Virginia Retired Teachers Association

Legislative

The latest info on the progress of bills

Legislative Committee

Legislative Liaison Form

House Committee Chart

Senate Committee Chart

Bea Morris, Co-Chair

Tina Whitaker, Co-Chair

Bonnie Atwood, Lobbyist

 

Legislative Committee Update (Dec. 1, 2023)

 

The Legislative Committee needs 5 constituents of each state senator and delegate.  If you are willing to contact your legislators when there is a special need, please fill out the Legislative Liaison form and mail or email it to Bea Morris or Tina Whitaker as soon as possible.  We do not need a form from every member in a unit, but we need at least five.  Bea or Tina will call you with the information you will need to communicate.

 

2024 General Assembly Information

 

With so many new players in the 2024 General Assembly, it’s time to get to know them and their positions.  The attachments are the Senate and House Committee charts that show the chair and members of each standing committee and the day and time each committee meets. It does not include subcommittees.  Those can be accessed at http://leg1.state.va.us.  Please print these for use when bills of interest have been referred to the committees.  Underline the name of your senator and delegate.  On which committees does he/she serve?  This will be helpful to know now that bills of concern to us have begun the legislative process. The committee is the first hurdle a good bill must pass and the place to kill bad legislation.  If you don’t already have the email address and the Richmond office phone number of your senator and delegate, you can find these at the website listed above.  Keep this contact information handy on a notepad or in your email contacts.

 

SJ 9 (Sturtevant) and HJ 53 (Batten) directs JLARC to study the effect of salaries, employment benefits, and other relevant factors on recruiting and retaining high quality, fully licensed teachers.  We are all aware that a JLARC comprehensive study on Education was released last summer.  Only one section of that study dealt with teachers and almost all the findings were related to compensation.  The VRTA was successful in getting Senator Sturtevant and Delegate Batten to introduce this resolution.  Several others said that, for various reasons, they could not patronize the bill but would support it.  We were disappointed that the wording of the bill emphasized compensation and did not specify any of the “other relevant factors.”  Inadequate salaries have always been a problem for teachers, and it does seem to be getting worse.  No doubt some have been dissuaded from going into the profession because of this.  However, the momentum now seems to be in favor of increasing salaries to reach or exceed the national average.  We are working with the patrons of these bills to amend them by including things that are hard to quantify but have significant effects on the teacher workforce crisis.  Higher salaries as a single improvement will not solve the problem alone.  The intolerable stress brought on by a workplace environment and climate, lack of professional respect by the public, and sadly sometimes by school boards and administrations, failure of school policy and the actions or inaction of administrators to deal adequately with serious discipline problems in schools, an incredible workload and expectations, etc., are often the real issues that must be addressed, no matter what the salaries are, to attract and retain teachers.  Teachers have little or no way of expressing these detrimental effects, regardless of the salaries, that result in early retirement or a change of career until the situation reaches a crisis like what happened in Newport News and Charlottesville this year that demand the public’s attention.  The Senate bill has been assigned to the Rules Committee, but committee referral is still pending for the House bill.

 

HB 181 (Feggans) decreases from one to 325 to one to 250 the ratio of full-time counselors in grades kindergarten – 12 in a school division.  This passed the Education subcommittee 8-0 and recommended referral to the House Appropriations Committee.  On a 17-Y 4-N vote (Yea: Rasoul, Simons, McQuinn, Askew, Cousins, Reaser, LeVere Bolling, Coyner, Cherry, Green. Nay: Batton, P. A. Scott, Garrett, Zehr.  Not voting: Freitas) the House Education Committee referred it to Appropriations, and it has been assigned to the Appropriations subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education.  Counselors have been working on this for years and are pleased with the early progress of the bill.  It all comes down to money.

 

HB 187 (Clark) requires the state to fund a three percent increase for SOL funded instructional and support positions effective for the 2025-2026 school year and an additional seven percent increase effective for the 2026-2027 school year to bring teacher salaries to the national average.  The House subcommittee recommended that it be referred to Appropriations on a 7-1 vote.  The full House Appropriations voted to refer it to the Appropriations Committee on a 16-Y 5-N vote. It has been assigned to the Appropriations subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education. (Yea: Rasoul, Simons, McQuinn, Sewell, Convirs-Fowler, Askew, Clark, Cousins, Reaser, Laufer, Cohen, LaVere Bolling, Coyner, Tata, Ennis, Green.  Nay: Cherry)

 

The legislators who voted for or against these bills are listed because you should know how your senator and delegate voted in order to thank them, ask them why they voted as they did, etc.  How, and if, they respond will tell a lot about them.  At least they will know you’re paying attention.

 

Bea Morris

Legislative Committee, Co-Chair

 

 

What’s Happening So Far in 2024?

