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RPS Legislative Advocacy Update - February 1, 2020 - Day 25/60

It was a big week for public education at the General Assembly! With the Fund Our Future rally on Monday and several priority pieces of legislation moving forward in committees.

#FundEquity!

The two bills that would create the Equity Fund, SB 728 (McClellan) and HB 1316 (Aird), advanced in the Senate and the House. After Monday’s subcommittee hearing on HB 1316, it passed a full House Education Committee vote 18-3. SB 728 was heard in subcommittee on Thursday and will be heard by the Senate Education and Health Committee next Thursday morning. Both of these bills will also have to be sent to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees next to see if and how legislators will fund the major new investments required.

Priority 3: Student Discipline

The legislation that would ban disorderly conduct for students continues to advance. HB 256 (Mullin) was passed by the full House today on a 61-37 vote. It will now be considered by the Senate who has not yet considered SB 3, the similar legislation introduced by Senator McClellan. This week, VPM published a story on the topic featuring two RPS SSOs that are helping create safe and loving school cultures; Richmond School Security Officer: ‘Disorderly Conduct Has To Go’

Priority 5: School Construction

School Construction also had a busy week the Senate taking a major step forward to addressing this critical issue facing schools across the Commonwealth. Today, SB 888, that would establish a Commission on School Construction and Modernization, was unanimously passed out of the Senate Rules Committee on a 15-0! This new Commission would bring together legislators and executive branch leaders to bring leadership and innovation to rebuilding and modernizing our schools. It will be voted on by the whole Senate next week. See below for info on what you can do to help advocate for this legislation!

Legislation 

Virginia student journalists may get free speech protections with a bill from Delegate Chris Hurst, a former journalist, that would “grants student journalists in school-sponsored media at public middle, high and higher education institutions the right to exercise freedom of speech and the press.” The bill has passed out of a subcommittee on a 5-3 vote and now must advance through the full House Education Committee before a full House vote. However, in the Senate a similar bill, SB 80, already died in a 13-1 committee vote possibly meaning a similar fate for the House bill.

Budget

The legislature continues to wrestle with how to deal with the unregulated games of skill that have caused decreases in lottery revenues. Their decisions on this topic could significantly impact education funding positively or negatively. Check out this article from the Richmond Times Dispatch for this week’s update.

What can you do today? 

The full Senate will be voting next week on SB 888 to create a School Construction Commission! We need your advocacy voices now! Take a few minutes to make a quick phone call or send an email to legislators by Monday, February 3.

Contact Information for Legislators - You can find your Senator and their contact information here. Additional contact info for all legislators is found by clicking their names here.

Phone Calls - Call their Capitol offices and let them know that you want the Senator to vote YES on SB 888 to create a Commission on School Construction. You can provide any other quick thoughts you want them know on the topic.

Emails - Send Senators an email asking them to support SB 888! Below is a sample email that you can personalize and send.

Dear Senator LASTNAME,

Vote yes on SB 888 to create a Commission on School Construction! This is a critical issue facing the Commonwealth that you must act on. Our students and teachers need modern, safe school environments so that they can focus on learning. State leadership and long-term direction on this issue is desperately needed. Please vote yes!

Sincerely,

John Doe