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.

 

 

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