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RPS Legislative Advocacy Update - January 10, 2020 - Day 3/60

The first week of the 2020 General Assembly is coming to a close and now that the new Democratic majorities have been installed in the House and Senate, we have a better idea of how the legislature will structure itself for its current session. Both chambers have settled on new rules to govern how they will conduct themselves and have announced new committee assignments. Committees are where the majority of work is done - every bill must be reviewed and voted on by a subcommittee and full committee before it can be voted upon by the full House or Senate. A legislator’s committee assignments are a good measure of how much influence they have on specific topics and we are fortunate to have several legislators on important committees that deal with education and funding. You can view all committee assignments on the Legislative Information System here.

The Virginia Public Access Project is a non-partisan, independent organization that connects Virginians to nonpartisan information about Virginia politics in easily understood ways. They send daily emails with all the political news of the day (sign up here) and they also publish easy-to-understand infographics and other data. Today, they published a set of infographics analyzing the new Senate committee assignments. The map below shows the distribution of Senate committee chairs across the state’s regions (link to source with more info).

With the concentration of leadership centered in Northern Virginia and other regions of the state, and the lack of leadership from Central Virginia, it is crucial that RPS advocates get their messages beyond our own local legislators and we’ll be sharing more about who to contact in these daily updates.

Legislation 

Yesterday, the first bills were considered in the Senate Education and Health Committee and two bills of interest to RPS were advanced. SB 4 and SB 5 both deal with school construction and passed the committee unanimously. They will now be considered by the Senate Finance Committee because they both have fiscal impact. Check out this story from the RTD to learn more about these bills.

Budget

Today is the deadline for all budget amendments to be submitted by legislators. Meanwhile, legislators are starting to receive more in-depth analysis of the Governor’s budget. The House Appropriations Committee received a briefing on the budget with lots of valuable information about the Governor’s proposals.

One of the major areas of spending in K-12 education this year is for rebenchmarking, a process done every two years to update the state and local costs of providing public education in the Commonwealth. The slide below provides a quick explanation of this process which will pump $851.8 million of state dollars into public education funding over the next two years.

What can you do today? 

1. Tomorrow is the RPS 2020 Advocacy Summit and we hope you can join us! Make sure to register if you plan to attend and join RPS in screenprinting new advocacy posters and t-shirts. 

2. RPS is also hosting more advocacy trainings to learn more about how to be an advocate for RPS and public education in Virginia. View more details and sign up today via our Facebook page or email Matthew Stanley if you don’t have Facebook. Upcoming scheduled trainings:

  • Tuesday, January 14 - 6-8pm - Studio Two Three
  • Thursday, January 16 - 6-7:30pm - Peter Paul Development Center
  • Wednesday, January 22 - 6-7:30pm - Blackwell Elementary School

3. Send your legislators an email! Written correspondence is a critical advocacy tool during session that helps legislators assess public sentiment and interest in the different topics they are considering. Look up your legislators using the Who’s My Legislator tool and send an email to your Delegate and Senator introducing yourself as a constituent and asking them to prioritize public education funding and equity as they consider legislation and craft the state budget. You can view our Advocacy Toolkit with letter writing guide for tips on how to write a great letter!