The General Assembly Special Session to address COVID-19 and police reform is swiftly coming to a close. We need YOUR help to protect school funding in the final state budget negotiations!

State funding for schools is tied to student enrollment. An estimated 35,000 students unenrolled this fall which is expected to result in a $146M decline in basic aid to schools. This is in addition to the $490M that was cut from the state budget as the COVID pandemic started and an estimated $95M loss due to a decline in sales tax revenue.

It's critical that schools have enough funding to implement robust safety standards for in-person instruction as well as provide technology to support distance learning.

Both the House and Senate Budgets contain language that addresses the loss in sales tax revenue and allocate $200M ($159/student) of CARES Act funding to mitigate the cost of reopening schools. The Senate budget offers to restore some of the $490M in cuts IF revenue growth rebounds. However, only the House budget has critical language that holds school divisions harmless for the decline in enrollment. This language ensures that no school division receives less state funding this year than they did in the 2019-2020 school year. More details here

TAKE ACTION - TODAY: Contact Senate leadership and ask them to adopt the Virginia House Budget language that protects budgeted funding by holding schools harmless for the decline in enrollment due to COVID.
In the middle of a pandemic that has left thousands of children learning at home due to safety concerns and the inability to effectively implement health practices and assess COVID cases in schools, we are extremely disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee passed by indefinitely (failed) SB5004. This bill would have required at least one full-time equivalent school nurse position in each elementary school, middle school, and high school.

Additionally, bills (HB5105/SB5095) which provided Rapid COVID testing for schools and essential workers failed.
1) Speak to your local school board about school nurse staffing and safety standards.
2) Email your delegate/senator. Ask them to support this in the January 2021 Session.
One in five Virginia students (K-12 and college) lack high-speed internet or a computer in their home. The special session's budget proposal increases Broadband funding to $85M for the biennium with some contingencies for revenue growth in year two.

Yesterday, Governor Northam announced $30 million in funding from the federal (CARES) Act to improve broadband access in underserved localities. More here.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: Email your Board of Supervisors to ask how they will partner with local Internet Service Providers to expand broadband for your community.
We thank Delegate Subramanyam for carrying this bill. Unfortunately, the House Education Committee is not meeting during special session. Therefore, all bills assigned to the education committee, including HB5105 will not be heard. We will pursue having this bill carried in the 2021 Session.
The CARES Act provided $70.8 million to stabilize childcare. The budget bill also includes $16.6 million in general funds to support emergency child care programs. The Senate and House budgets include additional CARES Act dollars for child care providers.
PAID LEAVE: Bill (HB5078/SB5094) would have provided 14 days of paid sick leave for school staff who need to quarantine or have a COVID-19 illness. Bill SB5100 would have excused children from school who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have a household member diagnosed with COVID-19. All bills failed in committee.
Due to strong advocacy work, the USDA extended a waiver allowing schools to continue serving FREE SCHOOL MEALS to ALL children under age 18 until Dec 31 or until funds run out. Virginia PTA signed onto a coalition letter with 1,315 associations asking for an extension until June 30, 2021.
Virginia House Bill HB5113 passed both chambers and is awaiting Governor signature. This bill will require eligible schools to provide every student in the qualifying school with free school meals under the USDA's Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Right now 785 of Virginia's 1,825 schools participate in CEP with 62 school divisions participating for the full district. There are 425 Virginia schools eligible for the CEP program that don’t participate, and 294 schools that are near eligible and don’t participate.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION: Collaborate with your school division to raise awareness of these programs and remove stigma related to accessing free meals.
The Virginia Department of Health launched a Pandemic Metrics Dashboard that includes color coded school metrics based on the dashboard the CDC released on Sept 15th. This was a key priority in our Return to School Position Statement, and we are glad to see this tool rolled out for families and school divisions.

As a trusted community voice our PTAs/PTSAs can help educate our communities about the voting process and help 'Get Out the Vote' to close participation gaps. 

As parents, we can show our children the power of their voice by helping them register to vote, making voting a family outing and showing our children that community engagement has the power to drive change. 

Ever wonder how the staffing for your school is determined?

It starts with a requirement that your school division meet a base Standard of Quality (SOQ) or staffing standard that is set by the Virginia General Assembly.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly has a decade long history of disregarding the recommendations made by the Virginia Board of Education. Although some recommended changes were adopted in the 2020 General Assembly session, the majority were not. When state funding is lacking many local school divisions can't afford to staff the Board of Education's recommended standards.

As a result, on Sept. 17, 2020, the Virginia Board of Education unanimously re-prescribed the 2019 Standards of Quality for 2020. Their recommendations include full time principals; work based learning coordinators; lower class sizes; more assistant principals; increased staffing for mental health teams; principal and teacher mentor programs an equity fund and more.

The Board of Education will submit legislation and budget estimates to support these requirements and staffing standards (again) to the 2021 General Assembly.

The Virginia Commission on African American History Education released its final report. It includes the following recommendations:

  • Technical edits to the standards for Virginia Studies, United States History I and II, Virginia and United States History and proposal for teaching history in grades K-12;
  • Revised history and social studies standards review process to include more diverse perspectives; 
  • Inclusion of 10 key concepts in history and social studies to foster inclusive instruction (Freedom, Imperialism- Nationalism, Colonialism, Racism-Systemic Racism, Capitalism-Economic Motivation, Citizenship, Servitude-Enslavement, Advocacy-Agency, Cultural Expressionism, Invasion and Colonization);
  • Six recommendations for Professional Development including certification in Cultural Competency by 2022 and Continuing Education Units in African American History for initial licensure and renewals;
  • 16 school divisions would offer a new African American History high school level elective class for the 2020-21 school year.

TAKE ACTION: The state Board of Education is considering these changes at their Oct 15th meeting. The public is invited to submit written comments to the board at Comments should be submitted by received by 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 13th.

On June 4, 2019, Governor Northam established a Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law. At their Sept 23rd meeting they discussed 10 preliminary proposals to address disparities in education policy.