In-State Slots at William & Mary

The following is an article published in the Richmond Times Dispatch regarding my and other General Assembly Members’ work to increase the number of spots in our state schools for our Virginia students. This article provides a good example of why I have been so mad about the College of William and Mary not spending their money on increasing the number of new in-state slots.

Richmond Times Dispatch

Virginia lawmakers added more than $300 million to higher-ed funding this year with the expectation that the state’s colleges and universities would limit tuition hikes to 3 percent. Most did. Two (VMI and Richard Bland) raised tuition by slightly more. Then there’s William & Mary, which will jack up tuition and fees by 12 percent. That’s a slap in the face to state lawmakers and a kick in the teeth to Virginia families.

The school hastens to point out that the tuition hikes will apply only to future classes. The “William & Mary Promise” guarantees that students will pay one rate throughout their undergraduate education, and that is commendable. So is the school’s extensive system of financial aid, which helps ease the sticker shock for families of modest means. But neither of those palliatives is a good substitute for lower tuition across the board.

Granted, it’s worth noting that state support for higher education plunged after the Great Recession and still has not fully recovered. Jim Bacon, the former editor of Virginia Business who blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion, estimates that W&M has lost out on $20 million over the past 16 years. Fair point. On the other hand, $1 million and change per year is not a huge hit for a school whose budget is now north of $190 million.

Virginia residents also ought to keep in mind the different trajectories of state support and the price of admission. While state support has slipped slightly, tuition and fees have skyrocketed. Consider:

For 1999-2000, tuition and mandatory fees at William & Mary totaled $2,352 . If you adjust for inflation, that would be $3,268 today. Yet this year, W&M’s tuition and mandatory fees total $19,372 – a nearly 500 percent increase. There are words to describe that kind of highway robbery, but none of them can be printed in a family newspaper.

Members of the House of Delegates such as Chris Jones, chairman of the Finance Committee, are livid. They should be. But state Sen. Tommy Norment has rushed to the school’s defense, objecting to “bullying” by the House over “some artificial cap.” W&M lies within Norment’s district, so it’s natural that he would stick up for it. He might even feel duty-bound to. Virginians, however, should not mistake his vigorous constituent representation for a legitimate policy stance. It’s nothing but politics, pure and simple.

While W&M – the initials could stand for “Woeful & Miserable tuition hikes” – might be an outlier this year, it has plenty of company. Figures from the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia show that collectively, average tuition and fees for the commonwealth’s four-year institutions have shot up from $2,191 in 2000 ($3,044 in today’s dollars) to $11,592 this year. That’s a nearly three-fold increase.

The reasons for this are many, and have been explored at length elsewhere: Lavish dining halls with sushi bars, gymnasiums with climbing walls and other luxurious amenities schools use to entice applicants. Exorbitant coaching salaries. Empire-building presidents. Course catalogs stuffed with classes that are either frivolous or soaked in the trendy leftist identity politics with which so much of higher education is obsessed.

William & Mary is better than many schools in that last regard. Even so, a casual flip through the course catalog finds plenty of candidates for pruning, from judo and ballroom dance to Dis/Ability Studies (students will “study how the social constructions, symbols, and stigmas associated with dis/ability identity are related to larger systems of power that oppress and exclude”); Gender and Postcoloniality (“provides critical analysis of European employment of enlightenment thought and emerging ideas on race to justify colonial expansion and oppression”); Topics in Gender and Sexuality; Literature and the Formation of Homosexuality; Wealth, Inequality, and Power; Feminist Theory and Contemporary Theatre; Sex & Race in Plays & Films: Dramatizing Diversity; and so on.

Virginia parents with students at W&M would be wise to scrutinize more than just their bills.

 

Mother’s Day 2016

Rita, Ben, and I spent Mother’s Day visiting Rita’s mother’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Dorothy Von Essen was a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army, and served as nurse in World War II combat zones in Italy, France, and Africa. I can’t imagine a better way to spend Mother’s Day than celebrating such an amazing woman, and I hope you all were able to celebrate the wonderful mothers in your lives!

Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order

On April 22nd Governor McAuliffe issued an executive order declaring that all felons, both violent and non-violent, who have completed their sentence and probation shall have their voting rights restored. I am in favor of non-violent felons who have completed their prison sentence and their parole, paid all fines and costs of restitution, and who have given back to society by doing community service having their voting rights restored. But Governor McAuliffe’s plan is outrageous. This means that all felons, including murders, rapists, kidnappers, and child molesters will be able to vote and serve jury duty. It does not even require them to have paid their restitution to the victims. This political move by Governor McAuliffe not only undermines the strength of our justice system but rewrites Virginia’s laws, which state that people convicted of felonies lose their right to vote.

To be clear, there is a process in place for convicted felons to petition to have their voting rights restored. This is done on a case-by-case basis. In recent years thousands of offenders – most of them nonviolent – have had their rights restored this way.

Governor McAuliffe’s restoration of rights applies broadly to all felons, meaning that it does not take into account a number of factors, such as the seriousness of the offense, whether the felon has committed multiple offences, whether the felon repaid the victim, and if the felon committed other crimes since their release.

Legal teams for both Governor Kaine and Governor McDonnell studied a similar order and concluded that any restoration of rights would require a case study. Governor Kaine’s lawyer stated that a blanket restoration “would be a rewrite of the law rather than a contemplated use of the executive clemency powers. And, the notion that the Constitution of the Commonwealth could be rewritten via executive order is troubling.” You can read both legal opinions here and here.

This is an extreme move from the Governor. When you consider this in addition to the Governor’s veto of HB 516, which would simply require parental notification when a teacher assigns readings with sexually explicit material, and his veto of HB 1234, which would allow retired police officers who still meet firearms training requirements to be placed in schools to protect children, I think you can see that Governor McAuliffe is on the extreme liberal side of the political spectrum.

Shrek at Sangster Elementary

Sangster Elementary put on a great production of Shrek! I give it two thumbs up! Go see it for the rest of the week at 7 PM.Shrek at Sangster

Resolution Honoring Jack Lewis Hiller

Delegate Krizek, Delegate Bulova, and I presented House Resolution 338 honoring the late Jack Lewis Hiller to his wife, daughter, and grandchildren who survive him. After serving in the Army, Hiller taught history in Fairfax County for 30 years, where he helped to integrate the Fairfax Education Association, contributed to the Fairfax County History Commission, and began a summer archeology program for FCPS students. Hiller was also an accomplished photographer, and wrote extensively on the history of Springfield and Fairfax County. I grew up with the Hiller kids, and I recall when Mr. Hiller took me to an archeological dig on an old house at Hidden Pond. Jack Hiller was a beloved teacher, volunteer, father, and husband and will be truly missed by all who knew him.

Jack Hiller Resolution Presentation

Commonwealth Transportation Board Public Information Meeting

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will be hosting a public information meeting regarding the Fiscal Year 2017-2022 Six-Year Improvement Program. This program will include highway, rail, and public transportation initiatives in our area.

This meeting will be a good chance to learn about projects being planned in our area and to voice your support or concerns. The Board will address the proposed projects to be included in the draft of the Six-Year Improvement Plan and how the projects are prioritized.

The public information meeting will be held on May 2nd at 6:00 PM in the Potomac Room at 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

For more information on the Six-Year Improvement Plan, click here.

For information on how projects are prioritized, click here.

 

2016 General Assembly: K-12 Education State Funding and Legislation

Over the past 8 years, the Great Recession forced the General Assembly to make tough budgetary decisions in order to pass a balanced budget. One area in particular that has been impacted is funding for K-12 education. Roughly 95% of Virginia schools have had their funding decreased… but not Fairfax County!  My fellow Northern Virginian legislators and I have increased funding for education in Fairfax County.  Over the past five years, we have delivered $648/student/yr. more to our Fairfax County Public School students!  It was not easy.  Since Fairfax was gaining money while others were losing, there were many attempts to divert the money going to Fairfax.  We defeated these attempts every year.

