During the 2021 General Assembly Session our PTA advocates sent more than πŸ“§180 emails and participated in more than πŸ‘₯42 Constituent Connection virtual meetings with legislators to talk about the challenges and opportunities that face our school communities. Additionally, this past week 29 Virginia PTA members participated in National PTA's Virtual Hill Day and were able to share stories with 11 out of our 12 federal legislators.

Thank you to everyone who shared calls to action via social medial and contacted your legislators to elevate our shared Virginia PTA priorities! Of the 49 bills we took an active position on during the 2021 General Assembly session, 35 had positive progress through legislation or budget amendments! 

The Governor is currently reviewing and taking action on legislation and amendments to the 2020-2022 biennium budget (HB 1800/SB 1100). The General Assembly will consider any vetoes or amendments proposed by the Governor at the reconvened veto session scheduled for April 7, 2021. Legislation passed becomes effective July 1.

Below are updates on state and federal funding
and ways you can #TakeAction4Kids.
This past week the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan was passed, which will provide coronavirus relief for schools and an unprecedented infusion of federal aid for K-12 education to ensure students and educators can return to the classroom safely and recover academically.


While ESSER III funds will be targeted to support safe in-person reopening and learning remediation, the $3.8 billion in State Fiscal Recovery Funds is discretionary and was NOT allocated in the recent General Assembly budget. It's expected that the General Assembly will meet in the coming weeks to allocate funding.

Virginia’s dilapidated and outdated school infrastructure impacts student achievement and health, teacher retention, school overhead costs, and local property values. In Virginia, state capital spending on schools declined by 33% between 2008 and 2016 with state funding paying on average only 20% of the maintenance and capital costs for school buildings.

The Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund provides a unique opportunity for state lawmakers to modernize our schools, shift to cleaner energy, and use one-time money in a way that will pay long-term dividends by improving the health and safety of our schools, modernizing schools to support 21st century learning and jump-starting our economy with construction jobs. 

We urge you to contact your state legislator.

Ask that federal fiscal recovery funds be allocated to school infrastructure including building modernization, broadband expansion and electric buses.
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HIGHLIGHTS * FEDERAL COVID RELIEF
AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN
Here's an overview of key education components of the American Rescue Plan.

  • $123 billion for K–12 (including $800 million for homeless children)
  • $3 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
  • $40 billion for institutions of higher education 
  • $2.75 billion to governors for private schools 
  • $7.1 billion to connect the roughly 16 million K-12 students who currently lack high-quality home internet and/or devices
  • $350 billion for state, local territorial and tribal governments 

  • Distribution: Funding will be distributed through ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) based on the federal Title I formula for disadvantaged students. School districts will receive 90% of the funds.

  • States must set-aside
  • 5% to address learning loss; 
  • 1% for evidence-based, comprehensive after-school programs;
  • 1% for evidence-based summer enrichment.

  • School Districts are required to: 
  • Spend at least 20% to address learning loss. 
  • Publish a plan to reopen schools for in-person instruction within 30 days of receiving funding.

CHILDCARE AFFORDABILITY & ACCESS 
  • $40 billion for child care providers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. 
  • $1 billion for the Head Start program, which provides early-childhood education, health and nutrition services to low-income children and families.

PRESERVE & EXPAND FOOD ASSISTANCE 
  • Extends the 15% increase in SNAP benefits through September 2021
  • $5 billion for Pandemic-EBT so low-income families have access to food assistance during both the school year and summer months. 
  • $800 million for the WIC program, which supports low-income women and infants
  • Temporarily expands the age of eligibility for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) at emergency homeless shelters
GENERAL ASSEMBLY 2021
HIGHLIGHTS
Here's an overview of key legislation and funding amendments from the 2021 General Assembly Session.

βœ… No Loss Funding.
  • State funding for K-12 education is based partly on enrollment. Using the lower enrollment from the 2020-2021 school year to budget for the 2021-2022 school year could have resulted in teacher shortages and a shortfall in services as students re-enroll.
  • $367M is allocated in the Conference budget
  • $134.6M of upwards adjusted sales tax revenue for K-12 schools
  • $76M Non General Funding from gambling revenue

βœ… School Counselors (See also School Equity & Staffing Act).
  • The funded staffing standards for school counselors in FY21 are 455-to-1 in elementary schools, 370-to-1 in middle schools, and 325-to-1 in high schools.
  • $27M is allocated to reduce the staffing ratios to 1 counselor to 325 students for all schools in FY22 (2021-2022 school year).