 
 

SJ 9 (Sturtevant) to request a JLARC study of the crisis in the teacher workforce was heard last Friday in Senate Rules Committee.  At our request, Sen. Sturtevant offered an amendment in the form of a substitute that spelled out some of the “other relevant factors” that adversely affect the teacher workforce such as stress caused by the workplace environment, lack of professional respect by the public and others, failure of school policy and the action or inaction of administrators to deal adequately with serious discipline problems, etc.  However, on a voice vote, not unanimous, the committee defeated it.  Apparently, they gave more consideration to the compensation part of the bill and issues have a great deal to do with the teacher workforce crisis and no one else seems to be addressing them.  HJ 53 (Batten), a companion bill to SJ 9, is still alive in the House Rules Committee.  We have been working this week to get Delegate Batten to offer the substitute but have had difficulty communicating with her office.  Please call members of the House Rules Committee early Monday and ask them to support HJ 53.  If you are constituents of these members, it’s especially important for you to call.  Identify yourself and say that you are a retired teacher.  It’s unlikely that you will be able to talk with the delegate but ask for your message to be given to the delegate.  

 

D.L. Scott (chair) – 804-698-1088 (All numbers begin with 804-698.)

Helmer, (vice chair) – 804-698-1010

Watts – 1014

Ward – 1089

Sickles – 1017

Herring – 1004

Carr – 1078

Torian – 1024

Simon – 1013

Hayes – 1091

Sullivan – 1006

Tran – 1018

Gilbert – 1033

Kilgore – 1045

Austin – 1037

Webert – 1061

O’Quinn – 1044

Batten – 1071 She’s the patron of the bill.  Thank her for her efforts concerning the teacher workforce crisis. 

 

HB 187 (Clark) and SB 104 (Lucas) are companion bills that would require an increase in teacher pay to meet the national average.  Both are on the Appropriations Committee in their respective chambers.  There is momentum for this increase although it will be costly.  To see the Fiscal Impact Statement, pull up the bill and click on the impact statement to see the estimated cost and how complicated it is.   However, what is the cost of not increasing teacher salaries?  JLARC reported last summer that since 2012 there has been a 115% increase in the number of teachers with a provisional license, which is a short-term, nonrenewable license for teachers who have not completed the regular credentialing program.  Chad Stewart, VEA policy analyst, said that “Some of the proposed GA measures to address vacancy rates by reducing standards for teacher licensure might be well-intentioned but fail to solve deeper issues.  We don’t think the answer right now is to water down our standards to just get warm bodies in the classroom.  Every student deserves a high-quality instructor.”   He also said, “Just getting to average shouldn’t be our end goal.”  It does seem strange that just being average is not an acceptable goal for students academically or for athletic teams, but to some, “average” is a high bar for teacher salaries.  If you are a constituent of a senator or delegate on the Appropriations Committee, please encourage them to vote for these bills. (See the chart of committees in the last email.)

It’s surprising that Grace Turner Creasy, President of the Virginia Board of Education, wrote an op-ed in the Jan. 17 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch arguing that “K-12 Education in Virginia Isn’t ‘Underfunded.'”   As we all know, not only salaries must be increased but so must funding for many educational needs and the SOQs have never been fully funded.  There is also momentum for changing the funding formula to from a staff based to a student-based formula which should give most school systems more money.  This was a JLARC recommendation.   HJ 67 (Simonds) establishes a joint committee of 5 members of the House Education Committee and 3 members of the Senate Education and Health Committee to study this change and to report its findings to the Governor and the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees by Nov.1, 2025.  This bill was reported from the House Education Committee on a unanimous vote and has been assigned to the Appropriations subcommittee on Elementary & Secondary Education.

 

HB 687 (O’Quinn) was stricken from the docket by House Appropriations on a unanimous vote.  Many school systems are having difficulty getting bus drivers, especially school divisions in Southwest Virginia, and some teachers are making extra money and filling a need by driving a bus route before and after school.  This bill would have been an incentive for more teachers to do this by allowing full-time K-12 teachers to be full-time bus drivers to receive additional service credit in VRS.  Wise County now has 31 teachers among its 68 full-time drivers, and Lee County 10 teachers driving for approximately 50 routes. Depending on salaries and the number of years driving a bus, this full-time bus job could mean an extra $250-$350 a month in retirement.  See the fiscal impact statement for an explanation of legalities and how this would affect the VRS contribution rates of the school systems.  SB 622 (Pillion) is a companion bill in the Senate.  It is still alive in Senate Appropriations.  If you feel strongly about this, contact your senator if he/she is on Senate Appropriations.   

