Legislative updates at crossover

Tuesday was crossover for the Virginia General Assembly, which is when the bills that have been passed by one chamber “cross over” to the other one for consideration. On Sunday the House and Senate will announce their proposed budgets.

Many of the bills that we support have been passed, but ultimately will depend on whether they receive funding in the final budget. Even if a bill passes through both chambers, if it has anything to do with money it can’t accomplish its purpose unless it’s also funded. Contact your legislators here to urge them to prioritize public school funding in the budget.

Here are updates on some of our priority bills:

Making sure the state pays its fair share of school costs

  • The state’s Standards of Quality underestimate how many people it takes to run a school, and last summer’s JLARC report affirmed this. As a result, local school divisions end up hiring more staff without additional state funding. HB360 (Del. Simonds) directs the Virginia Dept. of Education to periodically review and report how many staff schools employ so the state funding formula can more realistically calculate how much money schools need for salaries, and passed in the House unanimously.
  • HB624 (Del. Rasoul), which passed in the House, as amended would address some of JLARC’s near-term recommendations through strengthening funding for students living in lower-income communities, (these are JLARC Recommendations 8, 9-and 10), and also creates a framework for improved support for students learning English.
  • HB825 (Del. Cousins), which also passed in the house, would implement the same improvements as HB624 for students living in lower-income communities. The House passed these bills with bipartisan majorities.
  • SB105 (Sen. Lucas) also addresses the JLARC report through strengthening funding for students from living in lower-income communities and directing the Virginia Department of Education and local school divisions to provide data to assist in the implementation of other key recommendations. It passed the Senate unanimously.

Keeping public funds in public schools

Happily, neither the House nor Senate passed any bills expanding private school vouchers or otherwise taking money away from public schools!

Creating safe and restorative environments for every student

  • Restorative accountability practices like mentoring, peer mediation, and community service are proven to benefit students’ socioemotional development as well as their academic achievement. Many schools in Virginia already utilize this approach, and SB586 (Sen. Pekarsky) would expand this statewide by requiring schools to address student behavior through restorative practices instead of immediate suspension (except in severe cases). SB586 passed the Senate and a similar bill passed the House (HB398, Del. McQuinn).
  • The Community Schools model aims to remove nonacademic barriers to learning by addressing health and social needs at the school, by expanding instructional time, and by engaging community members in the school’s leadership.HB625 (Del. Rasoul), which passed in the House, and SB608 (Sen. Aird), which passed in the Senate, provide technical support for school divisions and expand access to state grants so more localities can develop community schools. These bills passed their chambers with bipartisan majorities.

Stop blocking communities from using sales tax for school construction

SB14 (Sen. McPike) and HB805 (Del. Rasoul) would allow local voters to decide whether to add a 1% local sales tax to raise money to build and renovate school buildings in their own communities. Current law prevents most localities from exercising this autonomy. These bills passed their chambers with bipartisan majorities.

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