βœ… Learning Loss. (Extended School, Summer School, Special Education etc)
  • $40M for Learning Loss from the Lottery Proceeds. Funding is provided on a per-pupil basis of $156.54 based on free eligibility. No local match is required.
  • $30M of ESSER CARES funds were allocated for grants to address COVID-19 related learning loss and other student support needs.

βœ… Teacher Pay. The average teacher’s salary in Virginia is 17% below the national average and contributes to the persistent teacher shortage that leaves almost 1,000 unfilled teaching positions annually. The General Assembly's conference budget includes $231.7 million for a 5% pay raise. School divisions must provide a match of at least a 2% increase to get state aid

βœ… G3 Program. Helps students get free or low-cost job skills training in high-need fields through Virginia’s community college system. (Passed with $38.5M)

β›” Rainy Day Reserves. Governor Northam proposed 8% of total revenue or $650 million be invested into the revenue reserve (aka savings). The Conference Budget increased the reserve set aside to $900M. 

βœ… Equity & Diversity.
  • Cultural Competency Training. HB1904-Jenkins, requires cultural competency Training at least every 2 years for every person seeking licensure or renewal and when seeking a history and social sciences endorsement, a course in African American history must be completed.
  • Governor School Diversity Reporting. Budget Item (145 #16c), requires each Academic Year Governor's School to post their diversity goals, implementation plans, and related annual progress reports on their websites
  • Equity & Inclusion Plans. HB1993 -Askew, requires state agencies to establish and maintain a comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plans.

School Re-opening. Legislation passed that will require all schools in Virginia to offer 5 days of in-person instruction with CDC guidelines implemented to the greatest extent possible for the 2021-2022 school year. Full virtual instruction should still be offered as a choice. Schools may shift to hybrid or full virtual to remediate high transmission as defined by the Virginia Department of Health. 

Student Assessments.
  • New Through Year Testing. Legislation and funding passed that will change the SOLs to a through-year growth assessment system. Similar to MAP testing, the new state tests would be administered in the fall and spring in reading and math for 3rd-8th graders and would measure student progress above, at, and below grade level.
  • Legislation failed that would have reduced the Standards of Learning to the federal minimum requirements thus eliminating Grade 5 Science, Grade 8 Writing, Middle School Science, Virginia Studies & Economics
Broadband * High Speed Internet
βœ… Accessibility
Broadband budget amendments increase the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative (VATI) grant funding to $100M over the biennium ($50M per year versus the original $35M allocation).

Conference budget language will create a statewide broadband map of unserved and served areas and expand eligibility for who can apply for VATI funds.
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βœ… Affordability
Although SB1462 (Mason) did not pass, language was included in the conference budget to establish a program that provides a fixed reimbursement of no more than $15/month for households currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. 

Additionally, SB1225- Boysko passed which will authorize school boards to partner with private broadband service providers to promote, implement, and subsidize broadband for low income or at risk students.
School Equity & Staffing Act
βœ… Specialized Support Staff
The Senate included $49 million in their budget to fund three specialized student support positions per 1,000 students. Specialized support positions include school nurses, school social workers, school psychologists and behavior analysts.

β›” School Equity & Staffing Act
This bill would have funded the Board of Education's Recommended Standards of Quality for Virginia's schools and cost ~$900M (roughly the amount set aside for rainy day funds). All of the following was not funded:
  • Teacher leader and teacher mentor programs
  • Full time principals and librarians for schools with less than 300 students
  • Assistant Principals for schools with more than 400 students
  • School Counselors at a ratio of 1:250
  • Improved teacher ratios for English Language Learners, Reading Specialists and Technology Teachers.
  • Equity Fund to provide compensation adjustments for teachers in high poverty schools and to support equitable distribution of effective teachers.
School Nurses
β›” School Nurses
While there is a modest improvement in school nurse funding through the improved Specialized Support Staff ratio, both bills that sought to define the level of nursing care provided in schools failed.

βœ… School Nurse Study
Budget Item 137#4h establishes a VDOE School Nurse Working Group to recommend an appropriate school nurse staffing ratio and the required qualifications and training for school nurses. Report due Oct. 1, 2021.
  • 3 local school division representatives, including one superintendent 
  • 2 members of a local school board
  • School personnel providing health services, including local health department 
  • Personnel with varying levels of nursing credentials,
  • Personnel without nursing credentials; 
  • 2 members of the Board of Education. 
Early Childhood Education & Childcare
The 2020 Special Session restored most the early childhood funding that was unallotted at the start of the pandemic. During the 2021 Session the governor proposed restoring the remaining unallotted funds and assumed a 20% increase in Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) per pupil funds. The conference budget assumes a 10% increase and includes language to prioritize flexible VPI funding for Four-Year-Old Children.