This year, we accomplished two things in particular that really helped Fairfax County Public Schools. Before I get into the details, I need to give you a little context on how the State funding formula effects Fairfax County.  Many years ago, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that every child in Virginia is entitled to an equal education.  To accomplish this, the Court ruled that areas where local governments are unable to raise money for schools (e.g. they have high unemployment or low property values, which limit their ability to raise revenue through taxes) must be given money from areas of the State that have a greater ability to raise revenue (e.g. high property values, low unemployment).  The formula used is called the Local Composite Index or “LCI.”  The LCI is calculated using school age population (a variable that helps us because we have by far the most students), and variables that don’t help us such as true value of real property (50%), adjusted gross income (40%), and taxable retail sales (10%).  In other words, the funding formula is designed to send money from “rich” areas to “poor” areas.  Since we are “rich” in comparison to southern and southwest Virginia, the money flows to them.

So any time you hear a NOVA legislator say, “We need more state funding for schools” make sure you read the fine print. If the state were to put $1 Billion in new K-12 funding and run it through the LCI formula, Fairfax Citizens would pay about $250 Million of it via their state taxes, but would receive only about $80 Million of the funds.   When we can obtain funding increases through a different method besides the LCI, Fairfax County can do well. I am please to report that we did just that in this year’s Virginia State Budget.  This budget not only put new funding through the LCI, where we did not fare well, it also put money through two funding mechanisms outside of the LCI, where we did extraordinarily well.  The first was an increase in funding for “Cost to Compete” (a funding mechanism that sends more money to high cost areas because it is more expensive to hire teachers in Fairfax as opposed to Danville). Second, the State Budget sends the Virginia Lottery proceeds to schools based upon their school population.  This is VERY good for us, given that FCPS is by far the largest school system with nearly 180,000 students. We do very well when the funding is determined on a per pupil basis. (Note:  This is especially good knowing that Fairfax County residents do not play the Lottery as much as other areas of Virginia.)

Below, is the FCPS State per pupil funding breakdown over the past five years. I have also listed notable education bills that were passed during the 2016 legislative session.

