February 3rd will end the third week of the 2024 Session of Virginia’s General Assembly. At the time of this writing, one priority education bill has cleared the Senate (SB14) and most of the other priority education bills 4 Public Education endorses are working their way through the committees. One of the bills we opposed (SJ9) was defeated. The early success this year is at least in part due to the vigorous support of these bills by public education advocates who have been contacting legislators in support of or in opposition to the bills.
The current status of each priority education bill can be found at this link. Readers will continue to be emailed opportunities to advocate for those bills so get on our mailing list if you want to be contacted. Currently, we are sending out two notifications each week: an email early in the week and a link in our newsletter on Friday.
Each release of these calls to action contain new action items that are created when each bill changes status, and new groups of legislators need to be contacted. We want to be sure citizens know that if they believe that they have already addressed a call to action for a bill that they are seeing again, it is because the bill has advanced to a new committee or to the floor of the chamber. Changes happen frequently as bills work their way through the process; therefore, your advocacy is time sensitive, so timely notifications for when advocacy is needed for each bill will help get these bills passed or defeated. This is the link to the most up to date advocacy needs for the end of this week.
Many of the bills currently being considered by the House of Delegates and State Senate are addressing recommendations made by the Joint Legislative and Audit and review Commission (JLARC) who have reported on the inadequate funding of our public schools and need to restore the teacher pipeline to resolve there not being enough well trained public school teachers in Virginia. Other priority education bills include those that call for the protection of our most vulnerable students and one for changing a policy to restorative instead of punitive discipline for less serious infractions.
It won’t be long before we are addressing budget amendments in response to Governor Youngkin’s proposed 2024-2026 Budget. The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee are working on those amendments, so 4 Public Education will share them when released by the House and Senate committees.
Budget amendment bills use a slightly different process than legislative bills. The Budget amendment bills are proposed changes to the 2024 -2026 proposed budget that Governor Youngkin submitted to the legislature last fall. Any amendments to the budget bill will be brought to the floor of each chamber by their appropriations committee, where the bills will be debated and votes on the amendments will be taken.
Any amendments passed will cross over to the other chamber where again the amendments will be debated and a vote will be taken. Ideally, this will all happen before the 2024 General Assembly adjourns, after a conference committee resolves any differences between the versions passed by the two chambers. Then the amended budget bill will go to the Governor for his signature.
Of course, Virginia’s budget process rarely goes that smoothly. Last year, a special session of the General Assembly was needed to finalize amendments to the 2023-2024 budget, and a compromise budget bill wasn’t signed until September of that year. Because many public education advocates have objected to the 2024-2026 budget, there is probably much work to be done before this budget is finalized.
4 Public Education will provide calls to action for budget amendment bills so advocates can contact appropriation committee members to ensure that our public schools get the resources they need to provide excellent educations to our children and support teachers.