New Measure on Re-Opening Schools, Cultural Competency, and Good Revenue Picture win-out on President’s Day
February 15, 2021
February 15, 2021
Today, Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg offered an amendment in the form of a substitute to SB1303. SB 1303, in its original format, would have stripped decision-making and authority away from local school divisions while putting Virginia students, their families, and the Commonwealth’s educators at greater risk of harm from the COVID pandemic. The substitute bill to SB1303 is a more responsible approach to reopening schools for in-person instruction. On Friday, the CDC released an operational strategy guide for the safe delivery of in-person instruction at K-12 schools. It’s the first new school-specific guidance issued by the CDC during the Biden administration. It has been eagerly awaited by families and educators who want to get physically back to in-person learning as soon as safely possible.
VEA President Dr. James Fedderman gave testimony to the substitute this morning, citing that educators have been among the true heroes throughout this crisis, continuing throughout the pandemic to educate our students. “We are on the right path to reopening schools for in-person instruction. Still, we need to be driven by the health and safety of, first and foremost, the students we teach and to ensure proper mitigation measures for our educators,” said Dr. Fedderman. “We believe this substitute addresses our school communities’ need to pay special attention to address this pandemic’s mitigation in our schools. Our students and educators desperately need our support across every Virginia community and at the Statehouse as well.” View Dr. Fedderman’s testimony below.
The substitute to Senate Bill 1303, would require each school board to offer, for the duration of the 2021–2022 school year:
In Other News…
SB 1196, sponsored by Senator Mamie E. Locke, passed the House of Delegates today, by a vote of 57-43. Its companion bill, HB1904, also passed the Senate today by a vote of 21-18. The bill requires every person seeking initial licensure or renewal of a license from the Board of Education (i) to complete instruction or training in cultural competency and (ii) with an endorsement in history and social sciences to complete instruction in African American history, as prescribed by the Board. The bill also requires each school board to adopt and implement policies that require each teacher and any other school board employee holding a license issued by the Board to complete cultural competency training, in accordance with guidance issued by the Board, at least every two years and requires teacher, principal, and division superintendent evaluations to include an evaluation of cultural competency.
SB 1387, introduced by Senator Jennifer B. Boysko, passed the House of Delegates by a 58-42 vote. The bill provides that students who meet the criteria to be deemed eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their citizenship or immigration status shall be afforded the same educational benefits, including financial assistance programs administered by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the State Board for Community Colleges, or a public institution of higher education, as any other individual who is eligible for in-state tuition.
Good News on the Revenue Front
Today, Governor Ralph Northam sent a letter to the General Assembly Money Committees announcing that a final mid-session revenue analysis shows Virginia’s tax revenues continue to strengthen.
The additional data means total revenues and transfers for fiscal year 2021 will be revised upwards by an additional $410.1 million. Fiscal year 2022, total revenues and transfers will be revised upward by an additional $320.1 million. In total, the Commonwealth expects an additional $730.2 million over the forecast from December 2020.
“These revised budget numbers tell us that Virginia’s economy continues to thrive, in spite of the pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “Before the pandemic, we had passed the most progressive budget in Virginia history. These additional dollars help us get back to that historic budget and allow us to move forward with our shared priorities—providing Virginia families and businesses the relief they need to get back on their feet, supporting public schools, and giving our public workers a pay raise.”
The revenue analysis was completed after the Commonwealth’s books closed on February 8, 2021. January’s monthly revenue report provided additional data on retail sales tax collections for the holiday shopping season as well as individual estimated payments, corporate income tax, and the recordation tax.
Governor Northam provided these additional revenues at a meeting with the Money Committee chairs this morning. He will meet with budget conferees later this week for further discussions on shared priorities.