State Per Pupil Funding Breakdown: FY 2012-2013 – FY 2016-2017

EDU budget chart

2016 Education Legislation:

HB 47: Mixed-Delivery Preschool Services Fund and Grant Program established. (Greason Chief-Patron) Establishes the Mixed-Delivery Preschool Services Fund and Grant Program for the purpose of awarding grants on a competitive basis to urban, suburban, and rural community applicants to field-test innovative strategies and evidence-based practices that support a robust system of mixed-delivery preschool services in the Commonwealth. The bill requires the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (the Foundation) to administer a request for proposal process to invite community applicants to respond with localized innovations and approaches to a mixed-delivery preschool services system. Grants are awarded by the Foundation and priority is given to applicants who (i) commit to pursuing models of local governance that promote the successful mixed delivery of preschool services, (ii) compare classroom and child outcomes among teachers with different credentials and qualifications, (iii) utilize incentives to encourage participation, and (iv) utilize strategic assessment to discern outcomes. The bill requires the award of six two-year grants during each year of the 2016-2018 biennium. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2019.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 389: Parental Choice Education Savings Accounts. (LaRock Chief-Patron) Permits the parents of certain students with disabilities to apply to their resident school division for a Parental Choice Education Savings Account, to consist of the student’s Standards of Quality per pupil funds and to be used for certain expenses of the student, including (i) tuition, fees, or required textbooks at a private elementary or secondary school or preschool that is located in the Commonwealth and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin; (ii) educational therapies or services for the student from a practitioner or provider, including paraprofessionals or educational aides; (iii) tutoring services; (iv) curriculum; (v) tuition or fees for a private online learning program; (vi) fees for a nationally standardized norm-referenced achievement test, an Advanced Placement examination, or any examination taken to gain admission to an institution of higher education; or (vii) tuition fees or required textbooks at a public two-year or four-year institution of higher education in the Commonwealth or at an accredited private institution of higher education in the Commonwealth. The bill also contains provisions for the audit and revocation of such accounts. This bill contains a reenactment clause.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 516: Board of Education; policy on sexually explicit instructional material. (Landes Chief-Patron) Requires the Board of Education to establish a policy to require each public elementary or secondary school to (i) notify the parent of any student whose teacher reasonably expects to provide instructional material that includes sexually explicit content, (ii) permit the parent of any student to review instructional material that includes sexually explicit content upon request, and (iii) provide, as an alternative to instructional material and related academic activities that include sexually explicit content, nonexplicit instructional material and related academic activities to any student whose parent so requests.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 518: Local school boards; public school choice. (LeMunyon Chief-Patron) Requires, notwithstanding any agreement, waiver from the federal government, or provision of law to the contrary, the Board of Education, effective starting with the 2017-2018 school year, to select 12 schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement and require such schools to provide all enrolled students with the option to transfer to another public school in the school division in accordance with relevant federal law and subject to certain conditions and limitations established by the relevant local school board. The bill will not become effective unless reenacted by the 2017 Session of the General Assembly, except that the Board of Education is directed to report on the costs of implementation of the bill to the relevant General Assembly committees.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 961: Four-year public institutions of higher education; alternative tuition or fee structures. (Rush Chief-Patron) Permits each public institution of higher education to offer alternative tuition or fee structures that result in lower cost of attendance to students. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (the Council) shall offer guidance, upon request, to any public institution of higher education in establishing such alternative tuition or fee structure. The Council is also directed to develop recommendations regarding financial incentives and benefits that might be offered to public institutions of higher education that offer alternative tuition and fee structures, and to report its recommendations to the Joint Subcommittee on the Future Competitiveness of Virginia Higher Education by November 1, 2016.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 1017: Education improvement scholarships tax credit; reporting and other requirements. (Massie Chief-Patron) Modifies the tax credit by (i) making the current required report of donations qualifying for the credit and scholarships awarded from such donations as of June 30, (ii) increasing from 20 to 40 the number of days by which a scholarship foundation is required to return a preauthorization notice to the Department of Education to certify that a donor has completed his donation to the foundation, (iii) increasing from 14 to 21 the number of days by which a scholarship foundation must convert a donation of marketable securities into cash, (iv) lowering the penalty for failure to disburse 90 percent of tax credit-derived donations within the applicable twelve month period from 200 percent to 100 percent of the difference between 90 percent of the donations and the actual amount disbursed, and (v) making clarifying and technical amendments. Under current law, a scholarship foundation must provide a report each year by September 30 to the Department of Education showing the total number and value of donations it received in its most recent fiscal year ended. Under the bill, every scholarship foundation will report on donations received in the 12-month period ending on June 30 of each year. This change will enable the Department of Education to determine whether a scholarship foundation has complied with the statutory requirement to disburse at least 90 percent of its tax-credit-derived funds received during each 12-month period ending on June 30 by the following June 30 for educational scholarships. The bill clarifies that the annual audit, review, or compilation required of a scholarship foundation receiving tax-credit-derived funds is for the foundation’s most recent fiscal year ended. Finally, the bill eliminates (a) redundant reporting requirements relating to the total number and dollar value of donations received by a foundation and the total number and dollar amount of educational scholarships awarded by a foundation and (b) the requirement that a scholarship foundation report the percentage of first-time recipients to whom educational scholarships are awarded.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 568: Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program; grants. (Cox Chief-Patron) Makes several changes to the Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program (Program), including adding requirements that (i) each student eligible for the Program receive a grant from the institution’s appropriations for undergraduate student financial assistance before grants are awarded to students with equivalent remaining need, (ii) each eligible student receive a grant in an amount greater than other grants awarded to students with equivalent remaining need, (iii) each eligible student receive a Program grant in an amount greater than the grant of each eligible student with equivalent remaining need in the next-lowest class level, and (iv) each Program grant be determined by a proportionate award schedule adopted by each institution and vary according to each student’s remaining need and the total of tuition, fees, and other necessary charges, including books.