 

SB 552 (Peake) and HB 659 (Ballard) are companion bills that would allow parents to enroll a child in another school within that school division.  Current law permits but does not require each school board to establish such policies for open enrollment.  Some school divisions make such provisions available, for example, when a teacher who lives in a school district different from where she/he is employed is allowed to bring the child to school in that district.  Or, if a student is in a special program in one district and moves to another that does not offer the program, accommodations are made to benefit the student.  But it seems that just giving parents a “choice” to do this by state law may present problems with overcrowding, etc.  Or a student may desire to enroll in a different school for athletic preferences, etc.  This seems like a policy that would best be left to school divisions, not state law.  SB 552 is assigned to the Education and Health subcommittee on Public Education.  HB 659 has been assigned to the Education subcommittee K-12 Subcommittee.  If you are a constituent of a senator or delegate on the Education Committees, be sure to contact them if you feel strongly about this issue.

 

HB 1230 (Zehr) Would permit any school board to authorize any school board employee to possess a firearm on school property if they receive advanced firearms training.  It was referred to the Committee on Public Safety and assigned to the subcommittee on Firearms.  The subcommittee recommended passing it by indefinitely (killing it) on a 7-1 vote.  Yeas (to kill it):  Clark, Helmer, Seibold, McClure, Cousins, Feggans, Ennis.  Nay:  Cordoza.  Abstentions:  Taylor, Owen.  Several years ago, VRTA voted against allowing school personnel to have firearms on the job.  We must continue to be vigilant. 

 

February 13 is Crossover Day, the last day for each chamber to act on its own legislation.

 

Let me know if you have any trouble locating information on the Legislative Information Service – leg1.state.va.us.

 

Bea Morris

Legislative Committee–Co-Chair

 

 

Legislative Update
February 11, 2024

 

The teacher workforce crisis is one of the most critical problems in education today.  Additional funding for salaries is one well-documented solution.  However, HB 142 (Ruff, retired chief patron and Mulchi, chief co-patron) proposes a short-term, questionable fix.  It passed the Senate Health and Education Committee Thursday, Feb. 8, on a 15-0 vote and later that day passed the first reading in the full House on a 40-0 vote. Friday, it was passed by for the day, but it will be up for a vote Monday, Feb. 12.   The following is VEA President, Dr. James Fedderman’s, reason for VEA’s strong opposition to this bill:

 

SB 142 provides up to two years of a new provisional local license before the teacher would start a standard provisional license.  Anyone who qualifies for this local license could already qualify for a provisional license, and this bill would extend the length of time teachers are not fully licensed. Since many teachers request a two-year extension after holding a standard provisional license, this bill would tack on another two years, leading some teachers to be in the classroom for seven years without meeting full licensure requirements…

 

” SB 142 further allows school boards and superintendents the sole authority to grant a license without state board approval, takes away the right of these teachers to earn continuous status (due process protections), reduces teacher quality, diminishes teachers’ professional status even further, and ultimately hurts student learning outcomes.  Nowhere in the JLARC Teacher Pipeline Report, released in September of 2023, does it recommend loosening teacher licensure requirements in the way it is being proposed in SB 142

 

SB 142 is not the way to fix the teacher shortage issue we are facing in Virginia.  Currently, 46% of school divisions surveyed by JLARC reported that provisionally licensed teachers are very poorly or poorly prepared to be teachers, while only 3% of school divisions reported poor preparation among individuals who attended traditional higher education preparation programs.  The number of applications for provisional licenses in Virginia has grown exponentially, from 117 in 2015 to to 2,698 in 2021 (most recent data publicly available–a more than 2,000% increase).  SB 142 would exacerbate these trends.

 

“Better alternatives to recruit and retain the best and brightest educators are to boost compensation, stop micromanaging and focus on the well-being of educators, show them respect, bring more people into the profession by covering the cost of teacher preparation  courses in exchange for a commitment to teach in a district, and establish teaching apprenticeships–programs that pay for aspiring teachers’ education and allow them to work and be paid while they earn their degrees.  Loosening teacher licensure requirements is not the answer.

 

“VEA is greatly concerned about allowing teachers to simultaneously complete their teacher training while serving as the teacher-of- record.  This practice is especially troubling because it is so often concentrated in high-poverty and high-needs schools.  While understanding that many, not all, school divisions in the Commonwealth have persistent shortages in specific content areas, VEA encourages education stakeholders to recognize the disservice that occurs when underprepared teachers who lack the skills and expertise needed to promote student learning and success are allowed to teach groups of students.  The lack of preparation of some is an injustice to all who believe in the power of education to level the access field.” 

 

The bill has an amendment that this provision will expire July 1, 2030.  It is due for its second reading, debate, in the full Senate Monday, Feb. 12.  If you feel strongly about this bill, call your Senator and leave a short message or send an email early Monday morning.  

 

Bea Morris

Legislative Committee, Co-Chair