VEA 2013 Legislative Agenda
LEGISLATION TO INITIATE OR SUPPORT
Preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s jobs
The Commonwealth should take concrete steps right now to improve the future employment prospects of today’s students. We support:
• Targeted class size reduction
• State support for essential school functions – facilities, support professionals, transportation, and textbooks and e-books
• Dropout prevention
• Fully qualified teachers
• Flexible school calendar
• National board certification – stipends and incentive grants
Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC) Study of the Standards of Quality (SOQ)
Substantial revisions to the SOQ are needed to address:
• The continued failure of the General Assembly to fund prior proposed revisions,
• The impact of revised graduation requirements and more vigorous Standards of Learning tests, and
• The many arbitrary, budget-driven cuts to SOQ funding made in the 2009 through 2012 legislative sessions.
The JLARC should conduct a study of how the SOQ may be revised and adequately funded to meet the Standards of Learning and Standards of Accreditation.
State share of a 4% salary increase for school employees
The Commonwealth must take action to attract and retain high-quality school personnel. Virginia is the 7th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 31st. Our average teacher salary is $7,083 below the national average. But in the current biennial budget, teachers are the only employee group not afforded a raise. We must do better if tomorrow’s students are to continue to have highly qualified teachers. State funding is critical to the ability of localities to make salaries of school employees more competitive.
The Commonwealth should enact anti-bullying legislation similar to a law now in place in Mississippi that prohibits bullying or harassing behavior in the public schools. The bill requires all local school districts to adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassing behavior. Further, it:
• Prohibits bullying or harassing behavior, including written, electronic or verbal communications, in the public schools, including school property, at any school-sponsored function, or on a school bus;
• Requires each local school district to include in its personnel policies, discipline policies, and code of student conduct a prohibition against bullying or harassing behavior and adopt procedures for reporting, investigating, and addressing such behavior; and
• Requires that policies recognize the fundamental right of every student to take reasonable actions to defend himself or herself from an attack by another student who has evidenced menacing or threatening behavior through bullying or harassing.
VRS fiscal impact statements to include impact on employees and retirees
Currently, fiscal impact statements on retirement legislation do not include the impact of the policy changes on the retirement benefits of current and future retirees. Legislators should have this information prior to making decisions regarding retirement legislation.
Full funding of the VRS Board of Trustees certified contribution rate
In only three of the last 22 years has the state paid the VRS Board-certified rate into the VRS fund for teachers and other covered school employees. The state’s failure to fund the recommended rate has weakened the VRS’ funding status. The VRS Board of Trustees certified the contribution rate for the current biennium in October of 2011. To improve the funding status of VRS, the best approach is to pay the certified rate from now on. The Governor should offer budget amendments to fund the board-certified rate in the second year of the current biennium.
Analysis and implementation of statewide health insurance option
The VEA has advocated consideration of a statewide health insurance plan for years, and JLARC recommended in January 2011 that an analysis be conducted. Moving to a statewide insurance option for local school divisions could save millions of dollars in the years ahead. These savings could be used to provide needed school funding. The Commonwealth would have much greater leverage in rate negotiations with insurance providers than any one of the 132 individual school divisions.
Appropriate funding for virtual schools
The current approach to funding virtual schools is inequitable. If a Fairfax County student enrolls in a virtual school in Carroll County, Carroll County receives more ($5,830) for that student than Fairfax would ($3,256) if the student went to a “bricks-and-mortar” school. In addition, traditional schools offer services that virtual schools do not, such as clinics, libraries, and athletics. The true costs associated with virtual schools should determine the level of funding – not the traditional ADM amount.
Close corporate tax loopholes and adopt a tax structure that provides sufficient revenue for preK-12 public education
Virginia needlessly gives away millions of dollars a year to large corporations through tax breaks, forcing the state to compensate by placing children in more crowded classrooms, underpaying teachers and failing to adequately fund VRS. We should reform existing tax breaks and eliminate old and ineffective tax breaks. In the long run, we must develop fair and adequate tax policies for our Commonwealth.
LEGISLATION TO OPPOSE
Oppose efforts to deny Virginia’s teachers a fair dismissal policy
Legislation to deny Virginia’s teachers a fair dismissal policy was re-referred to the Senate Health and Education Committee by the 2012 General Assembly. Passage of this bill would make Virginia’s teachers the only governmental employees in Virginia who do not have a fair dismissal policy. VEA supports Continuing Contract provisions because:
• Continuing Contract helps assure quality teaching; it doesn’t prevent it. It makes sure a great teacher is not dismissed for refusing to change a student’s grade or because she can be let go in favor of an inexpensive, younger teacher.
• Administrators are not currently prevented from dismissing teachers who fail to perform. They can, and do, exercise that responsibility. Continuing Contract and the grievance process ensure that good teachers get a hearing and are not fired for bad reasons.
• Neighboring states all have some form of Continuing Contract. Doing away with it will cause quality teacher candidates to look elsewhere.
• Continuing Contract laws in Virginia and other states were passed decades ago because arbitrary dis¬missals, nepotism, and political favoritism undermined the goal of providing the best possible teacher for each classroom. We must not return to the bad old days!
Oppose further erosion of VRS pension benefits
In the 2012 legislative session, some current school employees saw their retirement benefits reduced, and there was a substantial reduction in benefits for future employees. VEA will continue the fight against any additional reduction in benefits.