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.