    

Friday, January 13, 2012

Governor Announces Budget Amendments to Increase K-12 Funding

Today, Governor McDonnell announced several executive amendments to his proposed biennial budget that will provide additional K-12 funding.  According to the Governor's press release, the amendments provide for an additional $58 million to K-12 education over the biennium.  Click here to read the press release. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Senate Reorganization

Yesterday the Senate of Virginia organized itself and, as expected, there will be no power sharing arrangement between the Republicans and Democrats. The vote on the organization plan broke down 20-20 along party lines and Lt. Governor Bolling cast the tie breaking vote for the Republican-sponsored organizational plan. Many of the Senate committees have a super Republican majority. However, the Senate Committee on Education and Health has 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats. Time will tell whether the membership of the Education Committee will be favorable to the VSBA's positions on education bills.

The members of the Senate Education Committee are as follows:

Senator Martin-R (Chesterfield) Chairman
Senator Saslaw-D (Fairfax)
Senator Lucas-D (Portsmouth)
Senator Howell-D (Fairfax)
Senator Newman-R (Lynchburg)
Senator Blevins-R (Chesapeake)
Senator Locke-D (Hampton)
Senator Barker-D (Fairfax)
Senator Northam-D (Accomack)
Senator Miller-D (Newport News)
Senator Smith-R (Roanoke)
Senator McWaters-R (Virginia Beach)
Senator Black-R (Loudoun)
Senator Carrico-R (Galax)
Senator Garrett-R (Louisa)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Governor McDonnell Talks About K-12 Issues in the State of the Commonwealth Address

Governor McDonnell mentioned many of his K-12 education initaitives during the State of the Commonwealth Address tonight.  An excerpt of his comments is below.  Click here to access the full speech.

States are competing against each other, and the world, for job-creating businesses.

When deciding where to move or expand, businesses look for a well-educated and well-trained workforce. We owe every student the opportunity to be career-ready or college-ready when they graduate from high school. A good education means a good job.

I have proposed an increase in funding for K-12 education of $438 million over this biennium to strengthen the Virginia Retirement System for teachers and school employees, increase dollars going to the classroom, hire more teachers in science, technology and math, improve financial literacy, and strengthen Virginia’s diploma requirements.

We will also provide new funding for the successful Communities in Schools program, as well as funding for all 10th graders to take the PSAT, and for the start up of new health science academies.

However, while we will put more funding into K-12 in this budget, more funding alone does not guarantee greater results.

Over the past decade, total funding for public education increased 41 percent, while enrollment only went up 6 percent. This budget will provide new funding, but we will also seek more accountability, choice, rigor and innovation.

Providing flexibility to local school divisions is important. It is time to repeal the state mandate that school divisions begin their school term after Labor Day unless they receive a waiver. Already, 77 of the 132 school divisions have these waivers, so that the exceptions have become the rule.

Local communities can best balance their teaching and calendar needs with the important concerns of local tourism and business.  They know their situations far better than Richmond.

Our teachers are well educated and motivated professionals who deserve to be treated as such.

Just like workers in most other jobs get reviewed every year, and are therefore able to be more accurately promoted and rewarded for their success, so too should our teachers.

I am asking that we remove the continuing contract status from teachers and principals and provide an annual contract in its place.  This will allow us to implement an improved evaluation system that really works and give principals a new tool to utilize in managing their schools. Along with the merit pay pilot program we approved last year, we will provide more incentives and accountability to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers.

We’ve got so many great teachers in Virginia, teachers like Stacy Hoeflich, a fourth grade teacher at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, who was recently named the National History Teacher of the Year.

I happen to think my sister Nancy, a public school teacher in Amherst County, is a great teacher.

Your House Majority Leader, Kirk Cox, is a great teacher.

We all know strong teachers who deserve to be better recognized for the invaluable roles they play in the development and learning of our students.

We will also fund policies to ensure all young people can read proficiently by third grade, so they are ready to become lifelong learners. Social promotions are not acceptable. When we pass a student who cannot read well and is not ready for the next grade, we have failed them.

Our public education system must also embrace multiple learning venues and opportunities.

I agree with President Obama that we need to expand charter schools in our nation. I am proposing that we make our laws stronger by requiring a portion of the state and local share of SOQ student funding to follow the child to an approved charter school, and to make it easier for new charters to be approved and acquire property.

We need a fair funding formula for the fast growing virtual school sector. I will propose that a portion of the state and local share of SOQ student funding should follow the student in this area as well, and that we implement new regulations for accrediting virtual schools and teachers.