βœ… Childhood Mental Health Consultation Program Report. A report will be developed to study the implementation of an early childhood mental health consultation program. Report is due October 1, 2021.

βœ… $52.5M 6- month Emergency Childcare Stabilization (HB2206 Filler-Corn): 
Creates the COVID-19 Child Care Assistance Program to provide childcare financial assistance to families in need during COVID-19 who have children aged 13 and younger. The program will be administered by the Virginia Department of Education. The proposed online application process would send a voucher for full-time or part-time care, payable directly to the childcare provider

βœ… Early Childhood Education Pilot (SB1316-McClellan & HB2086-McGuire):
Provides background check portability and establishes a two-year pilot program, to be administered by the Virginia Department of Education for the purpose of stabilizing and improving the quality of services provided in the Commonwealth's child care industry.
School Infrastructure
βœ… Infrastructure Per Pupil Funding. Budget Item 145 #13c ($30M) Allocates 40% percent of Lottery Proceeds to Infrastructure and Operations Per Pupil Payments and increases Per Pupil Payments by approximately $30 per pupil the first year and $15 per pupil the second year

β›” School Building Modernization and Renovation
Bills failed that would have established a School Construction Fund to finance the design and construction of new school buildings or the modernization of existing school buildings and provided grants for the purpose of repairing or replacing roofs. A bill also failed that would have created a Voter Referendum seeking a $3B General Obligation bond for K-12 school building construction, repair, or other capital projects related to the modernization of school facilities. 

Ask your state legislator to dedicate federal fiscal recovery funds to support the health, safety and academic success of students by allocating funds to school infrastructure including building modernization, broadband expansion and electric buses.
Electric School Buses
β›” Bills to expand the 50 bus Dominion Electric School Bus pilot program to 1,000 buses failed. Currently 15 school divisions are participating in the program which allows school divisions to purchase a Vehicle to Grid electric bus with charging infrastructure for the same price as a standard diesel bus. The average annual fuel cost for a diesel bus is $4,329 whereas the average annual cost to charge an electric bus is $1,650. Reducing annual transportation expenses will allow more funds to support students while also providing a cleaner, safer ride to school. 

βœ… β›” Delegate Keam's bill (HB288) passed and creates a Virginia Electric Vehicle Grant Fund that will be administered by the Department of Environmental Quality to oversee and award grants for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for the purpose of (ii) increasing the number and use of electric school buses in Virginia; (iii) replacing commercial vehicles or heavy equipment in Virginia (iv) ensuring a broad geographic distribution of grant awards; and (v) creating employment opportunities for Virginians. The new grant program is not funded. 
School Nutrition
βœ… After School Meals. Legislation passed that requires each school board with a high number of low income students who are eligible for the federal after-school meal program to serve federally reimbursable meals and offer an after school education or enrichment program.

βœ…School Meal Debt. Legislation passed that prohibits school boards from filing a lawsuit against a student's parent because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes school meal debt. 

βœ…Locally Grown Food. A local food and farming infrastructure grant program passed that will provide up to $25,000 to support infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable farming. 

🌟 FREE MEALS! Last week the USDA extended school meal waivers in order to allow ALL children, regardless of income, to receive free school meals until Sept. 30, 2021. This will allow school meals to be served throughout the summer, outside of the normally required group settings and meal times; and parents and guardians will continue to be able to pick-up meals for their children, including bulk pick-up.
Special Education
βœ… Impactful bills passed that will implement changes to address the JLARC recommendations. A few notable items include:

  • Training modules for IEP team members (HB2299/Senate Bill1288)
  • Training for differentiated instruction for students with disabilities
  • One additional year of education for students with disabilities who were 19 years of age or older and enrolled during the 2020-21 school year
  • Revising the state's special education complaint procedures and practices 
  • Staff positions (3) to expand Special Ed teacher recruitment/retention

JOIN US TUESDAY, MARCH 16th at 7pm
for the Annual Meeting Resolution Review.
We will discuss the following two resolutions related to improving services for special education students.


Questions? Contact Jenna Alexander, Vice President of Advocacy (Advocacy@vapta.org)