Here is a rundown on the status of legislation and budget funding in our five legislative priority areas:
Fully Fund the Revised Standards of Quality
- HB1135 passed the House Education committee on a bipartisan vote but did not receive a vote in the House Appropriations Committee, which meant it did not advance.
- SB490 received unanimous support in the Senate Education and Health Committee, then was significantly narrowed to only focus on specialized support staff (Senate proposal) or principals / assistant principals (House proposal). SB490 is now “in conference” and may be considered again during the special session that deals with the budget.
- Separate legislation to provide additional instructors for students with the lowest levels of English proficiency, which is another part of the revised Standards of Quality, passed the Senate in a modified form but failed in House Education.
- Reading specialists: Both budget proposals include $63 million to increase the number of reading specialists to one for every 550 students in grades K-3.
- Principals and assistant principals: The House budget provides $104 million for additional principal and vice principal positions in our schools.
- Instructors for English learners: The Senate budget provides $22 million to increase the number of instructors for English learners.
- At-risk add-on: The Senate budget increases support for schools serving many students from families with low incomes through a $269 million boost to the at-risk add-on over the upcoming two years. The House budget includes a smaller increase of $58 million.
Lifting the Support Cap
Bold Investments to in Teacher and Staff Pay
- These bills did not pass this year, but they helped advance the conversation on the need for more adequate pay for teachers and other school staff.
Budget: The Senate budget provides $751 million for the state share of a 5% increase in pay each year for the next two years for SOQ-funded teachers and other school staff. The Senate’s budget would also use $137 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to pay for a $1,000 bonus for SOQ-funded teachers and staff this year. In contrast, in each of the next two years, the House budget provides $683 million for the state share of a 4% salary increase and 1% bonus.
Invest in School Infrastructure
- SB238 (McPike), which passed both chambers, creates a system to track school building age and the amount of maintenance reserve funds that are necessary to restore each building.
- HB563 (O’Quinn) and SB473 (McClellan), which are currently in “conference” to work out differences between the House and Senate approaches, both address the appropriation of certain money from the Gaming Proceeds Fund to school construction without needing the General Assembly to do so in the annual budget process.
- SB471 (McClellan) would make several changes to Literary Fund loans and interest rate subsidies based on recommendations of the Commission on School Construction and Modernization, including creating an annual open application process for loans, increasing the maximum loan amount, provide a sliding scale for interest rates for school divisions, and providing a competitive award program for subsidizing up to $25,000 of loan closing costs. The House has proposed and a conference committee has agreed to a reenactment clause for SB471, which would mean the provisions do not take effect unless it is passed again during the 2023 legislative session, and the amended bill is awaiting consideration by the Senate of that proposal.
- Unfortunately, the House Finance committee did not advance a number of bills (HB63, HB531, HB545, HB1099, SB37, SB298, and SB472) that would have provided all or certain cities and counties with the authority to levy a 1% local sales tax for school construction and renovation subject to approval in a local referendum.
- Grants: The Senate budget proposes $500 million in general funds for one-time grants to local school divisions for non-recurring costs related to school construction, renovations, and other expenditures in FY23.
- Loan subsidies: The Senate budget uses $166 million in general fund dollars for teacher retirement which, when combined with other Literary Fund resources, allows up to $400 million in Literary Fund dollars to go to school construction loans or interest rate subsidies over the next two years. The House budget uses $111 million in general fund dollars for teacher retirement, allowing $250 million in Literary Fund dollars to be used for a Construction Loan Rebate Program. The House also provides $292 million in general funds directly to that program.
Stand Against Cuts and Repurposing of K-12 Public Schools Funding
- Vouchers and neo-vouchers: There were a number of proposals this year to divert public school funds or state general fund dollars to private schools through various voucher and neo-voucher mechanisms. While House committees defeated many of these proposals, the House passed two proposals. One, HB294, would have allowed higher-income families to, under some circumstances, access scholarships funded by existing education improvement scholarship tax credits. The other, HB1024, would have created educational savings accounts (vouchers) for certain families whose children attend private schools. These proposals were both defeated by the Senate Education and Health committee.
- Charter schools: There were also a number of proposals to weaken the approval and oversight power of local school boards over charter schools, which could result in less funding for traditional public schools. These proposals were also defeated in the House or Senate committee.
- Lab schools: The House and Senate have passed different versions of legislation to broaden the authority of colleges and universities to create “laboratory” schools that would function like charter schools, rather than the traditional focus on teacher education in college lab schools. These bills, HB346 and SB598, are currently in “conference” to resolve the differences, with the Senate proposing to provide more input from local school boards and to prevent for-profit college and 3rd-party management proposals.