The bill substitute failed to pass the House floor.

HB 8: Virginia Virtual School established. (R.P. Bell Chief-Patron) Establishes the Board of the Virginia Virtual School as a policy agency in the executive branch of state government for the purpose of governing the full-time virtual school programs offered to students enrolled in the Virginia Virtual School. The Secretary of Education is responsible for such agency. The 13-member Board is given operational control of the School and assigned powers and duties. The bill requires the School to be open to any school-age person in the Commonwealth and provide an educational program meeting the Standards of Quality for grades kindergarten through 12. The bill requires the average state share of Standards of Quality per pupil funding for each enrolled student to be transferred to the School.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 46: Secretary of Education; establishment of School Readiness Committee. (Greason Chief-Patron) Directs the Secretary of Education to establish a School Readiness Committee with the first goal of addressing the development and alignment of an effective professional development and credentialing system for the early childhood education workforce in the Commonwealth, including the (i) development of a competency-based professional development pathway for practitioners who teach children birth to age five in both public and private early childhood education programs; (ii) consideration of articulation agreements between associate and baccalaureate degree programs; (iii) refinement of teacher licensure and education programs to address competencies specific to early childhood development; (iv) alignment of existing professional development funding streams; and (v) development of innovative approaches to increasing accessibility, availability, affordability, and accountability of the Commonwealth’s workforce development system for early childhood education teachers and providers.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HB 3: Constitutional amendment (voter referendum); charter schools. (R.B. Bell Chief-Patron) Provides for a referendum at the November 8, 2016, election to approve or reject an amendment to grant the Board of Education the authority to establish charter schools within the school divisions of the Commonwealth, subject to any criteria or conditions that the General Assembly may prescribe.

Albo voted “NO.” The bill failed to pass the Senate.

HB 131: Students who receive home instruction; participation in interscholastic programs. (R.B. Bell Chief-Patron) Prohibits public schools from joining an organization governing interscholastic programs that does not deem eligible for participation a student who (i) receives home instruction; (ii) has demonstrated evidence of progress for two consecutive academic years; (iii) is in compliance with immunization requirements; (iv) is entitled to free tuition in a public school; (v) has not reached the age of 19 by August 1 of the current academic year; (vi) is an amateur who receives no compensation but participates solely for the educational, physical, mental, and social benefits of the activity; (vii) complies with all disciplinary rules and is subject to all codes of conduct applicable to all public high school athletes; and (viii) complies with all other rules governing awards, all-star games, maximum consecutive semesters of high school enrollment, parental consents, physical examinations, and transfers applicable to all high school athletes. The bill provides that no local school board is required to establish a policy to permit students who receive home instruction to participate in interscholastic programs. The bill permits reasonable fees to be charged to students who receive home instruction to cover the costs of participation in such interscholastic programs, including the costs of additional insurance, uniforms, and equipment. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2021, and is identical to SB 612.

Albo voted “NO.” The bill passed the House and Senate. Governor’s veto sustained by House (57-Y 42-N)

HB 831: Standards and programs of instruction; computer science and computational thinking. (Greason Chief-Patron; Albo’s HB 228 incorporated) Requires the Standards of Learning established by the Board of Education and the program of instruction for grades kindergarten through 12 developed and implemented by each local school board to include computer science and computational thinking, including computer coding.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

HJ 112: Study; joint committee; the future of public elementary and secondary education in the Commonwealth; report. (Landes Chief-Patron) Establishes a two-year joint committee consisting of seven members of the House Committee on Education and six members of the Senate to study the future of public elementary and secondary education in the Commonwealth. This resolution is identical to SJR 85.

Albo voted “YES.” The bill passed the House and Senate.

 

 

End of the 2016 Session

The 2016 Session really flew by this year. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was coming up with bill ideas!  So much has been accomplished over the past few months, but the work of representing District 42 is never truly over.

