The pace has picked up in Virginia’s General Assembly as we approach some key deadlines. ‘Crossover’ is February 13, the deadline by which legislators must complete work on bills originating in the House of Delegates or the Senate. Any bills that have not passed their respective chamber will be left behind for this legislative session.
In addition, deadlines loom for each chamber to complete their budget amendment bills. The House Appropriations and the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees must finalize their budget reports by midnight February 18 and finish consideration of their budget bills by February 22.
Priority Education Bills
This year 4 Public Education's priority bills have focused to a large extent on recommendations from two reports recently published by the Joint Legislation and Audit Review Commission (JLARC): Virginia’s K-12 Funding Formula and K-12 Teacher Pipeline. The priority bills address revising the funding formula, improving staffing to student ratios, raising the salaries of teachers, and allowing communities to increase their sales tax to support public schools after a referendum. Unfortunately, some of these bills have been “continued” (delayed for consideration) until 2025 so if we are to fix the serious underfunding of Virginia’s public schools it will depend on successful budget negotiations.
Other bills we have prioritized include changing the Virginia code to increase restorative over punitive discipline, and the initiation of an office of Community Schools. One bill that we oppose, an anti-trans student bill, is expected to be left in committee. The status of each of our priority bills can be followed at this link. Calls to Action for bills to be heard before the crossover deadline (Feb 13) are at this link.
Priority Budget Amendments
At the time of this writing (Wednesday, Feb 7) many of our priority bills are being heard in appropriations committees because the bills have budget implications. Many of those that clear the respective chambers will also be addressed in budget amendments to secure funds needed to enact the bills. Currently, legislators are submitting candidate budget amendments to the appropriations committees for consideration in their respective budget bills.
The legislature is gearing up for what may become heated discussions over Governor Youngkin’s budget. The Governor’s tax package was defeated in the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, at least in part because the tax package would benefit the wealthiest and increase taxes for low income Virginians. Also, the bill that would have increased the tax rate for the upper tax bracket, called the Millionaire’s Tax, was “continued” (delayed) until 2025. The revenue generated by that increased upper income tax rate was to fund public schools (50%), the Child Care Subsidy Program (30%), and the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (30%).
Competition over funds in the budget will be exacerbated because public schools are facing a ‘fiscal cliff’ this year. The covid related emergency federal subsidies are ending in September. Many school districts, especially those that serve high-needs students, will face painful budget cuts as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funds for public schools end.
Opportunities to Advocate for Public Education
Future communications from 4 Public Education will provide updates on priority education bills that are being heard in the other chamber and budget amendment bills coming out of the appropriations committees. Opportunities to advocate for these bills will be shared by 4 Public Education in Newsletters and email messages. Please be sure you are on our mailing list so you receive those announcements.
Also, please remember that February 19 is public education lobby day at the statehouse. Public education advocates should register below to participate.