Bell Sounds from the 20th - 1/25/13

Before I discuss what’s going on in Richmond this week, I want to let you know that I will be holding a Dutch Treat Town Hall Breakfast at 8:00 am on Saturday, February 9 at Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton. (74 Rowe Road). This will be right after crossover, so I will be able to give you an update of my legislation, as well as other key legislation that is making its way through the General Assembly.

In order for us to provide Mrs. Rowe’s with an accurate count, we are asking that you please RSVP to Savanna by email at savanna@bellfordelegate.com by Wednesday, February 6.

House Republicans Advance K-12 Education Reform Agenda

Governor McDonnell, my House Republican Colleagues, and I are all committed to advancing reforms that will empower teachers, increase accountability in our schools, and increase flexibility for localities regarding state funding.

This week, the House of Delegates passed several important K-12 education reform bills.

  • The Teach for America Act (HB 2084) passed the House of Delegates with unanimous support. This bill will bring the Teach for America program to the Commonwealth and allow participants in the program to teach in Virginia schools. Currently, 300 of Virginia’s brightest recent college graduates who participate in Teach for America are sent to classrooms in other states. This bill will allow these individuals, along with any other Teach for America participant, to teach here and work to make a difference in our schools. Teach for America recruits are often in the top 10 percent of their college classes or hold student leadership positions. Before they start teaching in the classrooms, they must complete an intensive training course that involves practice in a classroom setting, community integration, and professional development.
  • Local School Division Charter School Approval (HB 2076) would reduce barriers to creating charter schools in Virginia.
  • High School to Work Partnerships (HB 2101) passed with unanimous support. This bill will make sure all high school graduates are college or career ready when they graduate.
  • The Educator Fairness Act (HB 2151), which I will talk a bit more about later, passed with solid bipartisan support.

House Bill 2151 – The Educator Awareness Act

This week the Educator Fairness Act passed in the House of Delegates with broad bipartisan support.

As I mentioned last week, House Bill 2151, makes a number of changes to the processes to which teachers are evaluated. It requires teachers and administrators to be evaluated every year, and included academic progress as a key component of this evaluation. The legislation includes a measure that gives local school boards the option of extending the probationary period for a new teacher from three to five years to allow more time to evaluate performance. It does NOT, however, eliminate the continuing contract.

Perhaps most importantly, the legislation streamlines the grievance process for teachers by making a series of changes to the hearing process. It includes a shortened timeframe and the appointment of a single impartial and true- neutral hearing officer instead of the three-member panel currently in place. The hearing officer will preside over an administrative hearing and issue a written recommendation to the school board. The grievance procedure also allows for an expedited decision to inform the teacher of their employment status.
Finally, the passage of this legislation will result in a 2% pay increase for teachers. Governor McDonnell has already included the state’s portion of the pay increase in the budget.

This legislation resulted from a collaborative effort of all stakeholders, including the Virginia Education Association (VEA), Virginia School Boards Association, Virginia Association of Superintendents, the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals, all of whom support and endorse the bill. Additionally it gained the support of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Virginia Chamber Partnership.

I am thrilled to see this legislation pass with bipartisan support. The extensive involvement of the education community has helped make this possible, and through their cooperation and advice, we have made this legislation the best possible.

My hope is that this legislation will allow Virginia to recruit and retain the best educators, and help ensure that our educational system continues to rank among the nation’s best. I believe this is a big step towards treating and paying educators like the professionals that they are.

If you’d like to watch video of my floor speech, you can do so by clicking here.

An Update on the 2% Pay Raise for Teachers

After the initial announcement of the 2% teacher pay raise proposal, many localities raised two concerns that could prevent them from being able to offer the raise to their teachers. I fully understand these issues, and we are working hard to find solutions to ensure our teachers get the pay raise they deserve.
The first issue for many localities is the teacher pay raise proposal does not include funding for pay raises for the support staff. This includes bus drivers, secretaries, and many other staff members who work to keep our schools running. Many localities have a policy that requires them to give pay raises to all school employees, and therefore would be required to pay the full cost of the pay raise for this staff. However, the House Appropriations Committee is working to find funding to provide the state share of funding for a pay raise for support staff in the House budget as well.
The second issue localities highlighted was their need for additional time to provide their share of funding for the teacher pay raise. Because teachers are local employees and not state employees, localities must cover a portion of the funding for the pay raise on top of the state funding. Many localities are concerned that they will not be able to find the local funding needed for the pay raise by the July 1, 2014 deadline as required by the original proposal. The House appropriations committee, however, intends to propose language in the House budget to extend the deadline for localities to provide the pay raise.
I am confident that the House Appropriations Committee will be able to work with localities to find a solution that will give the teachers the pay raise they deserve without causing undue burden on local governments.

House Bill 1856

A number of you, particularly those of you who are EMT or other emergency professionals, have contacted me regarding your opposition to House Bill 1856. When this legislation was first heard in subcommittee on Monday, there was a great deal of concern that the legislation limited the ability of local or regional medical directors to control the practice of their own providers. For this reason, I opposed the legislation.
However, when the bill was brought before the full committee a substitute bill was offered that solved many of the problems with the first bill, while still accomplishing the goals of the bill patron. This substitute version received no opposition, and was reported out of the committee with a vote of 22-0.

House Bill 1926

A number of you have contacted me regarding your opposition to House Bill 1926. It appears that there is a great deal of misinformation circulating regarding this bill and I will try to help clear that up.
Currently in Virginia there are three ways to appoint a school board. The locality has the option to allow for direct election of school boards, or have the school boards appointed by members of the local city council or board of supervisors. The third option is to have the school board appointed by a school board selection commission. House Bill 1926 removes the option of the school board selection commission from the code.
The school board selection commission is a non-legislative, non-elected body, and therefore there is no way for the public to have any say in the appointment of their local school board. Therefore, by passing House Bill 1926, we guarantee that all school boards will be accountable to the people.

Visitors

This week we had a number of familiar faces stop by our office here in Richmond. Several folks stopped by from Coca Cola, and we were also pleased to see Bo Wilson and Bruce Thompson from Dr. Pepper in Staunton.
Mark Daugherty and several members of the Shenandoah Valley Tea Party dropped by, as well as some local members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League from Staunton, Augusta County, and Nelson County.
As always, I was delighted to see some friends from the Nelson, Highland and Augusta County Farm Bureaus, as well as Debbie Williams from Blue Ridge Medical Center.

Contact Me

My staff and I are here in Richmond to serve you. We would love to hear from you regarding legislation before the House, or if there's anything we can do to help you in dealing with a state government agency.


While we are in Richmond, we can be be reached by phone at (804) 698-1020 or by email at DelDBell@house.virginia.gov.

If you are planning to visit Richmond during Session, I encourage you to visit me in Room 517. We certainly do not require appointments, but if you know ahead of time that you’re planning a visit, appointments are encouraged.

Thank you again for allowing me to serve as your Delegate.

Delegate Richard Bell

http://www.bellfordelegate.com/

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commented 2013-12-26 14:14:43 -0500 · Flag
Thank you