Family Visits and Capital Tours

Even though we were packing things up, we had just enough time to have a few more families visit from District 42. Seeing these families come to learn about Virginia’s legislative process always brightens my day.

 

Legislation

Last week was spent reviewing bills in conference committees. Some people have asked what a conference committee is. When a bill passes through the House and the Senate, our work is still not completely finished. If one of our bills receives an amendment from the Senate, it needs to be sent back to the House in order for us to approve it. This can result in what we like to call conference committees. These committees are made up of members from both the House and Senate, and are created in order to resolve differences between different versions of bills that come from the House and the Senate.

These are some of my bills have been passed and signed into law by the Governor:

HB 170: Distinguishes that possession of and distribution of controlled drug paraphernalia are distinct offenses.

HB 172: Clarifies that when a habitual offender applies for the restoration of their driving privileges or a restricted license, the evaluation from the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program will be considered.

HB 176: Allows courts to order a wiretap either where a criminal lives or where a crime may have occurred.

HB 226: Creates a mixed beverage license for performing arts facilities in the cities of Norfolk and Richmond.

HB 572: Allows an individual to ask for interest on fines from a criminal case to be waived if they were accrued while the individual was incarcerated.

HB 578: Makes negotiations between the Commonwealth of Virginia and contract employees fair by only listing exceptions after all qualified offerors are ranked.

Budget

During Session, we approved a two-year spending plan that does not expand Medicaid, avoids creating any new taxes, and also increases state worker pay by three percent. Your state legislature produced a balanced budget that will work towards eliminating state liabilities and reducing borrowing. It will also invest in K-12 and higher education, which will help alleviate tuition costs for Virginia students. The budget makes economic investment while including oversight to ensure that taxpayer money is being used wisely.

Washington Post Letter to the Editor

Here is what Mrs. Teresa Champion wrote to the editor of the Washington Post regarding my bill, HB 1213. This bill would allow children who are developmentally delayed (e.g. those who have autism) and are prone to outbursts at school to present evidence in Court that proves the child’s behavior is out of their control.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/virginias-appalling-prosecution-of-disabled-children/2016/03/10/c12d9706-e62d-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html

Session Update #4

There is only about a week left in the 2016 Virginia General Assembly Session, and things have been winding down here in the Richmond office. Most bills from the House and Senate are either awaiting approval from the Governor, or have been eliminated through the legislative process. I appreciate all of the feedback I have been given so far, and after Session I will continue to respond to your concerns and questions.

Legislative Updates

On March 7 at midnight, the Governor must either sign or reject a group of bills that have passed the House and the Senate. My bills that are up for decision are HB 170, HB 172, and HB 176. HB 170 distinguishes between possession and distribution of paraphernalia, HB 172 gives VASAP evaluations weight when a habitual drunk driver wants to restore driving privileges, and HB 176 would let courts order a wiretap either where a criminal lives or where a crime may have occurred.

In addition to the bills above, HB 118, HB 227, HB 326, HB 572, HB 578, and HB 1213 have passed the House and the Senate, but have not yet been sent to the Governor. Here is a reminder of what each of these bills would do:

  • HB 118: Restores the ability of Animal Control Officers to arrest animal abusers
  • HB 227: Makes certain statements by children under 13 in cases of abuse and neglect admissible in Court
  • HB 326: Gives a Court the ability to order an internet provider to not disclose the existence of a subpoena or warrant for at least 90 days
  • HB 572: Allows an individual to ask for interest on fines from a criminal case to be waived if they were accrued while the individual was incarcerated
  • HB 578: Makes negotiations between the Commonwealth of Virginia and contract employees fair by only listing exceptions after all qualified offerors are ranked
  • HB 1213: Helps children that are prone to outbursts at school by enabling the child or their legal guardian to present evidence in Court that proves the child’s behavior is out of their control

Families Pay a Visit to Richmond

This week was filled with family visits from District 42! Due to schools being closed on Super Tuesday, many children came to see their artwork on display in my office. I always love seeing how excited they are once they find their pictures on the wall.