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VEA 2015 Legislative Agenda


The VEA Board of Directors has approved the following legislative agenda for the 2015 session of the Virginia General Assembly.

Support for low-performing schools

The Norfolk Circuit Court ruled the Opportunity Education Institution (OEI) unconstitutional, and the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has recommended OEI be repealed. Virginia must find new ways to assist low-performing schools, something that cannot be successfully addressed by the schools alone. VEA will support legislative efforts to involve the broader communities in support of the transformation of these schools. Approaches should address such issues as health services, access to high quality pre-K programs, housing policies (which now result in concentration of poverty), law enforcement, access to parks and recreation, urban teacher residency programs, teacher recruitment and retention, school zoning, transportation, and the support of the business community.

 

Education vs. Incarceration

Virginia ranks 39th in state per-pupil funding, pre-K-12; however, our state ranks 13th in state corrections expenditures per offender. Is this an accurate reflection of our priorities? Sensible sentencing reform could reduce costs associated with incarceration and free up funding for our schools.

 

State funding for a 6% salary increase

The Commonwealth must take action to attract and retain high-quality school personnel. Virginia is the 9th wealthiest state, yet our teacher salary ranks 37th. Our average teacher salary is $7,456 below the national average. We must do better if our students are to continue to have highly qualified teachers. State funding is critical to the ability of localities to make salaries of Virginia school employees more competitive.

 

Oppose further erosion of Virginia Retirement System (VRS) pension benefits

In recent sessions, some current school board employees saw their retirement benefits reduced, and there have been substantial reductions in benefits for future employees. VEA will continue to oppose additional reductions in benefits. We also will oppose measures which undermine the soundness of the VRS—such as underfunding, the “Dead Peasant Bill,” or shifting to an open architecture for the defined contribution component in the hybrid pension plan.

 

Optional three-person panel in dismissal cases

In the 2013 legislative session, the passage of HB 2151 and SB 1223 eliminated the use of the “fact finding panel,” replacing it with a “hearing officer.” VEA will seek legislation to provide local school boards with the option of utilizing either a fact finding panel or hearing officer. Many VEA members contend that the three-person panel leads to a more judicial resolution of the dismissal decision.  

 

Abolish A-F grading of schools

A single grade cannot fully represent the true measure of a school’s performance. These letter grades too often reflect the impact of demographic factors and do little to reveal the quality of instructional opportunities available to students. Reducing a school to a single grade is likely to exacerbate the challenge of recruiting high-quality personnel to urban and rural poor schools, as well as harming property values in these same areas, further reducing funding sources.

 

Amend the Child Protective Services (CPS) timeline

Amend the CPS section of the Code of Virginia to make the 45-day reporting deadline mandatory.

Non-compliance to the 45-day limit causes several problems:

     o  Teachers are out of the classroom too long.

     o  Local school divisions must pay both the teacher and the substitute.

     o  Students are empowered to “take the teacher out.”

 

Implementation of statewide health insurance option

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 would any one of the 132 individual school divisions. JLARC estimates savings could reach $44 to $66 million annually.

 

Tuition tax credit (TTC) accountability

The tuition tax credit provisions in the Code of Virginia prescribe insufficient accountability requirements for the “eligible schools” and don’t provide adequate information for an accurate comparison of these schools for interested parents. Requiring these schools to compile the results of “any national norm referenced test” seems wholly inadequate if parents are to make informed choices of schools.

 

Close the health insurance coverage gap and free up funds for public education

Federal funding should be obtained to insure more Virginians and allow more dollars to go to public education.

What’s at stake?

  • $14 billion in federal funds over the next eight years
  • 30,000 jobs generated by this funding
  • Up to 400,000 more Virginians with health insurance
  • $34 million in annual savings to localities

A January 2014 presentation by Secretary Bill Hazel to the Senate Finance Committee revealed that federal dollars will replace a significant amount of General Fund dollars if coverage is expanded. Over the next nine years this could free up $255 million for “inpatient hospital  for prison inmates,” $1.1 billion for “indigent care at teaching hospitals,” $227 million for behavioral health services at community service boards,” and $139 million for “other.”

This adds up to more than $1.7 billion in resources that could be used for education! Education now gets 30 percent of each General Fund dollar. That could mean $515 million more for our schools.

 

Transparent, bipartisan redistricting process

The VEA will participate in the OneVirginia2021 coalition in support of a transparent, bipartisan redistricting process.

 

 


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