We should also create effective choices for low-income students, so I’m asking you to provide a tax credit for companies that contribute to an educational scholarship fund to help more of our young people, and I thank Delegates Jimmie Massie and Algie Howell, and Senators Walter Stosch and Mark Obenshain for their leadership on this issue. A child's educational opportunities should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her neighborhood or zip code.

We will also propose innovations to promote greater dual enrollment in high school and community college, so motivated students can get a head start on their college educations.

The goal of all of these proposals is simple: at high school graduation, every student who receives a diploma must be college- or career-ready.

VSBA President Joan Wodiska Remarks on Governor McDonnell's Education Agenda

Prepared Remarks for the Honorable Joan E. Wodiska
President, Virginia School Boards Association
Governor McDonnell’s Education Agenda 2012
January 9, 2012

“On behalf of the over 800 school board members of the Virginia School Boards Association, Governor McDonnell and Secretary Fornash thank you for inviting me to be here today.

Every day Virginia’s public schools are filled with amazing and inspirational stories of student success.  Governor, thank you for recognizing our achievements.  Yet, school board members also understand that given the challenges of the new economy our schools must continually improve, innovate, and evolve to ensure that every student succeeds and is prepared for college, careers, or life. 

Virginia students no longer compete against students from Maryland or North Carolina, our students, our workers, our businesses, compete in a global economy.   In this high stakes game, we cannot afford to lose.  Every student, regardless of race, gender, language, income, disability or zip code needs and deserves a world-class public education.  

Governor McDonnell, I applaud your courage and leadership in calling for a full repeal of the Labor Day Law.   Your action today is an exciting and uplifting signal of support for Virginia’s students.   For many, many, many years, the Virginia School Boards Association’s top legislative priority has been to abolish the Labor Day Law.  Virginia School Board members strongly and loudly support your request for a full repeal. 

This year, 77 of the 132 school divisions were allowed through a cumbersome, costly, labor intensive paperwork process to start school before the Labor Day.  Many more school divisions want the much needed flexibility to start school as they see fit, but are prohibited from doing so or unable to secure a waiver. 

Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law.  This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated, and unnecessary state mandate.  In fact, today, the State Labor Day Law directly conflicts with Virginia’s economic and educational goals.   It must be repealed. 

Governor, I am also proud to announce that the Task Force on Local Mandates, comprised of city and county local leaders of which I am a part, also unanimously supports and recommends the full repeal of the Labor Day Law.   Local leaders from all across the state, including tourism dependent communities, want this law repealed to regain control of their school calendars.

VSBA calls on all Virginia legislators to stand with the Governor, school board members, local leaders, and the Task Force on Local Mandates:  fully repeal the Labor Day Law this session.  

In the words of the deeply valued educators from my own community, the City of Falls Church, “make no excuses when it comes to our children.”  Just get it done.

Governor, school board members also want to thank and recognize you for your ongoing commitment to end childhood hunger.  VSBA recently launched, “Food for Thought,” a statewide effort to educate, engage, and empower school board members to end childhood hunger and improve the quality of school meals.  School board members wholeheartedly agree with you Governor, that no matter how rigorous the curriculum, how modern our school buildings, or how well-prepared the staff, a hungry child simply cannot learn.  Thank you for making and keeping childhood hunger a key priority in your Administration.

I also want to thank you and your staff for your ongoing outreach to school board members and VSBA.  Already our discussions have produced notable achievements for Virginians, such as the recent online learning legislation and the strengthening of the charter school law.  We look forward to continuing to work together to tackle other difficult issues such as reforming the Virginia Retirement System to eliminate the swings in state and local payments by providing a stable, planned payment structure.   In addition, we look forward to future action to reduce state paperwork to give teachers, administrators, and all school staff more time to spend helping students.

In closing, the road to economic recovery, job creation, and good paying jobs for all Virginias in paved by a high-quality, educated citizenry.   These remain challenging times to govern and resources are scarce for everyone, but inherent in our shared challenge is an opportunity to chart a new vision of public education for all Virginians.   Working together, we can ensure that every Virginia student succeeds and that our economy continues to grow.  

Governor, thank you for the great honor to join you today.”

Governor Announces Legislative Agenda

On Monday, Governor McDonnell announced his K-12 education agenda.  Among the Governor's long list of education initiatives are the following:
  • Repeal of the so-called "King's Dominion" law, which requires school divisions to start school after Labor day unless the division has applied for and received a waiver;
  • Reducing the number of different high school diplomas from seven to three;
  • Alternative licensure requirements for virtual school teachers;
  • Moving from continuing contract sfor teachers to annual contracts; and
  • "Streamlining" the grievance procedure.
Additional details on many of Governor's K-12 initiatives are not yet available.  We will provide more information as it becomes available. 

Click here to read the Governor's press release about his education agenda.