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RPS Legislative Advocacy Update - January 28, 2020 - Day 21/60
Week four of the General Assembly started with a sea of red at the Capitol yesterday with this year’s annual education lobby day hosted by the Virginia Education Association. This year’s rally drew about 2,000 advocates and the day focused on changes to the Standards of Quality, including the Board of Education’s recommendation to establish an Equity Fund.
During an early 7am subcommittee meeting to consider Delegate Aird’s bill to implement all of the Board of Education’s recommendations, several RPS advocates testified. View the video of the hearing to hear the subcommittee’s hearing. This bill will be considered by the full House Education Committee Wednesday morning, where it will be considered for referral to the House Appropriations Committee that will decide whether to fund the bill’s changes in the state budget.
Legislation that would require school divisions to implement policies protecting transgender students is advancing. SB 161 (Boysko) and HB 145 (Simon) would require VDOE to create model policies for school divisions to implement by the 2021-2022 school year to “address common issues regarding transgender students in accordance with evidence-based best practices and include information, guidance, procedures, and standards relating to (i) compliance with applicable nondiscrimination laws; (ii) maintenance of a safe and supportive learning environment free from discrimination and harassment for all students; (iii) prevention of and response to bullying and harassment; (iv) maintenance of student records; (v) identification of students; (vi) protection of student privacy and the confidentiality of sensitive information; (vii) enforcement of sex-based dress codes; and (viii) student participation in sex-specific school activities, events, and athletics and use of school facilities.” The Senate bill passed the Senate 23-16 and the House bill will be considered by the full House of Delegates by the end of the week.
The Virginia Public Access Project has analyzed the budget amendments requested by members of the General Assembly and created an infographic showing the total requests by member based on how much they will cost. Coming in at the top of the list is Senator Jennifer McClellan, who has proposed fully funding public education in key areas. All of her requests represent critical needs facing Virginia’s public schools and while not everything can be funded in a single year, her advocacy for public education funding is unparalleled in the legislature.
Last week, the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee met and received presentations from committee staff, the VDOE, and several school divisions. You can download and view their presentations here, which provide additional overviews of education funding and the legislative priorities of other divisions.
What can you do today?
Now that we have showed up in person at the Capitol for yesterday’s Fund Our Future rally, it is time to start following up with legislators in writing. Two of the major decision makers on the state budget are the Chairpersons of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee, Delegate Luke Torian (DelLTorian@house.virginia.gov) and Senator Janet Howell (email@example.com). Advocate for RPS by sending them a note today to ask them to follow through on funding our schools this year. Below is a sample message that you can edit before emailing them.
Dear Delegate Torian / Senator Howell,
My name is XX and I am a [School Board Member/Teacher/Student/Parent] at Richmond Public Schools. As you work to craft a new state budget this year, don’t leave public education behind for another year. We receive less money now than we did 10 years ago and we need the General Assembly to commit to investing in our schools and our students. The Equity Fund proposed by the Board of Education and included in Delegate Aird’s HB 1316and Senator McClellan’s SB 728 would go a long way to beginning to meaningfully support our state’s most in-need students and school divisions and is a critical step to addressing equity. Please support this proposal in the coming weeks! We need your leadership to move our schools forward!